Mother-of-Pearl Brisé Fan

This brisé fan (c1810-1815) is the finest in my collection. Sadly, photographs don’t do it justice. It is so much prettier in person. The iridescence of the mother-of-pearl shifts with the light from dark gray to light gray to silvery-white.

Mother-of-Pearl Fan

The sticks are very thinly sliced, making the fan so delicate that it is remarkable it has remained intact for 200 years. Each stick is pierced with an identical design, alternately reversed to create a repeated pattern. The piercing is extremely fine, and would have required great skill with a tiny jeweler’s saw, especially as the mother-of-pearl is so much more fragile than ivory. The sticks are held together at the bottom with a rivet studded with a garnet.

Mother-of-Pear; Fan, detail

The most spectacular aspect of this fan are the guards. They are made of cut steel, faceted and polished to resemble diamonds. Cut steel was very popular during the Regency and was used for all sorts of jewelry and other decorative arts. Each steel stud was faceted — sometimes with as many as 15 facets, giving them incredible sparkle — polished, and riveted in place into settings also made of polished steel. Here, each setting is composed of tiny steel beads. Again,my  photographs do not convey the richness and sparkle of these beautiful guards. Take my word for it: they’re fabulous!

The mother-of-pearl sticks and the cut steel guards suggest this was a very special, very expensive fan. It must have belonged to a very special lady.

This fan was purchased in England, and even though its original box does not survive, the dealer was confident that it is an English fan.

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