Monthly Archives: October 2009

Diamond and Horn Comb

This unsigned French art nouveau comb was made of horn, lined with diamonds at the top, and adorned with gold flowers and diamonds in the center.

But this comb has a unique feature. Usually, the engineering belongs to the tines at the bottom. A comb is a practical item designed to hold hair in place, which existed since man first evolved.

I have never seen a chain attached to the top, hooking onto a stick designed to go into two holes, as an additional way to hold hair. It allows you to choose between tines alone, and using the stick as an ornament; using the stick alone and wearing the piece in a longer hairdo; or using both. Very inventive. But since it is unsigned, it’s value is estimated between $4000 and $5000. Update: This comb sold for 2995 euros, or $4280.53

Early, Middle, and Late Edo

Early Edo: This wooden comb is 17th-Century Edo. You can tell by the size, artistic style, and subject. It’s one idea on a large comb canvas is a chimera behind a folding screen.

From the Nomura Shojiro Collection comes this middle-era Edo comb, which depicts a grasshopper busily eating while a larger animal looms. But are we seeing the animal’s horn, while his hungry eyes focus on that grasshopper? Or, does the line signify the larger animal’s tail, as he plods away completely unaware of the grasshopper’s existence. Japanese comb art plays with and mixes perspectives a lot, but this maki-e painting has all the players in one scene. The artist makes you imagine how each animal sees their world. In art school, teachers ask students, “What can you do with a line?” And I think this comb provides a wonderful answer because with one line, it goes from being beautiful to being great.

Late Edo: Here, a crayfish is folded over the comb, a Meiji characteristic. On the front, you only see half of it. Also the space for the picture is getting smaller, and the edges are getting rounder. So we have one foot in Meiji. But it is still one idea on a comb, which is Edo. Japan is moving from one emperor to another, as an artist draws a crayfish.

There’s A Story In This Sale

In April, 2008, Christies sold this Lalique horn comb with a blue and green enameled Japanese landscape and a sunset in yellowish orange enamel for $273,500. The comb was made c. 1900 and is one of Japonisme’s greatest expressions from the French side.

On 9/21/09, the SAME COMB was put on sale again with a price estimate of $15,000 to $20,000, and sold for $92,500. I don’t understand this at all. The only thing I can think of is that something happened to the finances of the previous buyer, and they were in trouble. I agree with the first price, just like I agree with the Galliard comb selling for $218,500. Who knows. Someone got a bargain. I hope they realize what they won.

Barrette by Koch

This art nouveau piece was originally a dog collar plaque (do we love this?) but can also be worn as a barrette. It was made in 1902 by the House of Koch, founded in 1879 by Robert and Louis Koch in Germany. In 1883, Koch was bestowed with the title of ‘Jeweler of the court.’ Many works were made for European Royal families such as the Czar of Russia or the King of Italy.

Our dog collar / barrette shows a spring scene of birch trees, green grass with floral detail. The blue lake offsets the purple mountains in the distance, and the sky is opal. Everything but the opal sky was made in enamel, surrounded by silver-topped gold and diamonds. This is a masterpiece. Thankfully, the pin stems were added later. The estimated value is $150,000 – $200,000. It did not sell.

Lucien Galliard

In April 2008, I noted Christies as appraising this Lucien Galliard comb (c. 1900) at $100,000 to $150,000. I guess it didn’t sell. Today, it’s appearing at auction again with an estimate of $80,000 to $120,000. The art is still astonishing, but markets have changed, sadly. Addendum: No, they haven’t! Price realized: $218,500, 10/21/09

Called the bluebird comb, three dark- and light-blue enamel and gold bluebirds have diamond eyes and soar through pale blue and white plique-à-jour enamel clouds. The stars are made from old-cut diamonds.

Lucien Gaillard employed Japanese craftsmen in order to create jewelry for the 1900 Paris Exposition. When Lalique saw his collection, he told Gaillard to focus on that area. Following the Exhibition, Galliard’s Japanese craftsman created unique pieces such as the Bluebird Comb, even though he put his own signature on them.

Something That Grabbed Me

I’m not one of these buyers who thinks things over. If I fall in love, it’s immediate, and I buy the piece. I haven’t bought a hair comb in a long time, but this Auguste Bonaz had my name on it. By the shape of the comb itself, this is a 1940’s piece. Underneath the comb, I’ve included an ad for Bonaz combs in 1944 so you can see the same-shaped comb.

Maang Tika

Astonishingly beautiful, Indian brides wear a hair ornament that is like a pendant for the forhead. It is called a maang tika. They’re a longstanding Indian bridal tradition with a storied history in painting and sculpture. Maang tikas have a hook that attaches to your hair so that the maang (string) can rest in the center of your head and dangle the jewelry (tika) onto your forehead. It looks gorgeous, and also carries a great deal of significance in Ayurvedic medicine, a traditional Indian healing practice, which has spread to other parts of the world.

A Sense of Metal and Individualism

With American artists Alexander Calder, Albert Paley, Olaf Skoogfors, and others, a sense of combining hammered metals with other materials emerged to make jewelry, which expressed the individualism of each artist’s imagination. Individualism, American style, means you rule what you can become. That idea is at the core of these creations.

They are different from other pieces I’ve shown here, which followed movements, or conformed to the styles of countries.

The first piece is a hair comb from Alexander Calder, which I took from a YouTube video sent to me by twob (THANK YOU!). It took my breath away. It’s made of silver and decorated with Calder twisting wires into different-sized swirls.I thought to myself, “Swirls make the woman!”

The next Calder piece is a brooch/barrette made of gold and steel wire in 1958.

Two other brooch/barrettes I liked were made by Albert Paley in 1970, who used silver, gold, ivory, pearls, and labradorite for this elaborate, beautiful piece.

and Olaf Skoogfors, who made this silver, ivory, and pearl brooch/barrette in 1975.

Oriental Carving

The first two items for today are Chinese hair pins. The first is from my private collection and had been carved from one piece of tortoiseshell, the blonde part representing a bird. I believe the piece to be dated c. 1890.

The second hair pin is coral, Tang Dynasty (618-907), and carved in the form of a phoenix.

Our third item is an Indian ivory comb, made in Sri Lanka in the 18th Century. The woman is dancing to the music of panava instruments, perhaps drums and a flute, with parrots surrounding her. In Indian dancing, each pose conveys an emotional state during storytelling. Although the ivory is discolored, the carving is magnificent. These were luxury combs, which would be included in dowries. Both the phoenix Chinese hair pin and this Indian comb reside in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.