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Pair of Indian Painted Fans Converted to Fire Guards

Nossam, Andhra Pradesh, India
dated 1886

width: 35cm, overall height: 42cm, height of fans: 31.3cm



private collection, UK

This splendid pair of fans (with 19th century brass stands to allow them to serve as fire guards) is made of fine cane ribbing, with a canvas-type of material stiffened with gesso, and then extremely finely painted on both sides with flowers and foliage in gold and other coloured paints, and finally varnished.

Each has a handle at the base (they were intended to be hand-held) and is in the form of a fan palm leaf. The outer edge of each fan and the handles are coloured in orange.

Each fan has a panel above the handle which on one side reads in relief ‘Nossam’ giving the place of manufacture, and on the other ’28 4 86′ suggesting the date of manufacture, this being April 28, 1886.

This type of work was a speciality of Nossam, a town in Andhra Pradesh, in India’s south. Nossam work is mentioned in the official guide to the 1902-03 Delhi Exhibition (Watt, 1903, p. 228).

A similar fan in the Government Museum of Jaisalmer in Rajasthan is illustrated in Kala Kendra (2009, p. 128).

The two fans here have been attached to brass stands so that they could be used as fire guards. Fire guards were used in the 18th and 19th centuries and were placed on small occasional tables near a household fire place to shield one’s face from the heat of the fire. Ladies particularly used them in earlier time because the heat of the fire might otherwise melt their face make-up.

The pair here are very decorative with their brass stands which allow them to stand in full effect. Their condition is excellent for their age; indeed they are among the best preserved examples we have seen. There is minor flaking only. There are no repairs and no tears.


Birdwood, G., The Industrial Arts of India, 1880.

Kala Kendra, J., Museums of Rajasthan, Mapin Publishing, 2009.

Watt, G., Indian Art at Delhi 1903, Being the Official Catalogue of the Delhi Exhibition, 1902-1903, Superintendent of Government Printing, India, 1903.

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