In the eighteenth century, women in European society used fans as dynamic objects to convey emotions, flick away suitors, and keep themselves cool. As such, fans were repeatedly folded and unfolded, causing their materials to tear and break. To stabilize the fans in preparation for the exhibition Fans of the Eighteenth Century, on view at de Young through April 2019, art conservators from three of the Museums’ conservation labs had to come up with creative and clever ways to delicately repair their tears and breaks.
Fans from this time were made from and decorated with a variety of materials that evolved over the course of the century. The Museums’ paper conservators treated the fans that were made of paper or parchment; the textile conservators worked on the ribbons and fans with silk leaves; and the objects conservators addressed the fans’ sticks, often made from ivory or bone, as well as their decorative elements, frequently made of mother-of-pearl. To learn more about the construction of the fans in the exhibition, check out the blog post “Fashioning Fans,” by Associate Curator of Costume and Textile Arts Laura Camerlengo.