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Comb and Hairpin with Dragonflies

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Comb and Hairpin with Dragonflies, N.d.
Lacquer with Mother of Pearl, Silver, and Gold on Unidentified Material
1 5/8 x 3 9/16 in. (4.1 x 9 cm)

Object Type: Hair Ornamentation
Technique: Carving
Creation Place: Asia, Japan
Credit Line: Gift of Dr. Ralph Riffenburgh, in honor of Angelyn Kelley Riffenburgh
Accession Number: 2013.7.16a,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 possibly reads "Horikawa".

The medium is unidentified. It is not bekko (tortoiseshell), but it may be either wood or horse's hoof. It is lacquered and inlaid with mother of pearl, silver, and gold. Dr. Juli Wolfgram, an expert on Japanese art, notes a questionable coloring method for the bronze. The comb and hairpin do not appear to be painted or dyed.

Object Description
The comb features a design of painted and inlaid tombo (dragonfly) hovering over stylized water. The comb is a half-moon shape. The kogai features the same inlaid dragonfly pattern as the comb. The artist's mark possibly reads "Horikawa". The kogai is a two-part, flared anvil shape. Its length measures 15.2 cm.

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