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Large Carved Ivory Fan Handle
Sri Lanka
19th century

length: 39.2cm, weight: 633g

This large and heavy fan handle has been beautifully turned and carved from a single piece of solid ivory. It dates to the Kandy period. It would have been
used by a particularly senior monk to hold a fan. The head of the holder is carved on both sides with a forest nymph or
nari lata amid typically Kandyan
scrolling floral motifs.

The main grip of the handle is carved with an extravagant scrolling and interlocking pattern which includes small representations of the sacred swan or

The carved motifs mirror those on the wooden columns of the 14th-15th century drumming hall (
digge) of the Embekke Devala near Kandy in the Sri Lankan
interior. The Embekke Devala was the meeting hall of the Gampola kings. Later it was converted into a shrine for the Sinhalese war god Kartikeya also known
as Kataragama Deviyo. The hall features a multitude of pillars or columns, each profusely but uniquely carved with what has become known as typically
Kandyan motifs such as dancers, addorsed swans, creepers and vines, and stylised orchids - motifs that have been drawn on for inspiration in the handle

See Coomaraswamy (1956, plate XXXVII) for related examples.

The ivory has a creamy, yellowed patina and obvious age, and some typical grain-related surface cracking. There is only one small nick to one of the thin
collars along the lower section of the handle, otherwise the condition is perfect.

Coomaraswamy, A.K., Mediaeval Sinhalese Art, Pantheon Books, 1956 reprint of the 1908 edition.

Provenance:  UK art market

Inventory no.: 3584 SOLD

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A Sri Lankan monk resting a large fan with a prominent
handle on his lap.
Circa 1920.
Wooden columns at the meeting pavilion (digge) of the Embekke Devale complex.
Detail of a carved wooden column at the meeting pavilion (digge)
of the Embekke Devale complex.