AntiquesDictionary of antiques

The dictionary of antiques – Fan

Today’s word is: fan. Let’s find out its use and its diffusion throughout Europe. Finally, an example that shows a different use of the fan than we would expect.

What is the fan?

The fan is an instrument used to make wind. It has been present since ancient times in its largest and most rigid form. The smaller fan, on the other hand, has an extreme eastern origin (China, Japan).

The fans and the female costume

Thanks to literary testimonies we can trace the use of the non-liturgical fan to the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

“Fans as an element of women’s costume were made of feathers, had a handle of ivory and precious metal and were worn hanging from the belt by long chains, or even held in the hand”


The greatest diffusion had it in the sixteenth century becoming an important complement of women’s clothing. Around the middle of this century, a new type of fan began to assert itself: the folding fan.

The spread of the fan

In Italy the fan began to spread in the second half of the sixteenth century. The most valuable production was the Venetian one, especially that of 1800.

In the Italian fans of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries we can usually find, within complex and articulated frames, reproductions of famous paintings and views (eg Rome and Naples).

Thanks to an Italian we owe the diffusion of this complement in France; Catherine de’ Medici became the wife of Henry II. It is precisely here that we find the most precious fans produced in Europe. For their manufacture were used precious materials such as: ivory, mother of pearl, whale bones, turtle, etc. The “page”, that is the part used to make wind, could contain small paintings. Famous artists such as Francois Boucher and Antoine Wateau have also lent themselves to these depictions.

In 1678 the guild was even established in Paris, under Louis XIV, (remember that we have already talked about these institutions?) of the “Maitres eventaillistes”, to whom the privilege of the mount and trade of fans was reserved. The decline of refined and preciously crafted fans began with the French revolution.

An example

Before showing you our example, we want to explain another small thing: the fan pattern. It is a decorative radial pattern (open fan) used mainly in English furniture. It was inlaid with woods of different colors especially on highboards.

Here we can show you a piece in our antique gallery decorated with this motif: George III sideboard serpentine.


It is an English piece of furniture from the late eighteenth century. It has a top with maple threads, front with 3 drawers in the band, pair of doors and inlays in mahogany and maple including a vase. The fan motifs can be found on the doors.

If you want to discover all our antiques you just have to come and visit us in our shops and in the warehouse of Cambiago. We are waiting for you!

Amo l'arte. Ho fatto ingegneria gestionale.

    You may also like

    Comments are closed.

    More in:Antiques