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silk fan and box

silk fan and box

  • Place of origin:

    Guangzhou (made)

  • Date:

    1850-1868 (made)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Gold-painted lacquer sticks, with a painted silk and paper leaf and silk tassels; painted lacquer box

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 125c, case 1 []

Object Type
This fan has sticks of gold-painted lacquer and a leaf of paper and silk. On both sides there is a fantasy Chinese garden scene with people among pavilions. The figures have applied faces made of ivory as well as applied silk clothes.

Fans such as this, made solely for foreign markets, were exported from Canton (Guangzhou) to Europe in tens of thousands, and the more expensive examples would probably have been supplied with their own box. Many of these export artefacts, such as this fan, were decorated with Chinese figurines and gardens to stress their East Asian origin.

Materials & Making
The method of rapid porcelain production in the kiln complex of Jingdezhen set a precedent for the workshops of South China, where artefacts like this fan were produced in huge numbers to the orders of European merchants. The assembly line style of manufacture and the speed of production are clear from the way the tiny ivory faces have been haphazardly applied to the fan, with female faces being in some cases stuck on to male bodies.

Ownership & Use
In Europe, fans were mostly owned by women, but in China both men and women have traditionally used them and continue to do so.

Place of Origin

Guangzhou (made)


1850-1868 (made)

Materials and Techniques

Gold-painted lacquer sticks, with a painted silk and paper leaf and silk tassels; painted lacquer box

Descriptive line

Chinese export fan with box

Labels and date

British Galleries:
This fan and its box are decorated with Chinese garden scenes and people. Although in China fans were used by both men and women, in Europe and America they were mostly owned by fashionable women. In southern China many thousands of fans were made for export. [14/05/2013]




East Asia Collection

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