Monthly Archives: December 2011

New Acquisitions at the Creative Museum

Just as prowling for treasure is a way of life, so world-class scholarship is a state of mind.

The Creative Museum has acquired two stunning new pieces for their collection: a gilt-gold hair pin with opals, rubies, and turquoise surrounding an emerald, probably from India.

and a Burmese ivory grooming comb. The carved ivory is laced with red pigment. A comb of this size was called “male,” while a smaller wooden comb was called “female.” However, they were both made for women.


For more scholarly research, please examine the publications of The Creative Museum.

You may also learn from these books, which have been added to our Resource Library.

Traditional Jewelry of India

Emerald Cities: Arts of Siam and Burma 1775-1950

Eclectic Collecting: Art from Burma in the Denison Museum

Alexander Calder Hair Comb Collection

When Alexander Calder was a young man, he worked as a fireman in a ship’s boiler room. While the ship was anchored off the Guatemalan coast, he woke up on deck to see one side of the sky pink and orange with a rising sun, and the other side blue with a falling moon.

Having experienced this serendipitous wonder, he naturally embraced Surrealist philosophy, which is grounded in unexpected juxtapositions. He remained a leader in this movement until his death.

In addition to the mobiles and stabiles that made him famous, Calder also created 1800 pieces of jewelry. He started making jewelry at age 10 for his sister’s dolls, using wire he found in the streets. However by the late 1930’s and ’40’s, his Surrealist ideas created jewelry sculptures. Among them were combs and tiaras.

He used wire or brass left over from his sculptures to make gifts for friends, such as Peggy Guggenheim, Georgia O’Keeffe, his wife Louisa (grandniece of Henry James), and the wives of Marcel Duchamp and Marc Chagall. During WWII, metal was scarce so he didn’t waste any. However, his wire was wrapped, not soldered.

Here is a collection of Calder’s hair ornaments. The identification key can be found at the bottom of this post:


For more scholarly research, please examine these books, which have been added to our Resource Library.

Calder Jewelry by Alexander S.C. Rower
(grandson of the artist)
The Intimate World of Alexander Calder
by Daniel Marchesseau.
1989 Exhibition Catalog
with miniature works, including jewelry.

Alexander Calder

Jewelry Identification Key: 1: from The Memorial Gallery of Art, Rochester, NY. not dated. 2: a comb made of brass wire, c. 1940, The Calder Foundation, NY. 3: another comb made of brass wire, c. 1940, The Calder Foundation, NY. 4: tiara made from brass and steel wire, c. 1940, The Calder Foundation, NY. 5: Brass tiara. Sir Kenneth Clark purchased the piece for his wife at the Freddy Mayor Gallery in England in 1938. 6: John and Ruth Boland acquired this brooch/barrette at the Paris Exhibition in Washington, D.C. in 1944. It sold for $192,000 at Sotheby’s in 2006. 7: From the estate of Francis J. Whitney, Calder made this comb in 1948. It sold at Sotheby’s for $57,000 in 2009. 8: Called the Andalusian comb, this silver piece is available at The Pace Gallery in New York. Price upon inquiry. 9: This gilded brass comb was a gift from Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Calder to the Smithsonian American Art Museum in 1968. 10: Made of hammered brass before 1943, Calder gifted this comb to the Museum of Modern Art in NY.

Manuel Orazi Comb

Manuel Orazi (b. Rome, 1860) illustrated books and posters in France from 1884 until his death. In 1895, he illustrated “Aphrodite,” by Pierre Louÿs and achieved notoriety with his grotesque, occult drawings for Austin De Croze’s Calendrier Magique. Production was halted at 777 copies, giving the Calendrier further cult status.

In 1921, he designed the sets for the silent-film adaptation of Pierre Benoit’s book, “L’Atlantide,” where two French officers become lost in the Sahara and meet the immortal queen of Atlantis, Antinéa. Pictured is French actress Stacia Napierkowska in her Antinéa costume next to the poster Orazi created to publicize the movie.

But of course, in between calendars and movie sets, he also made hair combs.

The idea of three women transforming out of silver, as it luxuriatingly binds 4 independent clarified horn tines incorporates Art Nouveau ideas with a modernist design way ahead of its time.

Ozari’s jewelry, including this piece, was shown in L’Maison Moderne c. 1902, alongside work by Toulouse-Lautrec and Louis Comfort Tiffany. Orazi’s most famous poster, The Lady in Blue, advertised the gallery. At the center is a woman with a small side comb and an elaborate back comb decorating her blue scarf.

The artist died in Paris in 1934.


