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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Artemisia’s revenge

Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1654) was  the daughter of a painter,  a close friend of Caravaggio.  At the age of 18 she was raped by a painter associate of her father and, after a notorious trial, this experience unsurprisingly influenced her own work.

In the same year as the end of her rapist’s trial she started work on the picture Judith and Holofernes.  On face value, it shows Judith, a rich widow, decapitating the drunk Assyrian general Holofernes with the assistance of her maid.  Caravaggio had painted the same scene before Artemisia and you can see his influence, especially in the harsh light, the facial features and the  frozen movement.

But look closely at this shocking painting.

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