Gender and social class
Family and relationships
The attributes of motherhood in female representations have been found since ancient times in examples such as the so-called Venus figurines of the Palaeolithic Age, the images of breastfeeding goddesses on Greek vases, and in the Byzantine and medieval iconography of the Nursing Madonna. In this case, the breastfeeding scene is depicted with great realism, both the positions of the woman and baby, and how she opens her shirt to offer the breast. The animals that surround the figures, apart from representing real species, may contain symbolism related to the scene: rabbits and hares could be interpreted as symbols of fertility, procreation and fecundity. In 19th-century France, where this fan originates, mothers from the lower social strata breastfed their babies, while the bourgeoisie and higher social classes usually relied on wet nurses.