From Japan: Edo Era comb, 18th Century, H: 8 cm. W: 12.2 cm. The plot is about 5 crows flying in the clouds at sunset. As was the style, the crows were not drawn in perspective.
It is made of shell and encased in a metal frame. The crows are raised and painted with black lacquer, as are the teeth. However instead of gold maki-e, which would have been more traditional, this artist chose to use varnish. This way, he could portray the outlines of the sun on clouds, which hold different hues of the same color when the sun sets. The hues and outlines of a sunset the artist achieved with varnish is what makes this comb a masterpiece. It resides at the Troppen Museum in Amsterdam.
You can see crows portrayed in the same style in the Art Nouveau combs of Lucien Galliard, as Galliard hired Japanese craftsmen in his workshop. Here are two examples. The first was made in 1903 from shell and shows three birds. The clouds are implied by cuts in the tortoiseshell.
The second is Galliard’s famous Bluebird comb, which sold at Christie’s for $218,000 on Oct 21, 2009. There are three birds here, also, and the clouds are made from white enamel on an open frame.
In 1900, enchanted observers marveled at how light played with color, as it reflected off leaves or the wings of a dragonfly.
However, unlike moths, dragonflies don’t navigate by the light of the moon. Instead, they use sunlight’s energy on their wings to fly. Dragonflies swarm with predatory precision, catching mosquitos with their feet. Indeed, one dragonfly can eat from 30 to hundreds of mosquitoes per day. If they can’t fly, they’ll starve. Lalique knew this and would not transform voracious killer-gangs into angelic creatures. He created swarms.
In this famous tiara, c. 1900, it looks as if the dragonflies are pursuing light, a faceted aquamarine, because they are all going in the same direction. This is not the case. Lalique was trying to show how beams of “sunlight” from the aquamarine shined down on the dragonflies’ wings to give them energy. Look at how the wings change color, and draw diagonal lines from the aquamarine to the plique-a-jour enamel.
Just as the tiara had fittings that allowed it to be worn as a brooch, so this hair comb had a chain fitting so it could be worn as a necklace. Also made c. 1900, it sold at Sotheby’s on 18 May 2018 for $262,269. In this comb, six dragonflies in a swarm go in three different directions instead of just one. The light source: a citrine. Again, look at how the light source changes the color of the wings.
French Art Nouveau was a combination of the Japanese aesthetic, where perspective was executed precisely, and French Symbolism, which elongated things to express a poetic idea. However, in both this tiara and hair comb, the insects are not stretched to make you think differently about them. So where is the French Symbolism? The elongation lies in the beams of light emanating from the jewel.
By seeing what is visible, Lalique is making you see what is invisible. These pieces portray the energy field of light, which gives flight to a dragonfly. To understand them, you must look at them with two different sets of eyes.
Are many beautiful things for sale, each with their own story, that condense post into one subject is difficult. So I have buffet of things today. Just click the picture or link see more details about each item.
In Sotheby’s Unsold category:
On 6 December 2002, this Henri Vever gold, enamel, and horn hair comb was estimated at $8,000 to $12,000, but did not sell.
On 13 June 2000, this French gold, enamel, and diamond Eugenie comb, c. 1870, was estimated between 6,000 to 8,000 GBP, but also did not sell.
Sotheby’s Upcoming Auction:
Up for auction on 14 November 2014 is brass Alexander Calder hair pin, c. 1940 (Calder Foundation Archive number: A16974). Estimate $50,000 – $70,000. To me, this comb looks like a female body wired into a frame. The estimate is consistent with the Calder market, and the interested to know what it fetches.
Will it appreciate in value, as did Calder’s silver “Figa” hair comb?
“Figa” in Slavic and Turkish cultures is hand gesture made to represent male or female sexual organs. The first and second fingers wrap the thumb. It could in response to money request or plea for physical labor. In Ancient Rome, the gesture was ward off evil spirits.
Calder gifted it artist Frances J. Whitney, c. 1948 (Calder Foundation Archive number: A22629). It could just see her wearing it with a geometrically cut black dress to charity ball, with no one else knowing what it meant but her.
On 15 November 2006, it purchased from Whitney estate for $57,000. On 14 November 2013, that buyer sold for 137,000.
