Fan Handle

gilt brass handle of fan

Fan Handle, ca. 1550
Gilt copper alloy, pierced and engraved; modern feathers
7 x 3 1/4 in. (17.8 x 8.3 cm)
Victoria and Albert Museum, London (105-1882)
© The Victoria and Albert Museum

This rare fan handle, similar to that in Isotta Brembati, was designed to hold feathers in its narrow aperture and could be attached to a chain affixed to a girdle around a woman’s waist, through the suspension loop at the end. Feathers were replaced when they became worn or damaged, or if the fan’s owner wished to change the color and shape. As sumptuary laws attest, in Renaissance northern Italy, expensive and ever more exotic materials — such as ivory, pearls, precious stones, and fur — were used (even if illegally) to decorate these practical accessories, which became ubiquitous among Italy’s elite society.
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