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The Messel Mica Fan: M.359-1985

An image of Folding fan

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Object information

Current Location: In storage


The Messel Mica Fan


Maker: Unknown




Folding fan, the leaf composed of three bands of mica panels, mounted in double paper, painted in bodycolour and gilt. Ivory sticks of serpentine form; guards of ivory, the lower part serpentine, the upper part pierced by three panels backed with mica mounted in paper. Brass rivet. Front. The mica panels are painted in colours with different motifs including: floral sprays, flowers in vases, flowers with a bird, flowers with a dog, a dog with a bird, a bird with a dragonfly, a butterfly, a boy with a butterfly, a boy playing a pipe, a Cupid holding a heart, a Cupid brandishing an arrow, a seated boy, a female bust; some occurring more than once, but not identically. The horizontal paper borders between the panels are painted alternately black and blue with gilt ornament. Reverse: Mica undecorated, paper mounts painted en suite with those on the front. Sticks: lower part plain except for cog-like nicks in the edges. Upper part behind the leaf painted with gold squiggles. Guards: lower part plain except for cog-like nicks in the edges. Above the shoulder they have a border of diagonal strokes.


History note: Colonel Leonard C. Messel (1872-1953); Anne, Countess of Rosse (1902-1992)

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

Width: 45 cm
Width: 17 3/4 in

Acquisition and important dates

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


17th Century, Late
Circa 1665 CE - Circa 1700 CE


Folding fans with pleated leaves were introduced into Europe from the Far East in the sixteenth century, and their use was widespread by the mid-seventeenth century. The sticks and guards were usually made of wood, bone, ivory or tortoiseshell, and the leaves of fine skin, paper or silk. Fans with translucent mica inserts had been made since the late sixteenth century, but examples with leaves made mainly of mica are now extremely rare. Only three examples are known that are strictly comparable to this one, which is constructed of three rows of mica panels, naively painted with children, dogs, birds and rose sprays, and mounted between strips of painted and gilt paper. This example is one of over 500 fans and unmounted fan leaves, both European and Oriental, acquired from the late Anne, Countess of Rosse. They had been amassed by her father Colonel Leonard Messel (187201953), who was among the earliest English collectors to value fans for their historical and aesthetic interest rather than viewing them simply as costume accessories or family heirlooms.

School or Style


People, subjects and objects depicted

Components of the work

Leaf composed of paper bodycolour mica gilt
Leaf+sticks+guards composed of mica
Sticks+guards composed of ivory
Rivet composed of brass (alloy)
Guards Height 25.8 cm Height 10 1/8 in

References and bibliographic entries

Related exhibitions

Identification numbers

Accession number: M.359-1985
Primary reference Number: 117943
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Monday 6 February 2023 Last processed: Friday 8 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 Mica Fan" Web page available at: Accessed: 2024-07-20 07:14:02

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