If you are a beginner in fan knowledge, we hope you shall learn something here, and get some pleasure. If you are a "connoisseur", sure you shall find some fan or english mistakes : please tell us ! You can have a look at our "Place de l'Eventail pavement', where you will find details from a choice of our fans. Then, come back to these "rudiments", or browse elsewhere on the site. You can also open a folder we have opened on the Amsterdam Rijskmuseum website, in order to see grat masters paintings showing fans: Riskmuseum folder.

plaisir des yeux

Above a detail of a fan... We renew it according to our mood,  "sans rime ni raison, pour le plaisir des yeux" !

A good introduction article has been given 10 2017 by a member of FANA (Fan Association of North America).

A good presentation was also given by Georgina-Letourmy Bordier, Ph.D. in History of Art and hand fans expert,
for the Institut Français de la Mode (Paris) in March 2016.

"Une histoire de l'éventail"

You can hear it  (in French) and see illustrations here:

Another presentation by Georgina Letourmy (in French too) can be found here:

 "Natural" fan


 It's doubtless that Man and Woman used first natural elements for cooling, chasing insects, fanning fire or protecting against heat . After, he/she ingeniously decorated, trnasformed or reproduced these items. Here is a bone indonesian fan, carved with a god.

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 Rigid fan

After having taken what Nature gave him, and having transformed palms, bones etc., Man created fanning objects, which at first where rigid, and generally called screens or flags (when so shaped). Here is an example (XXth century) from Indonesia, with buffalo horn and skin.

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Feathers fan

It's quite sure that seing birds moving their wings helped our ancestors to imagine fixed or (later) folding feathers fans. There was one in Tut Ank Amon grave, not very differnt from the fan you see on this advertising card (ca 1910)

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étage au dessus


Jenny Lind fan

Having seen wings and feathers fans... somebody one day thought about this kind of fan... (here an ad fan for "Pavillon Royal" restaurant, in Paris Bois de Boulogne, which is of the "Palmettes" (or "Jenny Lind" ?) kind, and "découpé", i.e. pierced of a lot of small holes, reproducing some lace, as some XVIIIth century fans did.

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Brisé fan

From palms or feathers, connected together by their basis, the logical evolution towards a fan made of various solid material plates is easy to imagine. This type of fan may be encountered at various times and in various places. This one has ivory painted and pierced sticks, dates from the beginning of XVIIIth century, is undoubtedly French, and alas has somewhat underwent the ravages of time.

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Folding fan

The folded fan is the most widespread shape of the fan. Although certain brisé fans appear among most beautiful (and most expensive), the folded fan represents, by its complexity of execution, the diversity of its materials and the number of different workers involved, the large variety of its sizes, presentations, manufacturing processes, the typical fan. This is the kind of fan that spontaneously most people imagine, as well in Occident as in Far East. This one, realized in France at the beginning of the century, represents Sarah Bernhardt in " L'Aiglon" ("the Eaglet ") (by Edmond Rostand)

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Fan parts


panache : guard

bout : ribs 

feuille : leaf


tête : head

bélière : loop

brins : sticks

rivure : rivet



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Fan materials

The fan needs, in its manufacture, an infinity of various materials, which are sometimes difficult to recognize. We shall quote here only the principal ones

- for mounting :

  • ivory
  • bone
  • mother-of-pearl
  • turtle shell
  • horn
  • wood
  • metal precious or not, plain, carved or in filigree
  • reconstituted ivory
  • above materials, imitated by synthetic materials (sometimes very well) and, in particular, for the recent time, the celluloid
Please see HERE, ABOUT WOOD STICKS, (thanks to Helen Akitt) an interesting article published in the Fan Circle International bulletin (summer 2008) 

- for the leaf :

  • more or less fine skin, from leather (certain Austrian fans in particular) until the very fine italian cabretille
  • paper, in its various qualities (extreme for certain japanese fans, very poor for certain XXth century printed fans)
  • fabric, in particular silk (alas fragile and made breakable by the undergone processing)
  • lace: see some interesting examples, on a website dedicated to this matter : éventails de M.C.D.
  • here also, possibility of combination of various materials and various applications of spangles, foil, straw, feathers, etc

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Above : carved and gilt ivory guard backed by a mother-of-pearl "burgau"


Cockade fan



The fan of the origins, the " flabellum " (see the historic insight), had the shape of a rosette or cockade. You can find some at every period.

An alternative was imagined in the 20th century, with the " sun-screen" or "frou-frou " fans looking like lampions, as this specimen carried out for Veuve Amiot sparkling Saumur.

Other cockades fans, with printed leaves, were, without known reason, called " Vents du Nord" (North Winds ) in the catalogue of Chambrellent, the most significant advertising eventaillist of the inter-war period.



 Read also, for a short view

Fan : the Encyclopaedia Brittanica article 

and follow us next page


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