Gold Comb and Hairpin with Flowers, N.d.
Lacquer and Mother of Pearl on Tortoiseshell
1 9/16 x 3 5/8 in. (3.9 x 9.25 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 artist's mark on the hairpin, or kogai, resembles two stylized birds.
The comb and hairpin are made of lacquered bekko (tortoiseshell) with inlaid mother of pearl.
The comb features a design of leaves and blossoms, some of which are emerging from a stylized tear-drop shape. The lacquered blossoms are unidentified, though the leaves resemble those of mums. Two blossoms are inlaid with mother of pearl. The comb is a half-moon shape with rounded ears. The kogai features the same design of leaves and blossoms found on the comb. There is an artist's mark, which resembles two stylized birds. The kogai is a two-part, flared anvil shape. The kogai measures 14 cm in length.
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