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The Exotic West: The Circuit of Carioca Featherwork in the Nineteenth Century

by Maria Cristina Volpi

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Taking a feather fan belonging to the Jerônimo Ferreira das Neves Collection at the D. João VI Museum in Rio de Janeiro as a starting point, this article examines a type of featherwork that was produced for export during the nineteenth century in Brazil. The nineteenth-century fashion for adornments made from feathers and stuffed animals invaded major fashion-producing centers such as Paris and London at the time when bourgeois imperialism was helping to multiply intercontinental trade links. For middle-class women, these objects introduced the exotic as a distinct aesthetic, corresponding to a desire for innovation driven by the growing standardization in food, housing and clothing. Rigid feather fans produced in Rio de Janeiro were internationally known from 1830 onwards. However, even when taking into account existing studies, little is known about this Rio-based rigid feather fan industry, which reached its peak between 1870 and 1890. In reflecting on the production, circulation and consumption of rigid fans, this paper aims to identify the symbolic meanings attributed to the products of this industry by Brazilian and European markets.

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