That Live Auctioneers, another comb caught my attention. It is Russian, c. 1908-1917, silver, and made Fabergé work master Anders Michelson (marked AM). The comb has eight tortoiseshell prongs and a beautiful hinge that fits over to entire top. Michelson used niello, black mixture of copper, silver, and lead sulphides, to inlay the dogs and floral pattern on tiara. The auction starts on 13 November 2014, and the opening bid is €300.
Michael Backman Gallery
Michael Backman Ltd. this selling pair of gold and at gilded silver-filigree dragon hair pins from China’s Qianlong Period (1735-1796). They have dragon heads, each, which have turquoise cabochon. Openwork hair ornaments were known as “tongzan” and were worn from Ming Dynasty onwards.
Also on sale this comb from Solomon Islands. It is faa, or man’s woven comb from the Kwaio People, Malaita, Solomon Islands. Woven from yellow-orchid and coconut-palm-frond fibres, the comb was dyed with that geru root. Its teeth are made of fern wood.
The last lot to feature from Michael Backman is jaw-dropping collection of 38 Indonesian gold ornaments, c. 800 AD. It is largest set of gold regalia ever collected for statue in Central Java, Indonesia. Their script on chest cord translates as “‘The weight of pailut with the diadem: 2 suvarṇa, 1 māṣa, 2 kupaṅ’”
Some Lovely Things on E-Bay
Never dismiss E-Bay. A Māori Paikea comb with ivory patina to-die-for was listed by God-Save-Whom for $9.95 with no reserve. The description was “Possibly African.”
It is There are 6 bids on it, including 2 experienced bidders. It’s real tortoiseshell. As printing, are 3 days and 11 hours this auction.
It is Their seller thinks French. It could French or Edwardian English because jewelers in both countries made these types of pins. The auction has 4 days to go.
Of authors, Miriam Slater, as selling this It is rare, it is real, and I’d get my hands on it if I could.
Choosing one amongst many beautiful things is difficult. Mustn’t we just have them all.
To have fun researching more items like these please consult our Resource Library and these books:
Victorian diamond brooches came with different settings, so they could be worn separately or together as a tiara. Art Nouveau brooches could also serve multiple purposes. Indeed, some were designed as a tiara and ended up as a brooch. Such is the case with this bee-and-flower ornament designed by Rene Lalique in 1905/6. A pencil-and-ink watercolor on paper of a tiara topped with this ornament resides in the Lalique Museum Collection in Paris.
Yvonne Brunnhammer, “The Jewels of Lalique,” p. 195
However, during the design process, Lalique might have changed his mind. When the piece was finished, it was fitted to be a brooch or corsage ornament. Lalique used gold, translucent enamel on gold, cast glass, and brilliant-cut diamonds. He created part of a tree, where the branches attach to the center. The piece resides in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, and is also dated 1905/6.
Like the Japanese, Lalique embraced the insignificance of human beings in nature, giving animals, insects, plants, and trees more importance. His Symbolic designs stretched bare tree trunks to create a wooded network for the stories he was trying to tell. The wooded lake at Clairefontaine inspired this study for a comb. Tree trunks border a watery landscape. A leafy mass provides shade. The plants are detailed. There is depth of field, and branches reflect on the water.
Yvonne Brunnhammer, The Jewels of Lalique, page 154
His “Tree Branches” comb was made from carved horn with a patina, c. 1900/1.
Yvonne Brunnhammer, The Jewels of Lalique, page 155
Indeed, one can see a Japanese influence when viewing this gold-painted tortoiseshell comb with leaves and berries of black lacquer from the Edo era.
blog: Japonisme, by Lotus Green
In an article, “The Insect in Decoration,” by P. Verneuil in The Craftsman magazine, c. 1903/4, Lalique contributed a comb study of grasshoppers. Verneuil notes how artists had fallen for dragonflies, butterflies, and grasshoppers because of their unique shapes, and reflective wings and eyes, which had a “magical rainbow effect.”
When Lalique made the comb, c. 1902/4, he used carved and painted horn, as well as three triangular green tourmalines.
