Learn about Fans

Fans were first used in Western Europe in the Middle Ages. Many of the more intricate ones carried concealed knives or stilettos, as it was often dangerous to walk alone after nightfall or in a dark alley, especially in Renaissance Italy. Fans were of course functional, serving to keep off flies, shield one from the heat of a fire, or create a current of fresh air. Gradually, fans became an almost essential accessory for the fashionable, and no skill or expense was spared in their design and manufacture.

At the beginning of the 19th century, fans were considered an indispensable dress accessory for ladies attending balls and other functions. Three major types of fan were in use at that time.

Folding fans, the most common, consisted of leaves mounted on sticks which were joined at the foot. Paper was used in the cheaper fans, but parchment, made from the skin of young turkeys or silk were preferred in the more expensive varieties. The leaves were richly gilded and painted, often with Neo-classical motifs and scenery spreading across the leaves, so that they presented a panoramic effect when the fan was fully-extended. more...

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These items are not for sale and the descriptions, images and prices are for reference purposes only.

Antique horn fan and tortoiseshell guitar 32 cm long approx (fan)

An Oriental ivory BRISÉ fan and a bone letter opener. Mid 20th century. The folding fan with each stick crisply pierced with patterns and typically joined with a running ribbon; the small letter opener with a row of carved and pierced elephants and an elep

French 19th century ivory & silk fan in box, hand painted with a female holding a bird, overall length approx 30 cm. Box in cream silk and hand painted with pink, yellow and white flowers, green stalks and leaves. J. Duvelleroy, by appointment 167 Rege

An interesting hand painted lace fan in carved frame. 59 cm high, 93 cm wide

A Continental mother-of-pearl and gilt decoration, ladies fan, late 19th century, hand painted lithograph depicting courting couple, with retailers box: August Timm, Juwelier, Hamburg

A signed French painted bone brise fan, late 19th to early 20th century, the dainty fan, laced with ribbon and painted to one face with cherubs contemplating a garland of roses, signed indistinctly to one of the sticks. Width 34.5 cm.

Antique hand painted silk and sequin fan, depicting a courting scene

A Victorian black fabric fan with black and gilt sticks, circa 1880

Antique ivory & silk fan, with handpainted & signed floral decoration

Antique mother of pearl ladies fan, Duvelleroy (London & Paris), circa 1860, with original box, some early repairs

A vintage Oriental ivory Brise fan, the fan with pierced sticks United by a woven white ribbon. Length 23 cm

A fan, tortoiseshell and black lace, circa 1900 Having tortoiseshell slats, interleaved with ruffled black lace, with the last slat bearing the inscription "Nellie" in raised rose gold Provenance: presented by Dame Nellie Melba to Emmy Smith-Palm

Ivory fan, the front with applied very well carved floral decoration

Georgian Papier-Mâche fan. Georgian Papier-Mâché fan having mother of pearl detail on a a gilded timber turned handle. Condition fair, loose handle & some losses to the mother of pearl. Length 37 cm

A Victorian ladies fan faux ivory, pink silk satin; extra long chain; American; excellent condition fan: 25 cm span, chain: 60 cm

Victorian mother of pearl fan with hand painted floral detail, in a frame. Dimensions of frame. 81 x 53 cm

A pair of 19th century hand painted and gilt metal mounted mother of pearl fans each housed within a gilt wood box frame, painted with courtly scenes, each frame 31 cm high x 51 cm wide

Ivory carved 19th century fan with mother of pearl & gilt inlay & depicting a classical scene of Judith & Holofernes in a timber glass front wall mounted case. Length of case 61.5 cm

A fine antique French bone and handpainted paper fan, early 19th century, exquisitely painted with scenes of classical maidens dancing and making music around a central reclining figure and flanked by arabesques and floral garlands, the bone sticks with fo

A pair of framed painted French fans. 19th century, painted with figures. 26 cm high, 49 cm wide deep.

A 19th century Canton export ivory and silk fan the outer ivory guard sticks carved in relief opening to reveal a silk interior embroidered with dragon, breaks to both guard ends. 20 cm long

A decorative box framed painted and gilt fan, the frame 43 cm wide

A 19th century Spanish ivory and silk fan, the carved ivory guards with fret work and text 'Recuerdo' translated (to be remembered by) enclosing a hand painted scene with girl, mother and pet bird 30.5 cm long

Three fans with ivory brins, two card and one with sequined gauze. 28 cm long, 26 cm long, 20 cm long

Two painted ivory handled fans, French, 19th century. 28 cm long, 20 cm long

A painted silk and carved ivory fan, French, 19th century, in gilt case. 60 cm wide

A painted card and ivory pictorial fan in gilt case. 59 cm wide