The fan collection illustrates the development of fans from the seventeenth until the nineteenth century, with an emphasis on 18th and 19th century European fans. The use of fans reached its zenith in the eighteenth century; at that time it was an essential attribute of any self-respecting woman. In the 19th and 20th centuries, fans disappeared from everyday life, becoming increasingly nothing more than an accessory for gala nights.
All the fans on view were collected by Felix Tal (1892-1983). He descended from an old Jewish family of estate agents/surveyors and auctioneers in Amsterdam and was a keen collector. Within the time span of sixty years Felix Tal built a collection of some four hundred fans. In 1948, he turned two small salons in his home on Prinsengracht 1093 into the “Felix Tal Fan Gallery” and opened them to anyone who showed interest in fans. The oldest fan in the collection is a folding fan featuring Venus and Adonis, probably made in the Netherlands. The tulip decoration may refer to the trade in tulip bulbs that flourished in the 17th century.
In 1979, Felix Tal handed his collection of fans over to the Beeckestijn Museum in Velsen South on long-term loan. After his death, the museum managed to acquire a core of 145 fans from the collection. For many years, Beeckestijn was one of the few Dutch museums where alternating, small, temporary exhibitions of fans were always on view. When the Beeckestijn Museum closed down in 2006 and the estate was put up for sale, new premises had to be found for the fan collection.