Flabellum-shaped Fan, Museo di Capodimonte

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A Flabellum in Christian liturgical use is ‘a fan of metal, leather, silk, parchment or feathers, intended to keep away insects from the consecrated Body and Blood of Christ and from the priest, as well as to show honour. The ceremonial use of such fans dates back to ancient Egypt’.  They fell out of use in the Catholic liturgy in the 14th Century.

This  exquisite 16th Century  decorative example, in the Museo di Capodimonte, Naples comes from Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), is 20 inches high, made of ivory and:

has a long handle decorated with plant and animal motifs, with segmented ivory sticks arranged like spokes. The upper part portrays the neck and head of a bird, whose eyes are made up of tiny cabochon-cut sapphires, thereby concealing the central flanges.

Photograph: Imgur.

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