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Comb with Falcon in Pine Tree, N.d.
Unidentified Material
4 x 9 3/16 in. (10.16 x 23.37 cm)

Object Type: Hair Ornamentation
Technique: Carving
Period: Showa (Japan, 1926-1989)
Credit Line: Gift of Dr. Ralph Riffenburgh, in honor of Angelyn Kelley Riffenburgh
Accession Number: 2013.7.36

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 medium is unidentified; the comb is possibly plastic. The interior of the design doesn't appear to be carved. If the artist had had to cut away the tusk, there would be grooves, whereas plastic is simply molded and therefore smooth. The Western tendency is to say it's a copy; while the Japanese will usually give an object the benefit of the doubt.

Object Description
This comb's design features a falcon in a pine tree. The stylized image is very typical of "ranma," the carved wooden panels above doors in Japanese homes that allow air to circulate. The comb is a half-moon shape.

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