This object formed the handle of a feather fan. Feather fans were introduced into Tudor England through the great Italian city states of Venice, Milan and Genoa. Originally fans had arrived in Italy from the East. By the 16th century the Western secular use of fans was largely confined to women. Costly and elaborate, these fans were dress accessories confirming status and rank.
The fan handle was made in gilt brass, which was cast, pierced and engraved with Eastern-influenced Moresque ornament (a style of interlaced geometric patterns evolved in Arab civilisations of the Near East and in the Moorish states of Spain). It was a practical and durable item. When the fan’s feathers wore out, they could be changed and new feathers arranged in the metal handle. The gilt-brass handle was a less extravagant item than those made of carved ivory, gold or silver. The feathers used might be those of a native bird rather than more expensive feathers from exotic birds such as peacocks, swans, ostriches or parakees, which enriched the finer gold or ivory handles. Most fans were attached to the belt of the dress by a metal chain or silk cord. Due to their fragile nature, few examples of complete feather fans of the period survive, but they were frequently shown in contemporary portraits.
Folding fans, while available in the Orient, were not introduced to Western Europe until the late 17th century. This one, c. 1690, is from France, but is certainly not Elizabethan:
Tagged as: elizabethan ~ fashion ~ fan ~ handle ~ fan handle ~ feathers ~ metal ~ venice ~ brass ~ tudor ~