Fans have been used throughout the ages for many different purposes. First and foremost they have had a practical use for cooling oneself or another person. Who hasn’t seen pictures from centuries past of servants using large fans of various kinds to cool royalty or great personages?
My first introduction to the use of fans was when I was a child living in Spain. Watching flamenco dancers use the fan as a part of their art was captivating.
While I’ve never personally witnessed it, I understand that fans have been used in other forms of dance also.
Fans have been a fashion accessory since at least the
4th century BC. It’s been noted
that ceremonial fans were used in church services to scare away insects away
from the consecrated bread and wine.
|Queen Elizabeth I using a rigid feather fan|
Throughout all regions of the world fans have been in vogue for thousands of years. Fans from Asia found their way into the European culture in the seventeenth century.
In my post in March http://colonialquills.blogspot.com/2017/03/the-language-of-fan.html I addressed ladies using fans as a means of subtle and private communication with men in public.
By the 18th century, specialized craftsmen were designing fans in leaves or
fans were often decorated and painted.
|18th century painted folding fan|
A handheld fan might be shaped like a portion of a circle and made of a thin material and mounted on slats which revolve around a pivot so that it can be closed when not in use.
|18th century gown with matching fan|
The rigid or screen fan also gained some popularity during the 18th and 19th century though never as much as the folding fans because they were not as easy to carry.
The use of fans as a fashion adornment is not as common today, but they are still used to cool one’s self.