Cesare Vecellio's costume woodcuts in Clothing of the Renaissance World.
Thames and Hudson, London, 2008.
& Technique: For this particular fan I decided on wood
for the handle, varnished in a walnut stain; woven hat straw which I
interwove in a simple basket weave for the flag; and decorative
upholstery nails for capping the top and bottom of the handle.
Dimensions: Dimensions for these appear to vary, with
some having shorter handles, as in the above image, and some have longer
handles. The fan itself usually appears to make up one-third to
one-fourth the finished length of the whole.
dowel, cut to 60.5cm (23.5 inches) in length.
Paints Stain and Varnish, Walnut
hammer-head nails in 'Florentine Bronze'
hat straw, cut into strips in the required length
thread in a colour matching the straw.
A Venetian Ventuolo or
(Usually referred to
as a Flag Fan)
"...and in their hands they carry very beautiful woven fans..."
[Cesare Vecellio, 1590, trans M. Rosenthal,
Clothing of the Renaissance World.
Thames and Hudson, London, 2008]
made with the aim of testing out the method of construction/attachment
of the flag. Since I have so far discovered no accounts of how they were
put together, it was a matter of trial and error (and there was a doozy
of an error!) With that in mind I decided to make a utilitarian,
everyday kind of fan, instead of an ornate and highly decorative one.
Having made it, I was surprised by how much the polished wood of the
handle and textured but glossy woven straw of the flag pleased me.
For this particular style of fan, Vecellio
mentions gold and silver being used for the handles, and cloth-of-gold
and silk for the flag. There are many more mentions of fans without any
description as to what they were made from. For other
styles of fans, feathers and straw decorated with tremoli (spangles)
"of gold or silk" are mentioned for the air-moving part, whilst
ebony is also mentioned for a handle. Other
sources mention the use of paper or parchment for the making of the
time before I first started on the fan, however, I had found an image
online of an extant fan. Upon contacting the museum I was put in touch
with the curator who informed me the flag was made from woven straw: a
very fine straw, and very finely woven. It was this fan that was to be
the inspiration for my fan, although it was only some years later that I
chanced upon the hat straw on eBay.
actually began on the weaving of the flag about two or three years
before I finished it, so the three images I have of the weaving
process aren't very good, as they were taken on a low quality digital
camera. The unfinished flag lay in a box somewhere for all that time as one of those
UFOs we all seem to accumulate, but once I had
decided to finish it it took me only a few days to complete it. It
would have been even less, but I had to let the varnish for the handle
dry for several hours between coats, and also had to deal with the
doozy of an error.
photo shows the beginning of the weaving process. The lengths of straw
were sewn together along one edge, then woven together in a simple
of the first rows of weaving the straw. The strips of straw were sewn
together only along one edge to begin with, using doubled cotton
thread in a brown matching the straw.
is what it looked like when it was almost all done. When I was
satisfied with the number of rows I trimmed the strips of straw to
length and stitched the lengths of straw together along the remaining
flag was finished
I made the handle
by cutting a length of pine dowel 60.5cm (23.5 inches) long. It was
darkened to a walnut finish using three coats of British Paints Stain
and Varnish (Satin). I
then neatened the cut ends of the handle by nailing in upholstery
hammer head nails in 'Florentine Bronze'.
steady the dowel for the application of the flag, I secured the ends
using two clamps and a bit of scrap calico to make sure the handle
didn't get marked by the clamps.
attach the flag I used 1.6mm long tacks. This
photo was taken during the first attempt to nail the flag to the
handle. Unfortunately, I got carried away and tried to nail the end of
every single length of straw - the handle split on the back. I didn't
discover this until I'd nailed them all in and turned it over. I was
very irritated with myself for not having thought of the possibility
of this occurring, to say the least. But I had more dowel, so on to
attempt number two.
had to remove the flag from the handle to be able to re-use it on a
new handle, but removing those tacks to get it off was going to be
impossible. So I took another length of straw and stitched it to the
back of the flag, close to the handle. This was to secure what would
become the cut ends of the flag. I then cut the flag away from the
handle. This made the flag only slightly smaller, and it ended up a
slightly better, more rectangular shape, so I was content.
end result of attempt number two - success! Only five tacks were used
- one at the top, middle and bottom of the flag, then one in between
those. I also took care to choose tacks with a slighter smaller head/thickness/length
than the others, as well as making sure to attach the flag a little
down from the top end of the handle to avoid the shaft of the hammer
head nail in the top of the handle, which is quite long.
last step was to neaten it by adding lengths of straw along each edge
on both sides of the fan: the three loose edges on the back of the
fan, and all four edges on the front. I briefly considered sewing them
down, but in the end thought better of it as I didn't think I could
sew it down inconspicuously enough. I decided to do it instead by
using hot glue, mitring the ends for a neat finish. This photo is of
the last piece about to be glued in place on the front of the fan.
One finished flag fan. Reinforcing the edges by adding extra lengths
of straw not only provides a nice neat finish, it also adds a little
extra rigidity which creates a very nice breeze indeed.
The finished flag fan, with my scissors for scale.