The identity of the lady with the fan on the previous page remains a mystery, although there have been suggestions that it is Johanna Staude, a friend of Klimt who modeled for him. But the mystery of her identity reveals how he felt about the people he painted. They were never the entire point of his portraits. Klimt didn’t simply paint stylish women, he immersed them in style, like a bather in water. In earlier works like this one, he lost them in waves of gold; in “Lady with a Fan”, he enveloped his muse in a sea of Chinoiserie.
In 1670, King Louis XIV had the Trianon de Porcelaine erected at Versailles. It was decorated with art mimicking Chinese motifs and faced with blue and white tiles that appeared Chinese. The building was the first major example of “chinoiserie,” an English word is borrowed straight from French, which based the word on chinois, meaning “Chinese”- but the trend it began long outlasted the building itself, which was destroyed a mere 17 years later to make way for the Grand Trianon. Chinoiserie itself was popular throughout the 17th and 18th centuries and enjoyed a brief revival in the 1930s.