Although normally associated with the European salon, fans have in fact been put to a variety of uses through the ages. Early civilizations turned simple fans used for winnowing grain into huge ceremonial standards; later they invested them with a special status in religious and court rituals, prescribing a strict etiquette for their use. Fans appeared in unexpected places, such as on the battlefield, where Japanese commanders used them to direct their troops.
In this, the first book to appear in English on fans for 50 years, Nancy Armstrong documents the long and fascinating history of the fan, in addition to providing a guide to the fans available to the collector today.
The painted fan originated in the East, whence it traveled to Europe along the oriental trade routes. Decorative fan-making was taken up by seventeenth-century Italian designers and, although not held in the same regard as in Japan, reached its highwater mark during the Rococo period in France.
Meanwhile, fan-makers did not confine themselves solely to decoration or to one particular material. The dictates of fashion tested their ingenuity for well over two hundred years.
With the aid of 110 black and white and 16 color illustrations, Nancy Armstrong advises the collector on what to look for and also includes information on how a fan is made, a list of 300 names of people associated with the manufacture of fans, and a section on the elaborate language of the fan.