Plumes: The Creative Museum at the Musée des Arts d’Afrique et d’Asie

In its second collaboration with the Museum of African and Asian Arts in Vichy, The Creative Museum has been invited to participate in the exhibition, PLUMES.

Human fascination with birds begins when their freedom of flight captures our imaginations. We watch birds soar and glide freely, as their beautiful, feathered wings catch gusts of air. Can we explore birds’ connection to the human soul in other cultures?

The exhibition PLUMES investigates five civilizations: India, China, the Ivory Coast, Papua New Guinea, and North America to show how art reflects human reverence for each culture’s emblematic bird.


Click on the image to go to the exhibition

From India: The peacock is India’s national bird and holds an important place in Hindu epic poetry and mythology. In Rajasthan’s miniature paintings, peacocks provide companionship to wistful nayikas. They are heroines in the Natya Shastra, written by Bharata, c. 100 BC. The Creative Museum’s silver-gilded comb comes from Rajasthan. The well contains perfume, which drips into the user’s hair, and is adorned with two peacocks.

From China: Tian Tsui is the art of cutting and gluing the kingfisher bird’s iridescent blue feathers to gilt silver. The feathers are so small, it is a painstaking task. The term literally means “dotting with kingfishers” and has been a traditional Chinese art for 2000 years. The Creative Museum’s magnificent diadem uses tian tsui. The flowers are topped with three symbolic child figures with painted bone faces.

From the Ivory Coast: The hornbill kaloa bird is the mythological founder of the Senoufo people. One opportunity for young tribal men is to join the Poro Society, a school where most carvings and masks are made. Statues combine human and animal elements. The bird’s horned beak is elongated, as it touches the fertilized, swollen belly. This comb from The Creative Museum shows the beak-belly relationship, as a man wears a kaloa-bird mask, perhaps for an initiation ceremony.

From Papua New Guinea: The Dani People from the Highlands have a fable. Once, a snake and a bird engaged in a great race to decide the fate of human beings. If the snake won, men would shed their skins and live forever. If the bird won, men must die. The bird won. The Creative Museum’s male headdress from the Dani is made of cassowary bone and feathers, crocodile claws, and warthog teeth. It was most likely worn by a warrior.

From North America: The Tlingit are an indigenous tribe who live along the Pacific Northwest coast: now Oregon and Washington in the USA; British Columbia in Canada. Modern-day Tlingit also live in Alaska. Before Christian conversion, they were animists. Their totem poles narrated stories, legends, and myths. The Tlingit have raven clans and eagle/wolf clans. As the eagle’s beak is curved, The Creative Museum’s bone hair pin with a totem pole eye probably belonged to an eagle-clan shaman.

With these five distinct cultural interpretations, The Creative Museum’s contribution to the Plumes exhibit at the Museum of African and Asian Arts in Vichy shows how bird mythology lives on in headdresses around the world.

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For more scholarly research, please examine our Resource Library and The Creative Museum’s publications and these books:


Kingfisher Blue: Treasures of an Ancient Chinese Art

Powerful Headdresses: Africa and Asia

Ethnic Jewellery and Adornment
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The Gold Crowns of Mycenae, Bactria, and Silla

According to archeological finds by Heinrich Schliemann, an elliptical gold diadem with removable crown-ornaments was first discovered in a Mycenaean funerary mound called Grave Circle A, or the “Grave of Women”, c. 1600-1500 BC.


from the National Archaeological Museum in Athens

The Mycenaeans were an Indo-European people who settled in Southern Greece along the Agean Sea in the Bronze Age (1600-1100 BC). They came in contact with other cultures through conquest, creating a society based on a warrior aristocracy that Homer immortalized in The Iliad. The Mycenaeans were an agricultural people. However, after the Thera eruption weakened Crete’s Minoan civilization, the Mycenaeans conquered the sea-trading culture, c. 1420 BC.

A hypothesis: Sea peoples could have spread this crown design to land-trading equestrian nomadic tribes through commerce and war as early as 1420 BC.

Narrower bands comprise the next evidence we find. After Alexander the Great died in 323 BC, his empire spanned three continents. It was split up among his generals, the Diadochi, who at first wore white ribbons and then gold bands called diadems.


