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Gold Comb and Hairpin with Phoenixes

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Gold Comb and Hairpin with Phoenixes, N.d.
Paint with Gold and Mother of Pearl on Horse hoof
1 1/4 x 2 13/16 in. (3.1 x 7.1 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: 2013.7.28a,b

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 reads "Gyokusai".

The comb and hairpin are made of horse's hoof. They are painted, not lacquered. There also inlaid flecks of gold and mother of pearl.

Object Description
The comb features a design of phoenixes and strange plants. The circle may be a family crest, or "kamun." The comb is a kansei-kata shape with rounded ears. The hairpin, or kogai, features the same design of phoenixes and strange plants as the comb. The artist's mark reads "Gyokusai". There is also a meander pattern. The kogai is a slightly flared, single-piece plank shape with rounded edges. Its length measures 14.5 cm.

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