Fan-shaped compacts

In honor of our trip to Japan, here’s a post on fan-shaped compacts. In The Complete Dictionary of Symbols, author Jack Tresidder explains that in Japanese ritual, fan symbolism was highly developed “as an analogy for the unfolding of life itself.” Fans have  represented wealth and status, as well as mystery and femininity. They’ve been a prime accessory for flirtation, much like the powder compact.

fan compact

A fan-shaped powder compact, most likely made by Wadsworth or Henriette.

A number of manufacturers produced fan-shaped compacts, but Wadsworth and Henriette were probably most closely associated with this shape. I’ve seen a few from companies called Melissa and Elegance. Pink Lady also created lovely miniature fans in beautiful silk-lined presentation boxes. Though tiny, these compacts have great details, like the pearls at the fan’s handle. This thumb-sized compact is one of my favorites.


Many of the Wadsworth/Henriette creations had gorgeous details (like the one on the homepage of my website)…one of the reasons many collectors find these pieces so appealing.


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