1) Diadotus Soter, governor of Bactria c. 250 BC, wearing a white ribbon. 2) Diadem, 300 BC, from the National Archaeological Museum in Athens

Before Alexander conquered it, Bactria (now in present-day Afghanistan) was located in the eastern part of the Achaemenid Persian Empire and connected eastern and western cultures through trade and war. The Silk Road, which began during the Han Dyansty, c. 206 BC, brought traders, merchants, and nomads to Bactria. In war, the Yuezhi, a nomadic tribe who supplied jade to the Han Chinese, moved south to conquer Bactria after they were defeated by the Xiongnu, c 124 BC.

This gives us a significant connection between the Greeks and Han Chinese, as well as the Central Asian and Scytho-Siberian nomads, when it comes to the gold crown from Tillya-Tepe in Bactria. It was found in the tomb of a nomadic Saka woman, c. 100 AD. A plethora of round gold pendants adorns the band and ornaments, which come off easily so they can be packed away.

The Silk Road is also how this multi-cultural-influenced design must have arrived in the Silla Kingdom of Korea, c. 400 AD. Lasting from 57 BC to 935 AD, Silla was renowned for its gold. Along with jade decorations, three prongs forming the Chinese character 山 “mountain” shape the front ornaments. This crown was excavated from the north mound of Hwangnam Daechong Tomb and resides at the Gyeongju National Museum in South Korea.

Crowns like this were cut from a thin sheet of gold and were so delicate, some speculate they were worn only for ceremonial occasions or made as a burial ornament. In nomadic fashion, here is how the crown pendants were detached from the band. I also see a Scytho-Siberian nomadic influence in the tiny mirrored gold pendants. What a startling impression that must have made when those pendants reflected sunlight, linking the king with the sun on Earth.

In the Ancient World, crowns represented nobility, conquest, religious significance, cultural tradition, and the exchange of ideas. Before the helmet design, they were made like this. Both ways of thinking seem so unrelated, but in tracing the history of this ancient design, we can map the development of ideas in a world we could hardly imagine.

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For more scholarly research, please examine our Resource Library and these books:


Silla: Korea’s Golden Kingdom (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World. Edited by Fredrik Hiebert and Pierre Cambon

Ethnic Jewellery and Adornment
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Auguste Bonaz at the Creative Museum

The Creative Museum just acquired another masterpiece by Auguste Bonaz.

Made c. 1920 in Oyonnax, five medallions of painted leaves and rhinestones rest in the middle of a curved frame. The medallions are held in place by vertical lines.

I thought this might be a good opportunity to peruse some of the Creative Museum’s other Bonaz combs. Here are two combs from his Art Nouveau period, c. 1910.

Two delicately carved and painted peacocks hold a green medallion in a comb shaped for their tails. How lovely it would look when worn with an embroidered dress.

There are gold accents on this dragon’s wings and head, and his eyes are made of yellow paste stones.

In his Art Deco period, c. 1920…

I call this comb “Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining.” Tines are used in a uniquely imaginative way, depicting both the rain pouring from the clouds, but also in their usual function at the bottom of the comb.

Black was the favorite color of the Art Deco pallette. In this comb, Bonaz put a turquoise cabachon in the middle, surrounded it with mosaic-like decorations, and lined everything with tiny silver dots.

Bonaz’s mantilla combs are unmatched. In this ivory one, the intricate decoration entrances the eye.

Celluloid was able to be shaped as far as the imagination could go, thanks to the comb-making machines at Oyonnax. In this comb, Bonaz suspends seven balls on an architectural frame.

Please feel free to examine more of the Creative Museum’s Auguste Bonaz collection and their exhibitions From Art Nouveau to Art Deco, Part 1 and Part 2

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For more scholarly research, please examine our Resource Library and these books


Christie’s Art Deco

The Best of Bakelite and Other Plastic Jewelry

1933 French B/W Ad Auguste Bonaz Hair Jewelry Art Deco – Original Print Ad
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Combs at the Musée du Quai Branly

The Musée du Quai Branly is as much a work of architecture as it is a museum that houses a collection of 300,000 artifacts from Africa and Oceania. Jean Nouvel designed four structures with 30 multicolored, protruding cubes. Each cube contains an exhibition.

They have a wonderful collection of combs and photographs that show how they were worn.

