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.

Michael Parsons

Michael Parsons

Michael Parsons is a contributor to The Irish Times writing about fine art and antiques