National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Fan Fan
Rendered by Frank J. Mace (artist), 1935/1942
watercolor and graphite on paper
overall: 43 x 50 cm (16 15/16 x 19 11/16 in.)
Index of American Design
Not on View
From the Tour: Costumes from the Index of American Design
Object 15 of 26

The folding fan was probably invented in Japan in the seventh century. Examples of fans from the East were brought into Europe during the Crusades. Folding fans were common as costume accessories by the eighteenth century and were introduced to America as early as 1732. During the colonial period, Boston was a fan-making center.

This fan from about 1860 is constructed of black wood supports decorated with red and gold flowers. The upper portion is a colored engraving of fashionable young women and men amusing themselves in the countryside.

In addition to the beauty of this accessory, the way a fan was used indicated something of a woman's social grace. The English writer Joseph Addison, in his work The Spectator, compared a lady's skill with a fan to a man's use of a sword.

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