For example, the Buang are a Papuan people of the Morobe district of North-East New Guinea. In 1954, François Girard took this photo of a Buang man wearing a comb at the Mission de Françoise Girard during a feast.

The Buang carved and engraved bamboo combs, such as this one, which is similar to the one worn in the photograph.

Artisans of the Kuy people in Cambodia were known for their textile-weaving skills. They wove ikat, an elaborate silk fabric for women’s sampot hol-skirts, and pidans, which were wall hangings used for ceremonial decoration. This wood comb, c. 1870, was made for weaving. It is framed with a dragon and has zoomorphic and floral motifs. The comb itself is bamboo. The slats are cut separately and stretched by a linen thread.

This pidan resides in the Honolulu Museum. The whole textile chronicles Prince Siddhartha (the future Buddah). He leaves the family palace, accompanied by the gods Indra and Brahma. Then he cuts off his hair, meditates under the bodhi tree, and attains Enlightenment.

This striking comb with five long teeth, an engraved bamboo top, and two blue beads looks like a dancer. It comes from Seram Island, the largest island of Maluku Province, Indonesia. The comb dates from the late 19th to the early 20th Centuries and was donated by Jean-Paul and Monique Barbier-Mueller. It was probably made for a man.

This is an aigrette on top of carved bamboo. In the Telei language of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, it is called a kutopagu. Between the comb and feather is possum fur. The two pieces of the comb itself are made from bamboo root, and are connected with plant fibers. This is a male adornment typical of the Southern region of Bougainville with carved motifs the color of lianas: woody, climbing vines that twine around trees and are plentiful in rain forests. According to Emilus Karako, these ornaments are no longer made.

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For more scholarly research, please see our Resource Library and these books:


Ethnic Jewellery and Adornment

Gold Jewellery of the Indonesian Archipelago

Pictorial Cambodian Textiles: Traditional Celebratory Hangings
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Rodolphe Dogniaux: l’après-midi d’un peigne

Contemporary designer Rodolphe Dogniaux of Design Matin studied at the École Sainte-Geneviève in Paris, the National School of Applied Arts and Crafts, and the National School of Industrial Creation. After making a career as a freelance designer, he is trying to design the hamburger of the future and re-evaluate the French chestnut. (Sometimes, you just don’t ask why.)

In 2012, he was inspired by the Art Nouveau combs at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs de Paris. Once back home, he laid various jewelry elements on his work table and made some stunning pieces. They are untitled. Enjoy the psychedelic swirls, colored beads, and refrigerator magnets.

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For more scholarly research, please see our Research Library and these books:


Contemporary Jewelry in Perspective

500 Pendants & Lockets: Contemporary Interpretations of Classic Adornments

1000 Rings: Inspiring Adornments for the Hand (500 Series)
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AMNH Collection: Mangbetu Ivory Combs of the Belgian Congo

Ivory hair combs for the American Museum of Natural History were collected on a cultural expedition by Herbert Lang and James P. Chapin from 1909 to 1915.


James Chapin and a child, name unknown

They were made by the Mangbetu people, who lived in Panga and Medge, small villages in King Leopold II’s Congo Free State, which became the Belgian Congo in 1908. The Mangbetu were known for Lipombo’, the art of elongating heads, as this comb shows.

This comb features a grey crowned crane.

The Mangbetu were featured prominently in early photographs distributed to show Europeans how well people were doing under Leopold’s rule. The photographs, taken against false backgrounds and made into postcards, were propaganda to sell the mass quantities of ivory and rubber brought in on Belgian cargo ships. They also hid the fact that Leopold had turned the entire country into a slave labor camp, which killed 10,000,000 people.

Lang and Chapin’s field notes state that combs were made by men and often worn by women in the hollow of their hair dress, which can be seen from the back.

However, ivory hairpins are the most visible ornament in Mangbetu hair styles. These were collected from the Lang and Chapin expedition:

This lot of 17 hairpins sold at Sotheby’s for 8,400€ on September 7, 2013,

and this is how they were worn:


First picture: Warrior, Poko region, Congo, 1945

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If you would like to buy a contemporary Mangbetu wood comb, I am confident in recommending


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For more scholarly research please examine the AMNH Collection and these books


King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa

African Reflections: Mangbetu Art

In and Out of Focus: Images from Central Africa, 1885-1960

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Victorian Hair Pins

Whether the hairstyle was divided into three or more parts, some short, others long; or, the hair was complexly braided at the back, Victorian women adorned their chignons with tortoiseshell combs and pins.

