"At the Ball" (detail)
by Alice Bailly (1872-1938)
Quilt Notes: How should we understand this title, BLINDMAN'S FANCY? There is a tradition in quiltdom of applying resonant patterns to personal names or connecting things of choice to various types of people, AUNT PATSY'S PET, for instance, or MILKMAID'S STAR. A wide range of such titles can be found in the compendiums. But there is another possibility here, which begs to be mentioned, the title might refer to that well-known adage, "Love is blind." Thus there are innumerable depictions of the god of love in art, delightful, winged Cupid, wearing a blindfold. BLIND MAN'S FANCY therefore might have a double meaning, or even directly refer to a man whose reason is blinded by someone he loves. As a love theme, compare with CUPID'S DARTS.
The painting illustrated left, by the modernist, Swiss artist, Alice Bailly, is exceedingly compelling in much the same way. And there is an interesting turnabout in it. The man is wearing a mask, his identity obscured, though he is not exactly hidden. But at the same time, even if the woman cannot see his face, yet she seems absolutely engaged by his attention as she offers her hand to be kissed. So in a way, it is her love or "fancy" for him that is blind, utterly charmed by this masked man on his knee, as if proposing marriage, while they attend a ball.
BLINDMAN'S FANCY dates back in print to the Ladies Art Company Catalogue, #201, published in the late 19th century. Other designs at this site named for various delights include: