Jen Cruse: Art Nouveau Horn Combs

By Jen Cruse:

The Art Nouveau period was a turning point in design principals where imagination and free-flowing creativity were of the essence. The emphasis was on a return to hand craftsmanship and away from increasing industrialization. In Europe between c. 1895 and 1910, a revival in the use of horn was led by René Lalique, Lucien Gaillard and their contemporaries.

Clarified horn bleached with hydrogen peroxide, sometimes frosted, was their favoured material. These innovative artists created some of the most imaginative and naturalistic designs ever seen, and their influence spread around Europe to other like-minded artists. Hair combs and pins especially gained enormous recognition owing to their supreme quality and are much sought after by collectors today. The Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon, Portugal, has a most impressive collection of Lalique’s work, including a great number of his combs.

The 2 bleached horn combs featured in the photograph display tinted openwork with daisy flowers and a dragonfly. They are carved in the style of the Parisian Art Nouveau artist/designers. Although unsigned, they have been attributed to Mme E Bonté working in the early 1900s.

Horn Combs of Elizabeth Bonté. Ht 3½in/8.9cm to 4in/10.2cm.


For more scholarly research, please examine

The Comb: Its History and Development, by Jen Cruse

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