For more scholarly research, please examine

Manuel Orazi (La Maison Moderne) Art Poster Print

Aphrodite – by Pierre Louÿs

Art Nouveau: The French Aesthetic

Christie’s: Rene Lalique Diadem

Carved out of clarified horn, two groups of three fern leaves make up the center, while two smaller sets taper off at the sides. An artist can say many things with one line. Lalique used a curved line of rose-cut diamonds mounted in gold. The beginning of the line forms the base of the diadem and continues to become center-fern stems. On top, the line branches off to form the side-fern stems. Off the base, two smaller diamond branches unite the smaller ferns. The piece, c. 1905, and sold at Christie’s for $66,000 on Oct. 11, 2006.

Its provenance can be found in Sigrid Barten, René Lalique: Schmuck und Object d’Art 1890-1910, Prestel Verlag, München, 1977, page 175, plate 31.


For more scholarly research, please examine these books, which can be found in our Resource Library.

Christie’s Provenance Book

The Jewels of Lalique

Rene Lalique: Exceptional Jewellery, 1890-1912

The Hair Combs of Lucien Gaillard

Lucien Gaillard (1861-1942) was a contemporary of René Lalique and achieved equal fame c. 1900, as Art Nouveau and Japonisme swept Paris. However, unlike Lalique, Gaillard’s animals and insects were proportioned exactly. He did not elongate parts of his animals to express Symbolist philosophy. In his famous “Bluebird” comb, he observed the arch of birds’ bodies as they dove in flight and made each bird a slightly different size. You may compare Lalique’s landmark “Two Swallows with a Stalk of Oats” to Gaillard’s “Bluebird,” which sold at Christie’s for $218,000 on Oct 21, 2009.

Gaillard also paid homage to the Japanese use of realistic proportions with cherry blossoms. An Edo artist painted this cherry tree in gold maki-e tortoiseshell comb: The Miriam Slater Collection.

Gaillard carved his cherry blossoms out of horn, painted the tree bark, and depicted flower buds with pearls.

One of Gaillard’s other masterpieces resides in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Two dragonflies fight over prey. They are asymmetrical, but the design is perfectly balanced. In addition, Gaillard mixes translucent stones, semi-translucent wings, and opaque bodies.

Here are some other combs from a 2004 catalogue by Millon & Associés:

A painted horn relief of mulberry branches supports blue-white glass flowers on each end of this comb.

Gaillard spread an orchid and attached a silver ring to the inner petals. The ring sports two ladybugs and two pearls.

This horn comb’s sculpted gold leaves hold a mother-of-pearl bud. Notice how the stem of the center leaf overlaps the middle tine of the comb.

The Creative Museum also has two combs similar to the designs of Lucien Gaillard. One has clear horn leaves embellished with a paste-diamond spray and a green cabochon, and the other is a pair of ginko leaves. One ginko leaf is edged with paste diamonds, while the other has a lighter green cabachon.


For more scholarly research, please examine the books Christie’s used, which have been added to our Resource Library. They are both by Alastair Duncan.

Paris Salons 1895-1914: Jewellery, Vol. 1: The Designers A-K

The Paris Salons, 1895-1914: Jewellery, Vol. 2: The Designers L-Z

Gina Hellweger and Kajetan Fiedorowicz: Black Tai Hair Pin from North Vietnam

Gina Hellweger collected this silver hair pin topped with a French coin from 1936. Kajetan Fiedorowicz identified it. It was made by the Black Tai Dam.

In 1250 BC, the Mongols destroyed the Tai kingdom of Nan Chao, and all the ethnic groups who made up the Tai people left China. Each group had distinct languages and customs.

The Black Tai followed a tributary of the Red River, called the Black River, and settled in highland valleys of northwestern Vietnam and northeastern Laos. Religion centered around the worship of spirits and ancestors, and they believed in a multiple personal soul. Black Tai’s had darker skin, wore black, and were quite different from the White and Red Tai’s. As a woman born in 1939 wrote, “Bravery, discipline, stoicism, physical toughness, and loyalty are the ethical values of our mountain warriors.”

The White Tai settled in South Vietnam. In 1889, a White Tai leader formed an alliance with Chinese opium traders and defeated the Siamese, who had conquered Vietnam in 1782. Siam tried to stop this with the help of the Black Tai, but failed. Four years later, the French took over.

From 1940 – 1954, the French forced Black Tai farmers to increase their opium production, while their allies, White Tai feudal leaders, underpaid them because farmers had no other market for their crops.

In 1941, Ho Chi Minh left Europe after having embraced Communist ideology. He married a Black Tai woman, established a Communist government in 1945, incorporated the Black Tai into the Viet Minh army, and defeated the French at the famous battle of Dien Ben Phu in 1954.

