Sunday, 25 December 2011


This blog is about fans. Fans, eventails, Fächer, abanicos, ventagli, waaiers,...these little objects to create a soft breeze when summers are getting hot. Once "accessoire de rigeur" for the fashionable lady with idle hands, they disappeared from the female toilette, victim of working women, the cigarette and air conditioning. Instead, they became sought-after collectibles.

Since the beginning of mankind, the fan was a tool to alleviate heat, fan the fire and chase away flies. Out of these three tasks developed big ceremonial fans (e.g. to fan the pharaoh or to whisk away flies from the roman-catholic altar) and small personal fans. With the emergence of the folding fan (the ultimate concept of fans invented around the 12th century in Japan), a new feature came into place: that of surprise when unfolding the fan. A female prestige object often compared to a king's sceptre, it became a fashion attribute from the 18th century onwards and Paris became its centre, followed by England and The Netherlands where the Huguenot "eventaillistes" found refuge. Fan leaves were painted according to fashion, with mythological scenes, pastoral scenes in romantic settings, or historical events like balloon ascents or war scenes. With ups and downs, the fan kept its mainly female usage until WWI after which the last heyday were advertising fans and the huge ostrich feather fans of the 1920s. After WW2, fans reappeared occasionally as airline fans. The only country in Europe that still produces and uses fans is Spain.

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