Category Archives: Art Deco

The Creative Museum: From Art Nouveau to Art Deco

Part two of The Creative Museum’s presentation, “From Art Nouveau to Art Deco,” will be appearing on October 22. I am looking forward to it because their scholarship is immaculate.

Here are a few of my favorite Art Deco combs from their collection. They are all by Auguste Bonaz. I think it is interesting to see how his designs developed from 1910 – 1925, especially the two combs in the same shape. In 1910, he did red and black. In 1920, the same shaped comb displays a completely different idea.






For more history and insight, you’ll have to wait for The Creative Museum’s presentation. :-)


For more scholarly research, please examine the other exhibitions at The Creative Museum.

The Riches of the French Empire

Facing Me, Facing You

EN TÊTE À TÊTE, dedicated to headdresses, the Musée des Beaux-Arts of Angoulême

Diamond Hair Combs at Sotheby’s

It’s amazing what different artists can do with the same idea.

Boucheron made this curved diamond tiara c. 1910 in London. One could attach it to the blonde tortoiseshell comb fitting with a screwdriver. It sold for 15,600 GBP on December 15, 2005.

This diamond-and-pearl tiara hinged to a tortoiseshell comb is unsigned. In the center is large natural pearl, which can be taken out of the diamond openwork surrounding it. c. 1890. Sale price: 13,200 GBP on June 29, 2006.

Using diamonds to make this brooch look like lace, Cartier added comb and choker fittings together with a screwdriver. c. 1890. It sold for $181,000 on December 4, 2007.

Tiffany & Co. aced Art Deco design in this arrangement of diamonds, seed pearls, and platinum openwork, set on a tortoiseshell comb, c. 1910. It sold for $11,875 on December 9, 2008.

I’ll end with Art Nouveau master George Fouquet. He scrolled the top of this comb, making opal leaves, flowered with diamonds. A centerpiece of amethyst, diamonds, and gold completed his blonde tortoiseshell comb. c. 1900. Signed G.Fouquet, it sold for 7500 GBP on December 15, 2009.


For more scholarly research, please examine

Boucheron: The Secret Archives

Cartier and America

Tiffany & Co.

Galalith Plastic in Art Deco Jewelry: Auguste Bonaz Comb

In 1897, Wilhelm Krische discovered that a new synthetic material could be made from the interaction of caesin (milk proteins) and formaldehyde. He combined the Greek words for milk and stone (gala and lithos) and named his new plastic Galalith. It revolutionized the button industry.

But also made in sheets, it could be cut and dyed into numerous flexible designs. Enter Oyonnax and August Bonaz. We have seen decorations within this shape in many Art Deco combs, but never like this.

The ornate way Bonaz combined yellow, orange, and black make this comb one of an Art Deco masterpiece. Complex, stylized flowers and swirls that make a V in the middle only add to its uniqueness. It was auctioned in Zurich for 900 Euros in 1969. Since that time the comb appeared in exhibitions at the Museum Bellerive in Zurich (1991) and at the State Museum for Applied Art in Munich (1997).

The Creative Museum World Tour

Another blog wrote about them: Le Blog de Cameline! She tells the story of the family in French. This post will be an English translation, and then I will pick some of my favorite combs from this magnificent collection, so we can enjoy both posts.

Cameline says, “The Creative Museum is a virtual museum devoted to hair ornaments.

Its history began 100 years ago, when Little Leona accompanied her military husband around the world. As she traveled, she collected treasures, which she kept in a shoe box. Upon her death, her grandchildren found the box. Wonder and passion was instantly exchanged through the generations.”

It was a moment that changed the family’s life forever. The grandchildren — thinking out of the box? (don’t kill me you guys :-) — collected over 2500 hair ornaments from all over the world and became scholars on their history. Chosen with a great eye, bought with bargaining acumen, written about beautifully, and photographed brilliantly, this collection is documented online for the world to see.

It has made its way into real museums, and the site is famous for its virtual exhibitions. The value of Leona’s passion has been realized. I cannot help but think of Emily Dickinson, one of America’s greatest poets, who hid her genius in a trunk, too, until her family opened it and had an epiphany.

Cameline chose her favorite pieces from The Creative Museum, so I encourage everyone to read her post. But here are a few of mine:

This bearded mask wears a traditional bird comb, a symbol of fertility. From the Kpeliye Brotherhood of the Senufo people, they are worn at the Royal Court. It comes from the Ivory Coast, c. 1950.

This tortoiseshell hairpin features a claw from a bird of prey. It is from North America.

This Afghan barrette dangles pendants below red and green gemstones. c. 1940.

Two phoenixes face each other in this 19th Century Chinese jade comb.

English Art Nouveau jewelers made this brass woman with flowers instead of feet and a crescent on her head.

In Japan, they loved ravens. The Meiji style has the drawing fold over to the back of the kushi.

Swedish silversmiths were well known for their Minimalist style, as in this wedding tiara with pearls and tourmalines designed by Ulf Sandberg of Göteborg.