Northwestern Vietnam after Dien Ben Fu, 1954

Black Tai village 2 kilometers away from Laos today

Black Tai woman in the rice fields

Sotheby’s: Hair Comb from Scottish Jewelers A & J Smith

The Scottish penchant for austerity is present in both their silversmithing and jewelery making. Alex and John Smith worked in Aberdeen from 1880 to 1932. As Art Nouveau produced ever more nuanced and philosophical pieces in France, A&J Jewelers made and marked this comb: pronounced green-enamel shapes set in a simple wired gold frame with mother-of-pearl accents. The tiara is hinged to a tortoiseshell comb. Sotheby’s will start the bidding on December 14, 2011, at 3,000 GBP. We’ll take note of how much it fetches.


For more scholarly research, please examine

Reading the Past

Scottish Jewelry by Diana Scarisbrick

Silver: Made in Scotland

Creative Museum: Tuareg Jewelry Worn by a Wodaabe Woman

by The Creative Museum:

Parmi les peuples de la savane africaine, les Peuls, appelés aussi
Fulanis, se font remarquer par la finesse de leurs traits. Les hommes
comme les femmes attachent beaucoup d’importance à leur aspect physique
qu’ils entretiennent avec le plus grand soin. Ils utilisent de nombreux
accessoires de beauté trouvés sur les marchés, au hasard de leurs
déplacements. Les bijoux des artisans Touaregs sont très prisés car ils
sont du plus bel effet dans leur chevelure. Sur la photo, une femme
Peule (du groupe des Wodaabe) a placé en arrière de son chignon frontal
une superbe épingle traditionnelle en argent ciselé. Découvrez aussi les
épingles collectées par Creative Museum.


Pour plus d’informations, suivre les liens suivants :

The Creative Museum’s magnificent collection of African combs and these resources:

Tuareg Jewelry

Music of the Tuareg

Wodaabe Beauty Competition

Creative Museum: Diadem from the French Revolutionary Period

The Creative Museum has just acquired this French seed pearl diadem. The horse-head marking on one tine indicates it was made c. 1789 – 1798, during the French Revolution.

In 1791, the Chapelier law abolished corporate rights to control precious metals. Corporations could not punch a company mark on the pieces they made and could not have any say in deciding how they would be taxed. However the Association of Goldsmiths created four “revolutionary punches,” one of which, the horse-head, is found on this comb. They did it to control the quality of manufacturing.

In this breathtaking diadem, each seed pearl is strung to a narrow, delicate wire, which is then held inside carved grooves. It has 4 “galleries.” On top is a spectacular row of seed pearls in circular motion. Underneath comes a carved section with three tones of gold, followed by narrow rows of seed pearls and yellow gold.


For more scholarly research, please examine

Kindle Store
What Marie Antoinette Wore to the
French Revolution

Le Peigne Dans Le Monde

Napoléon et les joyaux de l’Empire

You may also examine the publications of The Creative Museum.

Jen Cruse: Are Reptiles or Bugs Ever Appealing?

By Jen Cruse:

The answer is, obviously sometimes!

This delightful small handbag (purse) cased comb dates from the 1920-30s, a popular accessory for smart ladies of the Art Deco period.

The case and comb are made from an opaque cream celluloid and the case is embellished with a small lizard and even smaller ant, both appliquéd to the surface.

The significance of the two creatures is obscure for such a personal item. However, my research has revealed the following:

In ancient Egyptian and Greek symbolism, a lizard represented divine wisdom and good fortune, yet in Christianity, it was regarded as evil and the devil; in Roman mythology the lizard was supposed to sleep through the winter and so symbolised death and resurrection, whilst the lizard Tarrotarro was seen as an aboriginal Australian culture hero.

The ant was considered to be the motif of industriousness; in Chinese mythology it was the ‘righteous insect’, one of orderliness, virtue, patriotism and subordination; the Greeks attributed the ant to Ceres, and in Hindu mythology it was the transitoriness of existence.

I’m not sure that any one of these interpretations solves the mystery of such creatures being used as embellishments on hair accessories, but I let the readers draw their own conclusions.

The cased comb is in good condition despite its 75 odd years. The comb, with both coarse and fine teeth, measures 4 ins (10.2 cm) by ¾ ins (1.9 cm), a neat object for an evening bag or purse.


For more scholarly research, please examine

Encyclopedia of Symbols

The Comb, by Jen Cruse

Christie’s Art Deco

You may also study the website of the Antique Comb Collectors Club.