Fans: A Link Between Cultures

Exhibition Introduction

Advertising Fans

Tortoiseshell and Sandalwood

Fashion, Sophistication, and Myth

European Influence

Fan Glossary

Language of the Fans

Photograph List

Exhibition Credits

1945.41.3 Detail
Green blossoms detail of a Japanese folding fan of silk and bamboo.

European Influence

Fans were a popular item of trade from Asia to western nations. During the 17th century, the Dutch imported finished fans as well as the materials used to make them: scented sandalwood, mother of pearl, exotic feathers, and tortoiseshell. Fans with pierced and carved sticks and painted fan leafs were common imports.

00.180.26 ThumbnailDesigns featured scenes of Europeans at leisure in Asian locales sometimes combined with familiar European scenes or designs such as flowers.

During the 18th century, printing techniques were used to create detailed patterns that separated small hand painted scenic elements. This fan, for example, has been embellished by printing and embossing patterns on the fan leaf. In addition, notice the small mirror on the guard stick, which allows the user not only to check her appearance, but to see what was happening behind her. For fans used at dances or public events, a mirror or small “spy hole” let the user keep an inconspicuous eye on her surroundings, and on who might be nearby.

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