Intricately carved and painted ivory fans were among the most highly desired items exported from China to the United States in the mid- to late-eighteenth century. Martha Washington is known to have been particularly fond of fans, purchasing at least 28 for herself between 1755 and 1793. This example illustrates the cross cultural exchange of Eastern and Western design. A central oval cartouche featuring a quiet pastoral scene of a country gentleman and shepherdess is flanked by exotic Chinese landscapes.


Elephant ivory fan comprised of twenty-five elaborately carved and painted ribs, or "sticks," shielded by two carved guards at either end; the ribs and guardsticks have rounded tips that gently taper towards the shoulder, then swell slightly though the top of the gorge to terminate in a tear-drop shape; the ribs and guardsticks are held together at that point by an iron rivet and mother of pearl washers; the ribs were originally connected by a white silk ribbon that ran through a slit in each rib, but only the warp of the ribbon remains; the guardsticks are intricately carved and feature three-dimensional designs of leafy and flowering vines; the reverse of the guardsticks are flat; the top of the ribs are carved with a pierced chrysanthemum; the sixth spine from the proper left side is partially lost; three-petaled flowers fill the bottom right and left hand corners of tip and three pierced circles fill the center void; the tip terminates in a border of ten raised circles and a line of six flower petals to frame the face of the fan; the ground of the face is decorated with meandering carvings of leafy and flowering vines; the space between each rendered bud and stem is filled with pierced vertical lines that run the length of the guardstick; three cartouches adorn the face of the fan: the center gilt rimmed oval features a watercolor pastoral scene in which a young man gestures to a young woman in classical dress with a shepherd's crook in her hand, seated beneath a tree, a house is nestled in the top left hand corner, two carved circular cartouches flank either side, both are filled with low relief carvings of Chinese pavilions, row boats and trees and flowers; the face is enclosed within a boarder of three flower petals and a row of raised circles; the shoulder of the ribs are embellished with a pierced semi-circular flower, the gorge is filled with a pierced flower lattice design; spanning the central eight ribs of the gorge is an oval delineated by a semi-square pierced lattice ground; the reverse of the sticks are flat.


c. 1790



Ivory, silk, gilt, watercolors, iron, copper, mother of pearl


Overall: 10 1/4 in. x 17 5/8 in. x 1 1/8 in. (26.04 cm x 44.78 cm x 2.87 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of Julia Dulany Addison, 1952

Object Number


Colors (Beta)

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