Mirror fan

Possibly British, before 1930

Donated by Mrs C. E. Barrett-Lennard in 1930; 1930.36.2Donated by Mrs C. E. Barrett-Lennard in 1930; 1930.36.2This type of mirror is known as a 'palmette' or 'palmetto' due to its individual fabric leaf- or petal-like segments (as opposed to a regular folding fan). In America, they were also known as 'Jenny Lind fans' because they were the hallmark of the 19th-century opera singer Jenny Lind, known as the 'Swedish Nightingale'. These types of fans appeared around the 1850s–60s and survived in various forms throughout the art nouveau period into the early 20th century.

It is thought that fans with integral mirrors on the guard stick were introduced in the late 18th century. They permitted the owner to see what was going on behind them. Sometimes a spy-hole was situated in the same position in order to keep an inconspicuous eye on goings-on in front as well. This example, which is only 11cm long, may date to the late 1860s or 1870s, after which time fans generally became much larger. It has bone sticks rather than the more expensive ivory ones, and its silk leaves are decorated with a commonly found pattern of silver spangles.

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