On top of the pins were fantastic gold creations of griffins with ruby eyes, silver so delicately woven it looked like lace, and diamonds. Sometimes the tortoiseshell was carved into flowers and intricate designs, allowing the different colors of the natural material to shade the art like a painter would use his or her brush. Other times, they were capped with gold and silver crowns.

This pin hails from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Two carved gold rings on top of a cap are set with diamonds, a sapphire and a ruby.

Carved gold tops decorate the fleur-de-lis shape of this dark tortoiseshell hair pin.

Just as silver is delicately woven into lace with diamond dots in this hair pin,

so The Creative Museum‘s hair pin has a circular foliage-like silver design.

More complex caps could set off jewels, such as in this hair pin with aquamarines

and these griffins with ruby eyes.

Or, the setting could be invisible to set off a delicate spray of pearls.

Any way you look at them, jeweled Victorian tortoiseshell hair pins were made in an astonishing array of variations.

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If you would like to buy an antique Victorian hair pin, I am confident in recommending these active E-Bay listings:





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For more scholarly research, please see our Resource Library and these books:


Jewellery in the Age of Queen Victoria

The Comb: Its History and Development

Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Art and Design
Posted in Auction, E-Bay, English Hair Comb, Victorian Hair Comb, Victorian Hair Combs | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Presentation at the Creative Museum

I was honored to do it. Credit really goes to Catherine and Joel Olliveaud. This is my collection.

Cheers…

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For more scholarly research, please examine our Resource Library and these books:


The Comb: Its History and Development

Le Peigne Dans Le Monde

Combs and Hair Accessories
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More Treasures from The Frances Wright Collection

Frances has been generous enough to share more of her treasures with us. The photographs were taken by her husband, Terry Wright.

This is a Romanov comb, the real thing. Faint now. It is tortoiseshell, with a gold, silver, and pearl heading and the mark of one of Faberge’s most famous designers. The original box, below, has a ruby on it. Compared to the Russian crown jewels, this comb is intimate. I imagine one of Nicholas and Alexandra’s daughters wearing it to tea.

The octagonal shagreen box has acanthus-leaf scrolling. In the middle is the Romanov crest with a ruby in the center.

A garland of enameled daises with faux citrines is hinged to a horn comb in this example. This modestly sized comb was made for a chignon at the back of the head, c. 1860.

The metal tiara is hinged to a horn comb, painted with dark blue and green enamel, and decorated with turquoise cabochons in this Art Nouveau comb. c. 1900.

A curved gilt silver band surrounded by small crystals is attached to a metal structure, which was engineered to hold 10 crystal spheres in place. The decoration sits atop a tortoiseshell comb. The piece comes in its original box with the retailer’s name, Cockburn and MacDonald, Edinburgh. c. 1860.

This is a beautiful Peigne d’Alger. A gilt silver tiara has openwork in the middle and holds three seed-pearl circles. Hanging on the bottom are two interlocking chains and three faux pearl pendants. The decoration is hinged to a horn comb. c. 1880.

This is a Huasheng (花胜), or floral hair ornament. It is worn in a chignon above the middle of the forehead. A lotus flower is the central subject. Stories about Huasheng go back to the Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 9 CE). The Book of Han, Vol 2, includes a biography of the Chinese poet Sima Xiangru, who wrote, “She lives in a cave, wearing Huasheng in her snow-white hair.” On Hunan Day, women give Huasheng as gifts, as scholars climb to elevations to compose poems. This kingfisher comb was made in the 19th Century, Qing Dynasty. The only comb I have ever seen of this quality was in 2009.

Thank you Frances and Terry for sharing these with us.

कंघी

For more scholarly research, please examine our Resource Library and these books:


The Comb: Its History and Development

Le Peigne Dans Le Monde

Combs and Hair Accessories
Posted in Chinese Hair Comb, Edwardian Hair Comb, English Hair Comb, Frances Wright Collection, Han Dynasty, Huasheng, Qing Dynasty, Romanov comb, Russian Hair Comb, Victorian Hair Comb | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Learning from the Creative Museum and Ethnic Jewellery and Adornment

In quotes are comments from Ethnic Jewellery and Adornment by Truus Daalder. Reference numbers are in italics and specified at the bottom. The photographs and other writing come from the collection and scholarship of The Creative Museum. I thought it would be interesting to combine them. They crossed paths in China, Indonesia, and Southeast Asia.