When celluloid was invented in 1862, comb-making machines lowered the cost of production considerably. In France, the industry center was in Oyonnax. Innovative design thrived with the flexibility new plastics and speed of production. This hand-painted daisy comb is a prime example of a comb made between the Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods.

Completing our world tour is a stop in New Guinea, where ancestor worship was predominant in the culture. From the Keram River area in a Kambot village comes this bamboo hair pin.


For more scholarly research, please examine the publications of the Creative Museum, as well as these books, which can be found in our Resource Library.

The Comb: Its History and Development

Le Peigne Dans Le Monde


Jeanne D’Arc, Antoine de Paris, and the Bob

No one ever knew what she looked like. All we know is after Burgundian soldiers burned her village to the ground, she started hearing voices at 12. God commanded her to drive the English out of France so the Dauphin Charles VII could be King. The only way she could get to Court to convince Charles to let her lead the French army was to pass through Burgundy wearing a male disguise.

Jeanne d’Arc cut her hair, donned male armor, turned the Hundred Years War from an inheritance battle between royal families into a religious cause, and lifted the Siege of Orléans in 1429. Charles VII became King. Then the English captured her, put her on trial, forced her into a dress, and burned her at the stake in 1431. She was 19.

In 1928, Carl Theodor Dreyer directed “La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc,” where Maria Falconetti gives one of the greatest performances in film history. For me, with her crown of twine, this was Jeanne.

But France was in the midst of an aesthetic revolution. Movements co-opt extraordinary people into their own mind boxes.

In 1895, Art Nouveau was starting, and Alfred Lynch painted one of the most famous imaginary portraits of Jeanne D’Arc.

In 1909, as Art Nouveau was turning into Art Deco, this painting might have given hairdresser Antoine of Paris an idea.

The Bob.

He credited Jeanne d’Arc with its inspiration. The bob liberated women from long hair the year before Coco Chanel started her first hat shop and later liberated women from the corset. How sophisticated, confident, and independent Chanel and Mary Pickford looked in the 1920’s.

Meanwhile, in Oyonnax, Auguste Bonaz adapted his comb designs to adorn the new style. From The Creative Museum:

Jeanne d’Arc was a military genius, a Royalist, and a Catholic with religious fervor that outdid the Inquisition. As France celebrates the 600th anniversary of her death, I wonder what she would think of all this.


For more scholarly research, please examine the publications of The Creative Museum and these books, which have been added to our Resource Library.

Joan of Arc: The Warrior Saint

Film: The Passion of Joan of Arc

The Comb: Its History and Development

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.

Creative Museum: Fabulous Auguste Bonaz

The Creative Museum has just acquired a new Auguste Bonaz comb. Clear celluloid is decorated in a geometric red design that changes with the light. You may also notice the brilliance of Joel Olliveaud’s photography, where the dark grey shadow matches the diagonal edge of the comb, before the light softens at the bottom. This Bonaz is one of his best and a truly magnificent choice. Bravo.


For more scholarly research, please examine the Creative Museum’s publications at the Musée d’Angouleme:

Chinese and Japanese Hair Ornaments

En tête a tête

Ebay France: August Bonaz Cloud Comb — Faints :-)

Following the love of clouds and wind in Japanese combs, August Bonaz put a French Art Deco twist to this design, where his clouds have small tines to symbolize rain. Bonaz was trying to tell us that “Every cloud has a silver lining.” It is elegantly curved, signed, and in splendid condition. A seller on Ebay France has listed it for € 450, or $622 as a Buy It Now. What is even better is that the auction mentions The Creative Museum’s Bonaz Collection as part of the comb’s provenance.


For more scholarly research, please examine

Costume Jewelry (DK Collector’s Guides)

The Creative Museum: E Burlisson Comb

Mysteriously trolling the streets of Paris, exquisitely dressed, Alain found this: a celluloid comb signed by a heretofore unknown designer, E. Burlisson. The shape of the comb, with its black edge, is pure Art Deco. However, the floral designs that fill in the edge are Art Nouveau. Looking at, I did find a Burlisson family in London in 1891. If the maker is English, the comb did not come from Oyonnax. Perhaps it came from another company in France, England, or America.


For more scholarly research, please examine

Art Deco Jewelry: Modernist Masterworks and their Makers

Imperishable Beauty

The Creative Museum’s French Collection

Two Lovely Art Deco Combs on Ebay

I call this comb, “Walk Like an Egyptian,” after The Bangles song. It sold for $411.66 on July 24, 2011.

The comb is a unique 1920’s Art Deco Egyptian Revival piece. The artist painted an Egyptian figure in a papyrus motif on celluloid. He is wearing a necklace and two matching bracelets. Rhinestones edge the flowers and dot the triangular decorative bar underneath.

This is a Maltese Falcon. Congratulations to the winner. I think I know whose snipe bid came in second. Siento tu corazón roto, pobrecita mia.

Another lovely French ivory comb with a hand-enameled deep turquoise design, punctuated with black and white rhinestones, sold for $212.50 on August 13.


For more scholarly research, please examine

Art Deco Jewelry: Modernist Masterworks and their Makers