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Comb with Changing Seasons

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Comb with Changing Seasons, N.d.
Lacquer on Wood
1 3/8 x 3 7/16 in. (3.5 x 8.7 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: 2013.7.42

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 comb is made of lacquered wood.

Object Description
This comb features a non-continuous design. The front, which shows two figures in a rainstorm, refers to spring. The back, which shows an umbrella, falling flower petals, clouds, and reeds, refers to autumn. The tops of the clouds are abraded, though this effect appears to be the artist's intention. Seasonal motifs were very important to courtesans; they changed their clothing, songs, and even the interior decoration of their homes throughout the year to match. The comb is a rikyu-kata shape.

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