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“It is in the hairstyles and head decorations that perhaps the greatest variety of shapes exist, and the Southern Chinese minorities are possibly second only to the Mongolians in the exuberance of their headwear, particularly during festivals. Girls preserve hair lost in combing to compose extra hairpieces to incorporate into elaborate coiffures.” (1)

The dots and circles on the bone tines of this comb from The Creative Museum were made using pyrography, a technique where decorations are burned into wood or bone using a heated object. It also has cotton threads, black and white glass beads and a huge red pom pom in the middle. Red is the color of good fortune in China. The comb belongs to the Yao people.

“In pre-historic times, most of present-day Indonesia was attached to mainland Southeast Asia… However, when the ice melted after the last Ice Age, about 10,000 years ago, low-lying land was covered by sea, and Indonesia turned into a country of thousands of islands… Over time, waves of migrants came to the Indonesian islands, particularly from mainland Southeast Asia.” (2)

The dugout-canoe shape of this striking, lacquered black-horn comb from the Creative Museum evokes the boat that brought ancestors from the south-east Asiatic continent to the Indonesian archipelago. It was made c. 1970.

“The mainland of Southeast Asia is the meeting place of many borders and many ethnic groups. Burma, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam share many of their borders with each other, and often share ethnic groups, as well.” (3)

Among the reasons for this are

  • During the Ming Dynasty, the Han Chinese pushed minority groups south, and many settled in Southeast Asia
  • Barbarian invasions from the North and Northwest pushed some Tai language speakers to Burma, Laos, and Thailand
  • In the 19th century, kingdoms, such as the Khmer in Cambodia, gained and lost power, and there was British and French colonial expansion. Both factors changed the borders within Southeast Asia
  • In 1949, minority groups who fought Communism fled China when Mao won, and fled Laos in 1975, when the Communists took over there
  • Borders were of little concern to ethnic groups who practiced slash-and-burn agriculture (4)

The pyramid-shaped hair pins from The Creative Museum are worn by Red Taï and Hmong women in Laos. Their hairstyles often took more than one pin to keep them in place.

Made in the early 20th Century, the long one has a pyramid shape and ornate filigree decorations. It is hollow with a lid and used as a tobacco container, a marriage between beauty and function. The shorter one is wood wrapped in silver.

“The last dynasty before a period of instability and finally the victory of Communism in 1949 was the Manchu Qing Dynasty, consisting of Manchurian invaders from the North, which ruled from 1644 – 1911… Coral, jade, and pearls were popular, and during the Qing Dynasty there was also a revival of kingfisher feather jewellery. This was so popular that the kingfisher bird with the brightest blue feathers was hunted to extinction” (5)

Showcasing this history, the last piece I will feature is The Creative Museum’s stunning Manchu hairpin. It has three dimensions. The first layer is made of branch coral, amber, jadeite, and kingfisher feathers. The second layer is a circle of small coral beads, strung in small heart shapes. The third has a kingfisher decoration at the center. The piece is shaped to form a flower and bring good luck to the wearer.

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For more scholarly research, please see the exhibits and publications of The Creative Museum. To order a copy of Chinese and Japanese Hair Ornaments, please write to contact@creative-museum.com. Payment can be made through Paypal.

Also, every collector must have


Ethnic Jewellery and Adornment

References:
(1) Ethnic Jewellery and Adornment, by Truus Daalder, page 216
(2) Ethnic Jewellery and Adornment, by Truus Daalder, page 171
(3) Ethnic Jewellery and Adornment, by Truus Daalder, page 209
(4) Ethnic Jewellery and Adornment, by Truus Daalder, page 209
(5) Ethnic Jewellery and Adornment, by Truus Daalder, page 218

Posted in Chinese Hair Comb, Chinese Hair Pin, Creative Museum, Ethnic Jewellery and Adornment, hair comb, Han Dynasty, Hmong, Indonesian Hair Comb, Laotian Comb, Manchu hair pin, Red Tai, Truus Daalder | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment