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Black and Red Hairpin with Seasonal Motifs

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Black and Red Hairpin with Seasonal Motifs, N.d.
Lacquer on Wood
7 3/16 in. (18.3 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: 2013.7.82

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 one side reads "Yosai."

The comb is made of lacquer on an unidentified lightweight material, possibly bamboo.

Object Description
The hairpin, or kogai, features a seasonal motif. The designs includes snowflakes for winter and cherry blossoms for spring on one side, and an autumn moon with plants and summer grasses near water on the other. The plants' seasonal associations may refer to poetry instead of actual blossoming times. There is also a meander pattern dividing the ends into individual scenes. The artist's mark on one side reads "Yosai." The black center of the kogai has somehow been treated so as to have a slightly textured surface. The kogai is a single-piece, flared bar shape.

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