Yvonne Brunnhammer, The Jewels of Lalique, page 85
Whether he used cast-glass, enamel, jewels, or carved and painted horn, Lalique made these materials do new and different things. His jewelry was a watercolor of mirrored surfaces, reflecting plants and insects, and philosophically reflecting man’s negligible imprint on nature.
For more scholarly research, please examine our Resource Library and these books:
The auction curators at Drouot had no idea who made these realistic plique-a-jour enamel locusts with diamond lines, set in gold, so they estimated their value at 6500 euros. In the description, Drouot wondered if the locusts were destined to adorn a hairstyle or ornament a corsage. Even though jewelry was made with different fittings in 1900, I think these are hair ornaments.
What stands out is the estimate, which highlights how much provenance is worth in the art world. Anyone could see these pieces were made by one of the master-jewelers of French Art Nouveau, and so bidders appropriately valued them at 141,000 euros.
Here is my guess as to who made them, and why they might have been unsigned.
Lucien Gaillard employed Japanese craftsmen in his workshop. One of them created the Blue Bird Comb, which sold for $218,500 on October 21, 2009. Gaillard didn’t make it, he just signed it.
The craftsman who did make it observed the arch of birds’ bodies as they dove in flight and made each bird a slightly different size. It was mastery of the Realism seen in Meiji kanazashi ornaments, not French Symbolism, which would elongate part of an object to make a philosophical point.
To me, these locusts look like those blue birds. They are exactly proportioned. The inlay and enamel work matches. I think they were made by the same Japanese craftsman in Gaillard’s workshop who made the Blue Bird comb. However, this time, Gaillard did not dare sign his employee’s work. The maker himself was not prominent enough to sign them, and so the author remains unknown.
For more scholarly research, please examine the books Christie’s uses, which have been added to our Resource Library. They are both by Alastair Duncan.
Art Nouveau’s main ingredients were the Symbolists, who believed that art should reflect the truth indirectly as if in a dream; the flat perspective and strong colors of Japanese wood block prints; and Japanese organic forms and representations of nature.
Out came the curvilinear forms of Art Nouveau, which lasted only 20 years (1890-1910). In different countries, the movement had different names. Jugendstil in Germany, Stile Liberty in Italy, Arte Joven in Spain, and Modernisme in Catalonia.
The pioneer of Modernisme in Catalonia was Lluís Masriera.
In Geneva, he studied enamelwork with Frank-Édouard Lossier. On his second visit to Paris in 1900, he attended the Exposition Universelle and saw the jewels of Lalique. Lalique’s technical skills in plique-à-jour and basse-taille enameling, and the way his jewelry integrated engineering and design into a Symbolist idea, were an epiphany for Masriera.
Exposition Universelle de 1900, Paris. Les lampadaires du pont Alexandre-III et la rue des Nations.
Upon returning to Barcelona, he closed his shop, melted down all his stock, and started again. Opening a week before Christmas in 1901, the designs at Masriera Hermanos, 35 Carrer de Ferran, were ready. The shelves were empty within a week. Masriera became world famous.
He was even commissioned to make a tiara for Queen Victoria Eugenia of Spain in 1906 as a wedding gift from the people of Catalonia.
It is called the tiara desaparecido, as no one knows where it is. The tiara was made of diamonds and pearls in a gold frame with multi-color plique-a-jour enamel. On the bottom are two fleurs-de-lys, symbolizing the House of Bourbon. Continuing the heraldic theme, a horse forcené is placed next to each fleur on the band. Between the band and the tiara’s top gallery is the flag of Catalonia.
Two Masriera hair comb masterpieces from 1902 are this blonde tortoiseshell, diamond, enamel and gold hair comb, with trees in cast and chased gold, set in an enamelled landscape,
and this comb at the Schmuckmuseum in Pforzheim, which also depicts a landscape scene. It is made of gold, tortoiseshell, diamonds, sapphires, and enamel.
Another comb from this period was shown at the Van Gogh Museum’s “Barcelona 1900” exhibit in Amsterdam, which ran from September 2007 to January 2008.
This pair of blonde tortoiseshell hair pins with sculpted gold and diamond decoration were attributed to Masriera, c. 1902. They sold for €1,500 in Barcelona, 2012.
