For hundreds or even thousands of years, people used hand fans to cool themselves, and thus, cope with hot weather. Some hand fans are real masterpieces, skillfully made for aesthetic purposes besides the functional. Such accessory was often used for communication – there was a whole new language invented that used a fan as the main item. High-class women carried extremely sophisticated, expensive, and elegant hand fans to show their status and wealth. So, this accessory is not that simple!
Here is a collection of photos of vintage hand fans from museums and private collections. These fans date to the late 19th – early 20th century.
At the time, hand fans were usually made from fabrics (silk fans were among the most desirable), paper/cardboard, feathers, wood, etc. They could be folding fans, which were compact and handy, or rigid fans, which were preferred by the higher classes. The hand fans are usually shaped as a sector of a circle or round-shaped.
Rigid hand fan made from a brass frame and feathers, the early beginning of the 20th century, Europe
Large feather hand fan, the early 20th century, Europe
Silk hand fan, the 19th century, China
Two black hand fans, the beginning of the 20th century, Europe. The first one is made from feathers and the second one is made from thin fabric and embellished with patterns
Wooden hand fan, the early 20th century, Europe. Each section is made separately, carved with designs, and clipped together
Hand fan made from fabric, the 19th century, Reval (Tallinn), Russian Empire. It has a very beautiful frame made apparently from carved bone
Delicate lace hand fan, the beginning of the 20th century, Europe
White feather hand fan made from large feathers, the early 20th century, Europe
Hand fan, the 19th century, Europe