Body Language in the 17th Century

Body language refers to various forms of nonverbal communication, wherein a person may reveal clues as to some unspoken intention or feeling through their physical behavior. These behaviors can include body posture, gestures, facial expressions, and eye movements; the meanings varies depending on the culture.

In 17th century France, MOUCHE (applied beauty marks) were used in fashion to convey body language, as well as to physically cover pock marks. They could take the shape of hearts and/or be made of lace, but their facial placement was key to the intended body language message.
mouche
signification-mouches-grains-beauté

 

Women also carried FANS — not just to cool themselves or for mere decor, but to communicate when it wasn’t appropriate to verbalize something. The fan had to be carried, opened, closed and fluttered with precision and reason. A woman held it in front of her, not covering her face, with the painted side facing out. Every movement had a meaning.

 

Carrying Open fan: come speak with me

Twirling the fan in the right hand: I love another

Twirling the fan in the left hand: We are being watched

Placing the fan near your heart: I love you

A half-closed fan pressed to the lips: You may kiss me

Letting the fan rest on the right cheek: Yes

Letting the fan rest on the left cheek: No

Dropping the fan: We will be friends

Other sources decoding fan language offer some pretty specific statements:

Placing fan on left ear: I wish to be rid of you

Carrying fan in right hand in front of face: Follow me

Drawing fan across the forehead: You have changed

Drawing fan through the hand: I hate you

Threaten with shut fan: You are imprudent

Gazing at shut fan: Why do you misunderstand me?

most commonly understood fan gestures.

A fan placed near the heart: “You have won my love.”
A closed fan touching the right eye: “When may I be allowed to see you?”
The number of sticks shown answered the question: “At what hour?”
Threatening gestures with a closed fan: “Do not be so imprudent”
Half-opened fan pressed to the lips: “You may kiss me.”
Hands clasped together holding an open fan: “Forgive me.”
Covering the left ear with an open fan: “Do not betray our secret.”
Hiding the eyes behind an open fan: “I love you.”
Shutting a fully-opened fan slowly: “I promise to marry you.”
Drawing the fan across the eyes: “I am sorry.”

Touching the finger to the tip of the fan:“I wish to speak with you.”
Letting the fan rest on the right cheek:“Yes.”
Letting the fan rest on the left cheek:“No.”
Opening and closing the fan several times: “You are cruel”
Dropping the fan: “We will be friends.”
Fanning slowly: “I am married.”
Fanning quickly: “I am engaged.”
Putting the fan handle to the lips: “Kiss me.”
Opening a fan wide: “Wait for me.”
Placing the fan behind the head: “Do not forget me”
Placing the fan behind the head with finger extended: “Goodbye.”
Fan in right hand in front of face: “Follow me.”
Fan in left hand in front of face: “I am desirous of your acquaintance.”
Fan held over left ear: “I wish to get rid of you.”

Drawing the fan across the forehead:“You have changed.”
Twirling the fan in the left hand: “We are being watched.”
Twirling the fan in the right hand: “I love another.”
Carrying the open fan in the right hand:“You are too willing.”

Carrying the open fan in the left hand: “Come and talk to me.”
Drawing the fan through the hand: “I hate you!”
Drawing the fan across the cheek: “I love you!”
Presenting the fan shut: “Do you love me?”

~From All About Fans

Photo/Source: Wikipedia

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10 thoughts on “Body Language in the 17th Century

  1. I hadn’t heard this information before. Imagine moving to Paris at that time without knowing what you might be conveying nonverbally!

  2. Merci pour votre blog, l’information est très pertinente! Tenez-moi au courant des prochaines publications.

  3. Margo Lestz says:

    Very complicated! I wonder if those fans came with a users manuel. 🙂

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