The Black Fan (Portrait of Mrs. Talcott Williams)
Thomas Eakins, American, 1844 - 1916
The subject of The Black Fan, Mrs. Sophia Wells Royce Williams (c. 1850-1928), was the wife of Eakins's friend, Talcott Williams, a journalist at the Philadelphia Press. Shortly after their arrival in Philadelphia in 1881, the Williamses met Eakins, who shared the couple's interests in archaeology and photography. Eakins painted The Black Fan around the time that he was working on The Concert Singer (Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1929-184-19 ), which it resembles in scale and composition. In the manner of many society portraits, the picture shows the attractive Mrs. Williams at leisure in an evening gown, with the partially folded fan in her hand adding an elegant touch. For reasons that remain unclear, Eakins never finished the portrait, but he exhibited it to much acclaim in 1914.