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The Messel Standing Feather Fan: M.358-1985

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Object information

Current Location: In storage


The Messel Standing Feather Fan


Maker of leaf: Unknown
Maker of handle: Unknown




Woven gut panels mounted on concealed frames, decorated with feathers of the purple-breasted cotinga (cotinga amabilis) and other birds; stick of turned wood. The fan is composed of five separate sections of drawn thread work on concealed frames. The frames are covered with feathers in bands of different colours and there is a border to each section of more feathers. The central scenes of flowers and birds are composed of feathers and stitched into place on applied fabric grounds and are different on each side. The whole is mounted on a turned, wooden handle.


History note: Colonel Leonard Messel (d. 1953); Anne, Countess of Rosse (d. 1992)

Legal notes

Purchased with a grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and a gift from the Friends of the Fitzwilliam Museum

Measurements and weight

Height: 34 cm
Width: 23 cm

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Bought (1985-01-28) by Countess of Rosse, Anne


17th Century, second half#
Production date: circa AD 1665 : Date uncertain


Fixed fans were used to cool or shield the face or as fly swats.

Place of manufacture and assembly uncertain; the leaf was probably made in South America or Central America whilst the handle is probably European, possibly either English or Dutch.

The blue and purple feathers match those of the purple-breasted cotinga (cotinga amabilis), found in Brazil, the Guyanas and Surinam. Although not identical, the bird forming part of the decoration on this side of the fan may have been intended to represent that cotinga. The other feathers have yet to be identied, but may come from members of the same species.

People, subjects and objects depicted

Components of the work

Stick composed of wood
Leaf composed of feathers gut
Case Height 40 cm Width 32 cm

References and bibliographic entries

Related exhibitions

Identification numbers

Accession number: M.358-1985
Primary reference Number: 117942
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Monday 24 April 2023 Last processed: Thursday 7 December 2023

Associated departments & institutions

Owner or interested party: The Fitzwilliam Museum
Associated department: Applied Arts

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The Fitzwilliam Museum (2024) "The Messel Standing Feather Fan" Web page available at: Accessed: 2024-04-25 15:17:50

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{{cite web|url= |title=The Messel Standing Feather Fan |author=The Fitzwilliam Museum|accessdate=2024-04-25 15:17:50|publisher=The University of Cambridge}}

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