Lace fan

Brussels Mixed, a combination of bobbin and needle lace, is secured to mother of pearl staves and shaped to create this elegant fan. The needle lace in the central rose design is gauzy point de gaze, while the border is Duchesse de Bruxelles bobbin lace. Note the delicate etching and metallic tracing on the mother of pearl.


Collection Connections 

  • Fan

    Fan

    Asia: South Asia, India, Western India, Gujarat, Saurashtra

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  • Fan

    Fan

    Asia: East Asia, Japan

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  • Fan

    Fan

    Asia: South Asia, India, Western India, Gujarat, Kutch, Bhuj

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What is the language of fans and what do they communicate?

responded: Jan 22, 2012

Posted by Jessica Chan

186
Recommend this Response
Fans are primarily recognized as objects of femininity although used by both men and women in several countries to keep cool. Fans have been used as utilitarian objects to keep cool from high temperatures. However, there have also been instances in which fans have been used for more than practical reasons. Fans were used not only for cooling off or creating air circulation, but were also used as accessories, as an extension of a person’s body language, and as symbol of wealth. In Ancient Egypt, Pharaohs would remain cool and pale protected by the sun with shades and fanned by large feathered fans held by servants, which only showcased their wealth and power. In China and Japan, fans were important as identifiers of members of the court, or used in traditional fan dancers. During the 18th and 19th century, fans became more decorative using mother of pearl, lace, ivory or tortoiseshell. The leaf of the fan was commonly made of paper or very thin leather of lambs or baby goats. Silk leaves were used toward the end of the 18th century, but were rarely used as they disintegrated quickly. Fabric leaves were used at the end of the 18th century. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, lace and feather fans became popular. Ornate fans with a high degree of elaboration and decoration were suggestive of wealth and high social status used by only those who were apart of the bourgeoisie. What was more important however, beyond social status, was the use of fans as a form of expression and communication without spoken words. If a woman touched the fan to her right cheek, she meant to say yes, and if touched to her left cheek, she meant to say no. Twirling the fan in her left hand means we are watched. Holding the fan in her right hand in front of her face meant follow me, while pressing the handle to her lip meant kiss me. Women could be seductive without being vulgar and inappropriate, but could also signal to men that she was in a relationship or not interested. Like many other accessories, fans symbolized wealth and power, and were important tools to bourgeois, and later Victorian ladies, in order to communicate feelings or thoughts without speaking aloud.

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