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Gold Comb and Hairpin with Birds and Grasses

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Gold Comb and Hairpin with Birds and Grasses, late 19th c.
Lacquer and gold paint on Unknown material
1 11/16 x 4 in. (4.3 x 10.1 cm)

Object Type: Hair Ornamentation
Technique: Carving
Period: Meiji (Japan, 1869-1912)
Credit Line: Gift of Dr. Ralph Riffenburgh, in honor of Angelyn Kelley Riffenburgh
Accession Number: 2013.7.2a,b

These Japanese hair ornaments were collected by the late Angelyn Kelley Riffenburgh over decades. Angelyn’s husband, Dr. Ralph Riffenburgh, presented the combs in her honor to the Scripps College collections in 2012. Most of these hair ornaments, or kanzashi, are made of bamboo or lightweight woods that have been lacquered; they date from the 18th century well into the 20th, when elaborate hairstyles included decorative combs (kushi) and hairpins (kogai). Matched sets of ornaments featured seasonal images, landscape scenes, as well as historical or fictional references. The combination of pine, bamboo (nanten), and plum blossom (shochikubai) designs were popular at New Year’s time. Cherry blossom patterns were worn in the spring, and chrysanthemums in the autumn. Some kanzashi were made with tortoiseshell, mother of pearl, bone, or precious metals. Hairpins with a ball ornament, or tama, were also color coordinated to the seasons, with the cool colors green and blue worn during the summer months and the warm colors red, orange, and gold used during the winter.
--Bruce Coats, Professor of Art History and the Humanities

The artist's mark on the hairpin reads possibly "Sugi" or maybe "Matsu".

The comb and kogai are made of plastic, or possibly horse's hoof, and gold paint inlaid with gold flecks. The are small traces of lacquer.

Object Description
The comb's design features plovers (a type of bird) and autumn plants. The gold paint has been applied in such a way as to mimic the pattern of bekko (tortoiseshell). The comb is a half-moon shape. The hairpin, or kogai, design features the same autumn grasses found on the comb. There is also a butterfly and an artist's mark, which reads possibly "Sugi" or maybe "Matsu". The kogai is a two-part, flared anvil shape, measuring 15.5 cm in length.

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