Fans at the Athenaeum
Object ID:
Folding fan with single fabric pleated leaf. Silk gauze leaf is adorned with hand painted ferns, foliage and butterflies in metallic gold and bronze tones, and edged with machine embroidered lace. Gold painted wood sticks and guards are pierced, incised and carved with floral patterns. The rivet is capped with mother of pearl buttons. Although the silk fabric is crumbling and many of the sticks are marred by yellowed adhesive tape, the luminescent quality of this fan is still impressive.

In the latter part of the nineteenth century, manufacturers commonly weighted their silk fabric by adding metallic salts, usually of iron, lead, or tin, to improve the sheen and drapability of silk and to make it heavier. Because wholesale silk was sold by weight rather than yardage, the weighting of silk was an easy way to increase profits. But the excessive use of metallic salts caused silk fabric to deteriorate rapidly, especially along fold lines, explaining why many antique items made of silk are in such fragile condition.

Dimension Details:
Guard length: 14"
Leaf height: 9"
Open width: 26.5"
Arc (degrees when open): 160
16 sticks / 2 guards

c. 1880—1885
Credit Line:
Anonymous gift
This online exhibition is made possible through a generous grant from the Fan Association of North America (FANA).
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