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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