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The auction house dubs it “one of the finest fans to be auctioned in recent years” and has set an estimate of £30,000-50,000 for the June 27 sale in Leyburn.

The fan is thought to have been a gift for Madam Stolypina (née Princess Trubetskaya) on her marriage to Semyon Mikhailovich Vorontsov in 1851. Research suggests that the fan was ordered from top Parisian jeweller Mellerio by Queen Marie-Amelie of France.

Tennants’ Fan Specialist Mary Cooper said: “The combination of fine craftsmanship and provenance in this fan is astonishing – it really is a dream item for collectors. It is a privilege to be able to handle such a fine fan.”

It features intricately carved ivory guards encrusted with pink, white and yellow gold, diamonds, sapphires and a coronet over the initials WV picked out in diamonds. A coat of arms combining the arms of the two families is carved in the ivory gorge (sticks), with the motto Semper Immota Fides (Always Unwavering Loyalty).

The paper leaf is hand-painted with views of Odessa, Sebastopol and the Chateau d’Alhambra at Yalta (the Voronstov family’s palace), and the fan is signed by renowned fan-maker Alexandre and Edouard Moreau, one of the most sought-after fan painters.

Background story

The fan has been consigned by a private vendor. When it was purchased in the UK in 2004, it was described as bearing the initials MM for Maria de Monigo, linking it to the Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III of France. It had been featured in the June 1945 edition of The Connoisseur in an advertisement for the stock of the London retailer Wartski, then of Regent Street, London. A copy of this magazine is held in the British Library.

However, the vendor conducted her own research and says instead that the fan was ordered from the jeweller Mellerio, still at 9 rue de la Paix, Paris. A copy of a letter received from them since purchase encloses diagrams of designs for guards, the central one of which is for this fan.

In Eventails by Francoise de Pertuis and Vincent Meylan, these designs are reproduced and stated to be copied from the Mellerio archives, and attributed to an order placed by Queen Marie-Amelie of France (1782-1866), and thus perhaps for a wedding present.

Research then moved to the initials, and views on the leaf. Examination of Russian heraldry led the vendor to believe that the Arms belong to both Madame Stolypina, née Princess Trubetskaya and Semyon Mikhailovich Vorontsov, who married on August 26, 1851. Copies of the relevant research relating to the coats of arms, family history and the building central to the recto are available.

The motto is believed to belong to the Counts Woronzow (Vorontsov). The Vorontsov family appear to have bought up vast tracts of land near Yalta in order to build.

Dedicated auctions

Tennants is the only UK auction house with a dedicated fan department. Specialist sales are overseen by consultant Mary Cooper who has an extensive knowledge of antique fans.

See above for more fans from the June 27 auction.