First of all, I must confess that I am not a fan collector, but I do collect several pieces of ivory carvings, all old pieces well before the date line of 1946.
When I spotted the fan in the preview, my heart sang with joy and delight at the sheer quality of the carvings. The conditions may not be perfect, the connecting ribbon is a bit fragile. A diserning fan collector will like to have the fan in its original box, ideally.
However this fan was made at the Canton workshop in the early part of 19th Century, which was the golden period of the Chinese export trades. At that time, Chinese products were regarded supreme and sought after by royals, aristocrats and new middle class of many countries East and West. This fan is a snapshot of remarkable workmanship of a master. The craftmanship was super, the design was fabulous with figures, animals, garden scenes and river boats, carved out of sheets of ivory to resemble lace! The front and back panels were carved on both sides with contrasting styles, one deep set, one enbolden. I saw a similar example at the royal collection at Sandringham and marvelled at its exquisite qualities.
Fans of later days simplified a great deal. Figures were replaced by foliage, inset circle kept plain or just mere initials, front and back panels were carved on single sides, but the worst of all the carvers were not as good as their predecessors. Perhaps it's inevitable to meet the demand of expanding markets, or perhaps it's the reflection of down turn of the Qing dynasty
When I finally paid more than I prepared for this fan, without regret, of course, I did the foolish thing of attempting to clean it off its dust by my own DIY methods. Thankfully before I did the fundamental damage, I thought of google and of the wise folk at WXC. By the time, the fan had been through 7 times of brushing, soaking in 3 different cleaning liquids and another round of rinsing. But it was saved from lemon juice, thank God!
The result is more than I dared to hope. I am happy for it to rest in my curiosity cabinet. And I will return to it by uttering: Made in China, Bravo!
Ps: For those who are not familiar with the subject, they may look into the recent auction records of Christies and bonhams, where they could find examples to compare to.