Inventory no.: 3584

Sri Lankan Ivory Fan Handle


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 here.

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.


UK art market

Inventory no.: 3584


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.