Louis Ricard, Lady with a Fan, undated_ISANG Collection

- Ricard was born in Marseilles, but moved to Paris as a young man and studied under Léon Coignet. His distinguished portraiture style was, however, due to diligent copying of the old masters at the Louvre over a ten-year period. His portraits reveal an extraordinary insight into the character of his sitters. Nevertheless, for some time after his death his name was almost forgotten by the public, and he was only later rediscovered as one of the leading masters of the modern French school. 
In Lady with a Fan, we see a very young woman looking directly at the viewer, which is unusual; portraits at that time tend to show women looking to the side or down in a demure fashion. But the title gives the woman no identity at all and is a pictorial façade of femininity. The three-quarter pose shows the woman as elegant, delicate and seductive: the bejewelled hair, eyes sparkling with life, the freshness of the lips, the spread of the pink face and shoulders, a soft blue dress that reveals a cleavage and slender hands that caress a fan.
Originally used in religious ceremonies as far back four thousand years, the fan was later seen as a perfect gift for a lady of good taste and was often a way to cope with restricting social etiquettes. It was an indispensable fashion accessory for the emergent middle classes, reaching its peak in the Victorian era. The fan has often been used as a symbolic device in art and, in this example, draws the viewer’s eye to the ring on the subject’s middle finger, indicating her status as married. It is a portrait made and commissioned by men, reinforcing the ideal of the perfect and seductive but submissive wife.