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Comb with Flowers in Gold Filigree, late 19th c.
Gold on Horse hoof
5 1/2 x 10 3/16 in. (13.97 x 25.91 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: 2013.7.99


Commentary
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

Marks
None.

Medium
It is made of horse's hoof with a gold filigree overlay. The gold design may simply be stamped on the comb.

Object Description
The comb's design features a combination of motifs that attempts to recreate a traditional aesthetic. Dr. Juli Wolfgram believes the basket weave and textile dye stencil patterns were selected simply for their appearance and not to communicate an underlying message, as would be typical of combs from earlier periods of Japanese history. She also notes the lengths of the teeth are irregular, which may mean the teeth were cut after the pattern was finished.

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