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  • Place of origin:

    Florence (probably, made)

  • Date:

    1620s (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Cut straw applied to silk covered pasteboard, reinforced with metal rods, decorated with gold paper and silk

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Margaret Simeon

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 7, The Sheikha Amna Bint Mohammed Al Thani Gallery, case CA20

This brisé fan is the earliest fan in the V&A's collection. A brisé fan has sticks but no fan leaf. This one has seven sticks, each shaped to represent a feather, joined together with a green silk ribbon. The ‘feathers’ are made of rigid paste board, reinforced with fine metal rods or wires and covered in green silk decorated on both sides with high-quality appliquéd straw work. The high quality of the straw-work suggests the fan might have been made in Florence, one of the centres for this craft in the early 17th century.

The tiny pieces of straw have been arranged in a design of birds and flowers, each ‘feather’ with an individual design. This decorative design can be seen as imitating the fashion for genre paintings of birds within landscapes and of flowers. The golden colouring of the straw-work emulates the opulent gold gilding that was characteristic of Baroque design during this period, with the green silk working to enhance the richness of colour. The shaping of the fan into cock feathers also reflects Baroque attributes of extravagance and dramatic display.

Feather handscreens were one of the more popular types of fan in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century and this style of brisé fan may have been the only way to achieve a folding feather fan at this time. Several portraits painted in the 1660s by Girolamo Forabosco (1604-79) show fans of a similar shape to this fan. An example of a comparable fan, with a design making a more direct reference to (peacock) feathers, can be found in the Bayerisches National Museum, Munich.

Physical description

Brisé fan of seven sticks, each one shaped to represent a curled feather. Cut straw, applied to silk covered pasteboard. The sticks are made of rigid pasteboard, reinforced with fine metal rods or wires and covered in green silk decorated on both sides of high-quality appliquéd straw and cut roundels of gold paper. The sticks are kept together by a green silk ribbon.

The straw veneers have been cut into shapes of flowers and birds, whose plumage are cut frayed. A coat of arms (made of gold paper, pale blue silk and cut straw) is displayed on the central stick of what probably is the front of the fan. On this same side, the straw tail and crown of peacocks are cut to show small pieces of blue and red silk.

Place of Origin

Florence (probably, made)


1620s (made)



Materials and Techniques

Cut straw applied to silk covered pasteboard, reinforced with metal rods, decorated with gold paper and silk


Length: 256 mm maximum, Width: 412 mm maximum, Depth: 25 mm

Object history note

Nominal File Reference: RP/1982/927 MA/1/S1760

Historical context note

The coat of arms might be connected to the Florentine family, la famiglia aretina dei Bacci.

A brisé fan with narrower but similarly-shaped sticks features in a portrait of a ‘Venetian Courtesan’ by Girolamo Forabosco (c.1605-1679) in the Uffizi Gallery.

A similar fan also features in a portrait of Elizabeth Stuart, Queen of Bohemia, by Robert Peake the Younger, 1603, in the Greenwich Maritime Museum.

Descriptive line

Brisé fan of pasteboard covered with silk, decorated with straw appliqué work, probably made in Florence, 1620s

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

de Caunes, L., Goldszal, S. & Baumgartner, C. La Marqueterie de Paille. Paris: Les éditions de l'amateur, 1993, pp 34-35, ill plate 26
Hart, A. & Taylor, E. Fans. London: V&A Publications, 1998, pp 12-13, ill plate 2
Fächer : Kunst und Mode aus fünf Jahrhunderten : aus den Sammlungen des Bayerischen Nationalmuseums und des Münchner Stadtmuseums / herausgegeben vom Bayerischen Nationalmuseum, München : Hirmer, 1987 p20

Production Note

Attribution note: Professional workshops producing different straw work were early established in the south of France and north of Italy.


Straw; Silk; Cardboard; Wire; Paper


Applied work

Subjects depicted

Foliage; Fuchsia; Tulip; Peacock; Cockerel; Flowers; Carnation; Swan; Pigeon


Accessories; Clothing; Fans; Europeana Fashion Project


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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