Lluís Masriera made only two tiaras. In this one, c. 1901-1910, he used yellow gold and platinum, set with 513 old-cut diamond brilliants, which had an approximate total weight of 12,5 carats. The wings of the birds were decorated with plique-à-jour enamel and set with two important diamonds of approximately 1.20 carats each. The piece is in the possession of Aardewerk jewelers, with certificate of authenticity by Bagués-Masriera, and registered in the workshops book no 2 and under reference nr 1336.
After winning a second Grand Prize at Paris’s International Exposition in 1900, the Maison Vever invited guest designers. The most famous was Eugène Samuel Grasset (1841–1917). He designed the “Swan and Lily Comb.” Paul (1851 – 1915) and Henri (1854 – 1942) Vever made it, c.1900.
Maison Vever, 1871, Rue de la Paix à Paris. Source: gallica.bnf.fr
On top of an ivory comb, a black swan and a white swan eat from a water lily. Their necks form a heart — eternal love. Swans were popular Art Nouveau motifs because their winding necks expressed Symbolist philosophy’s elongated style perfectly.
In this comb, the lake is made from painted enamel, showing the water’s subtle color blend from aqua-green to dark blue. A leaf in the water can be seen on the bottom left.
On the comb’s top frame are three leaves made of plique-a-jour enamel divided by gold veins. The leaves’ color variations correspond to those in the water. Notice the dark blue at the top of the center leaf and the dark blue at the bottom-center of the water.
To make the top frame into a semi-circle, there are two groups of water-lily buds in between the leaves. Dripped-gold frames the bottom Grasset’s design. The comb resides at the Petit Palais, Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris.
A bomb fell on his house: the terror that annihilates all you love in an instant. Fight or flight? The surviving father grabbed his infant son and fled into the forest. No war. No bombs. Instead, the order of the wild. Perhaps there, his mind would regain order, too, and his son would be safe.
And so it happened that both of them stayed there for 40 years.
They built a house, wore loincloth, ate well, and made simple tools. With scavenged shrapnel from a bomb like the one that destroyed his house, the father made a comb. What is extraordinary about it, is with only the memory of society and a future of complete isolation, the right side was carved into the head of a turtle.
The turtle plays a part in many Vietnamese legends. In one of them, a Vietnamese king offered a sacred turtle to Emperor Yao of China (2356-2255 BC). On its shell was written the history of the Earth and Sky since they were born. Emperor Yao had it copied and called it the Turtle Calendar.
This father made a comb out of war.
This unsigned cameo-glass French Art Nouveau hair comb is being auctioned on E-Bay.
I believe it is French, c. 1900, as the dealer says. English cameo glass is more well defined.
I like that the background was created to look like the brush strokes of an Impressionist painter. The painting behind the lady-slipper orchid depicts trees in a twilight sky, reflected in water. The “brush strokes” become larger when the artist “paints” the reflection.
But the orchid in the center is flat idea.
It doesn’t integrate with the background plot. Also it is a glass plaque simply hinged to a silver backing, nailed onto a horn comb. The hinges, or engineering, don’t play a part in the story. They are purely functional.
It’s not Lalique.
As you can see in his Raptor comb, the birds’ gold talons serve as hinges to the sapphires. Lalique combines engineering and Symbolism. (The comb sold for 92,000 euros on July 14, 2013, at the Brissonneau Auction House in Paris.)
Lalique’s famous Landscape Comb at the Gulbenkian was made of enameled glass encased in horn. The painting is the point of the comb, not the background.
Third, Lalique carved his orchids. I did not know where this comb resided, but the unmatchable Jen Cruse did. She commented, “Lalique’s orchid comb is in the Anderson collection at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, University of East Anglia, Norwich, England. I have seen it and its wonderful! It measures approx.19cm (7 1/2 inches) in height. The description reads: ‘Orchid haircomb of gold, glass, horn and enamel; c.1902. The erotic overtones of the orchid made it a favourite motif of the Art Nouveau artists. The petals are formed of yellow and brown enamels with the name ‘Lalique’ stamped on one of them. The centre of this exotic flower is formed in cut glass with a cut diamond of trapezium shape.’ From Lalique: Jewellery and Glassware by Tony L Mortimer. Octopus Books Ltd 1989. ISBN 1 871307 64 3”
Gallé and Daum made lamps, furniture, and vases out of cameo glass, not jewelry in 1900. (Please correct me if I am wrong.) Also, all three artists always signed their work. This comb is unsigned.
