World-class fans

Fans were once essential fashion accessories on formal occasions but are now rarely used except by ladies of a certain age in Mediterranean countries.

Collecting antique fans is a highly-specialist and surprisingly expensive hobby but devotees will swoon at the world-class collection going under the hammer at Sheppard’s auction in Durrow on December 4th. Some 40 antique Chinese fans will be offered for sale individually with estimates averaging € 1,000. Most were hand-made in China – from materials including silk, ivory, peacock feathers, sandalwood and silver filigree – in the 19th century, for export to Europe.

The vendor, Mairead Johnston, began collecting in the 1970s as a student in Dublin. Her connoisseurship, and research on fan-making in 18th and 19th century Ireland – for a Masters in Historic House Studies at NUI Maynooth – was acknowledged in 2011 when she was invited to become a Freeman of the City of London and Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Fan Makers only the third Irish woman in 200 years to achieve the distinction.