There are no less than twenty-four meanings listed for the word "fan" on Dictionary.com. We click a button on Facebook to become a "fan"... we fan out the cards to do a magic trick... but the only kind of fans I can think about these HOT and humid days are the ones that can produce a lovely breeze!
This is a serious fan... to provide maximum cooling, or at least adornment for the photographic subject.
The Alice collection holds eighteen beautiful fans of ivory, lithographed paper, feathers, mother-of-pearl, lace, voile, ebonized wood, lacquered wood, and even black satin. No, you wouldn't plug these particular fans into the wall socket to produce a breeze. Instead you would gracefully and languidly twitter the fan with your hand to cool your blushing cheeks!
Left: Mother-of-pearl and lace fan. Right: Fan of printed and hand-tinted paper showing a pastoral scene, pierced ivory staves, silvered and gilded. The fan on the right has the added bonus of a tiny mirror on the outer stave.
Fans were so commonly used in the 18th and 19th century that they were even occasionally designed as a part of a woman's ensemble. These accoutrements served to cool an overheated lady while also adorning her in the ways she might wear jewelry today. The fan complimented one's attire, and even helped a young woman communicate with the men around her. Look up "The Language of the Fan" on the web and you will discover a language lost (and unnecessary?) to the modern woman.
(Photo: PHOTOPIA/Shaun Heffernan) Chinese intricately carved ivory fan, circa 1900, inside a Victorian Tunbridge Ware wood fan box showing a romantic landscape inlaid design on the cover and lined with silk, 19th century... being admired (?) by a bronze and ivory sculpture of Napoleon.
On these eighty-something degree days here at The Alice I find myself peering around my desk for something to fan myself as I type. Of course, I can't go up to the Lincoln Library, open the chest of drawers and borrow a lady's fan with French hand-tinted lithograph held by ebonized wood staves... for one thing, it wouldn't match my outfit!