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This very fine fan was made in southern China for export to Europe in the first half of the nineteenth century, and possibly earlier – some similar fans are dated to as early as 1780.
The fan comprises 20 sticks or arms infilled with gilded silver filigree. The sticks are pinned together at the base and further linked towards their tops by a silk ribbon which passes through each stick.
Each stick is decorated with a floral spray – perhaps a peony – amid tight silver filigree swirls. The upper register of each stick is decorated with a violet motif.
The outer protective arms are of solid silver and the outsides are chased with scenes of Chinese scholars amid landscaped gardens with pavillions.
Each outer frame of each stick appears to be of gilded copper (thereby making the structure more robust) and the interior decoration is of silver.
A finely engraved silver loop with a silver filigree flower finial is at the base of the fan, to allow the fan to be threaded with a ribbon so it might be suspended.
Such a folding fan that comprises separate sticks instead of one pleated sheet, is referred to as a brisé fan. (Brisé is a French term, meaning ‘broken’). Brisé fans from China also were made in pierced ivory and tortoiseshell.
A fan similar to the example here is in the Peabody Essex Museum and illustrated in Crossman (1991, p. 337).
The example here is in fine condition. There are some minor holes to the silver filigree as might be expected.
Crossman, C.L, The Decorative Arts of the China Trade: Paintings, Furnishings and Exotic Curiosities, Antique Collectors’ Club, 1991.
Forbes, H.A.C. et al, Chinese Export Silver 1785-1885, Museum of the American China Trade, 1975.
Piotrovsky, M. et al, Silver: Wonders from the East – Filigree of the Tsars, Lund Humphries/Hermitage Amsterdam, 2006.