This small brisé fan is made of blond horn finely pierced in a neoclassical style of floral and arabesque patterns. It is English, c1800-1820, with sticks of only 6 ½” long.
This is a classic Regency style fan. The pierced design, created with a tiny jeweler’s saw, is identical on each stick, but every other stick is reversed to create a lovely repeating arabesque pattern. The delicacy of the pierced floral element just below the ribbon, with so much open work, has remarkably survived intact.
Horn was a less expensive material than ivory, which was apparently the favored material for brisé fans, based on the frequency that pierced or carved ivory fans are mentioned in the fashion sections of ladies’ magazines. Horn was also not as brittle, so less prone to breakage.
As with all pierced brisé fans, the unpierced sticks would have been stacked so that the jeweler’s saw could create many sticks at once. The flexibility and softness of horn would have allowed more sticks to be stacked than with harder materials like ivory or tortoiseshell. The pierced designs on horn were often as delicate as those found on ivory, though the edges are generally less crisp.
Brisé fans made of horn would have been more accessible to the general populace, in terms of price, than the more expensive ivory, tortoiseshell, or mother-of-pearl fans. But they can be just as pretty.