So I’m going to take a guess. This might be an “after hours” comb made by an artisan in the Daum or Gallé workshops, who took a piece of leftover glass, and created a comb for the woman he loved. It is very well worn, as there are many scratch marks on the back of the glass. She wore it. She loved him, and he made her beautiful.
Alexander Calder made hair combs for his wife. She put them on the windowsill behind a houseplant. I can picture the room being a kitchen, where she could look at them and smile while making his favorite dish. Genius does not always have to be formally recognized. It can be personally recognized, loved intimately while looking at the hills outside your window.
For more scholarly research, please examine our Resource Library and these books:
The setting of gems is profound meditation. How can a tiara or crown give its wearer the verisimilitude of God on Earth? Rene Lalique couldn’t care less. He transformed the appearance of jewelry with new themes.
Combining French Symbolist philosophy with ideas from Japanese art, he incorporated gem setting into raptors’ claws in this comb, made of horn, enamel, and sapphires. It sold for 92,500 euros on 6/14/2013 at Brissonneau Auction House, Paris;
rain, in the moonstone drops falling from blonde tortoiseshell buds in his famous Moonstone Tiara;
and tree-branch garlands. This tiara has leaves of green enamel with small diamond flowers, which are decorated with a mabe pearl garland. It sold at Christie’s for $112,561 on 6/17/2008.
However, being a keen ethologist, two of his pieces stand out as exemplary expressions of animal behavior.
“Head with Rooster Headdress” resides at the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian. It is made from silver, enamel, and alabaster, and minutely details the intricacy of rooster feathers. What makes this piece special to me is the ruby set in the rooster’s mouth. In real life, roosters eat red currants.
In Lalique’s dragonfly tiara, his golden insects have plique-a-jour enamel wings, but they are also behaving. When dragonflies fly at night, migrating or not, they fly toward the light. Lalique symbolized a light in the dark with an aquamarine.
Art Nouveau jewelry was not only art, engineering, Japonisme, and Symbolism. The gems set in tiaras, diadems, and combs went from symbolizing a wearer’s godlike status to accurately representing a rooster’s breakfast.
For more scholarly research please examine our Resource Library and these books:
Although a revelation to some, Lalique designed tiaras for actresses other than Sarah Bernhardt. One of his most eloquent pieces was made for Julia Bartet, who starred in Jean Racine’s Bérénice at the Comédie-Française in 1893.
The perfect material for theatre props, Lalique used an aluminum frame, which was shaped into lotus flowers and openwork palmettes. Figures of the Greco-Roman goddess Isis punctuated five ivory cameos, depicting scenes from Bérénice’s life.
Jean Racine (1639-1699) wrote tragedies in which men fall from prosperity to disaster. But being a Jansenist Christian, his sense of fatalism and divine grace departed from Greek tragedy, where merciless Gods lead men to unforeseen doom. Instead, Racine’s tragic vision was the product of unrequited love.
In Bérénice, Racine wrote about the all-consuming love between her and Titus, son of the Roman Emperor Vespasian. When Vespasian died, it was thought Titus would finally be free to marry his true love. However the Roman population would not accept a “foreign” queen. In 79 AD, when Titus became Emperor, he caved into Roman political pressure and chose his duty over her. Although he begged her to stay, she ran away, and he continued as Emperor.
Photograph of Julia Bartet in the Role of Bérénice with Lalique’s tiara at the Musée Lambinet, Versailles.
The real Bérénice was the daughter of Herod Agrippa I, the Jewish client-king of Roman Judea, and the man who built the Second Temple of Jerusalem. Herod’s entire family were Roman citizens. During the First Roman-Jewish War, in 70 AD, Titus sacked Jerusalem and destroyed Herod’s temple — while involved in a passionate love affair with his daughter. This is the reason Titus had to choose between Rome and Bérénice.
Soldiers taking away the spoils of the Second Temple, carved on the Arch of Titus