The frisson of no-touch: A Fan's gallant Allegory of the Senses

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The double-sided Allegory of the Senses, shows, on one side, a lateseventeenth-century courtly depiction of hearing, sight, and smell. It is possible to read these as three vignettes depicting gallant sociability in elite society: the very sociability in which the fan played a crucial role. Our interpretation must change, however, if we acknowledge both the 'missing' senses of taste and touch not directly depicted on the fan, and the fan's reverse, a rural scene of a couple. The play of absent and present senses, and the tension between the courtly vignettes of the primary image and its humbler other side, suggest also a possible 'fluttering' of signification, not unlike the motion of a fan itself, which may undo some of the gallant visual rhetoric which at first glance appears to dominate an understanding of this fan.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18-27
Number of pages10
JournalSeventeenth-Century French Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 2014


  • Allegory of the Senses
  • Experience
  • Galanterie
  • Taste
  • Touch

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