Gold Comb with Flowers and Butterflies, N.d.
Lacquer with Brass and Mother of Pearl on Wood
2 3/16 x 6 1/8 in. (5.5 x 15.6 cm)
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 carved wood with painted lacquer and inlaid mother of pearl. There is also what appears to be brass inlay.
This large comb was probably not part of a set. It was meant to be worn over the central part of hair, called the "mage" (pronounced MAH-geh). It features a striking design of lacquered and inlaid chrysanthemums, peonies, and butterflies. The comb is a takahara-kata shape.
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