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Matching Patterned Combs

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Matching Patterned Combs, N.d.
Lacquer on Wood
1 1/4 x 3 3/16 in. (3.2 x 8.1 cm)

Object Type: Hair Ornamentation
Technique: Carving
Period: Edo, Late (1789-1868)
Credit Line: Gift of Dr. Ralph Riffenburgh, in honor of Angelyn Kelley Riffenburgh
Accession Number: 2013.7.15a,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


Both combs are made of lacquered wood.

Object Description
These matching combs are a set of two. They were intended to be worn at the same time and are noted for their very dense teeth. Comb A features a design of cherry blossoms against a background of textile dye stencil mats. Comb B features a design of cherry blossoms and possibly a water lily motif against a background of textile dye stencil mats. Both are a rikyu-kata shape. Comb B's length measures 8.2 cm.

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