Category Archives: Auguste Bonaz

Auguste Bonaz at the Creative Museum

The Creative Museum just acquired another masterpiece by Auguste Bonaz.

Made c. 1920 in Oyonnax, five medallions of painted leaves and rhinestones rest in the middle of a curved frame. The medallions are held in place by vertical lines.

I thought this might be a good opportunity to peruse some of the Creative Museum’s other Bonaz combs. Here are two combs from his Art Nouveau period, c. 1910.

Two delicately carved and painted peacocks hold a green medallion in a comb shaped for their tails. How lovely it would look when worn with an embroidered dress.

There are gold accents on this dragon’s wings and head, and his eyes are made of yellow paste stones.

In his Art Deco period, c. 1920…

I call this comb “Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining.” Tines are used in a uniquely imaginative way, depicting both the rain pouring from the clouds, but also in their usual function at the bottom of the comb.

Black was the favorite color of the Art Deco pallette. In this comb, Bonaz put a turquoise cabachon in the middle, surrounded it with mosaic-like decorations, and lined everything with tiny silver dots.

Bonaz’s mantilla combs are unmatched. In this ivory one, the intricate decoration entrances the eye.

Celluloid was able to be shaped as far as the imagination could go, thanks to the comb-making machines at Oyonnax. In this comb, Bonaz suspends seven balls on an architectural frame.

Please feel free to examine more of the Creative Museum’s Auguste Bonaz collection and their exhibitions From Art Nouveau to Art Deco, Part 1 and Part 2


For more scholarly research, please examine our Resource Library and these books

Christie’s Art Deco

The Best of Bakelite and Other Plastic Jewelry

1933 French B/W Ad Auguste Bonaz Hair Jewelry Art Deco – Original Print Ad

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

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).

Creative Museum: Recent Acquisitions

The Creative Museum has acquired four new pieces:

This is one of the greatest Auguste Bonaz combs I have ever seen. I don’t even know what to say. For me, when I look at this, I see a mythical griffin with real ruby eyes, as in the English tradition, or a Japanese water-god dragon with real-gold accents, as in the Japanese gold maki-e tradition — or both! There are gold-button accents as a picture frame on the Art Nouveau part of the comb. Around that is an Art Deco celluloid design, which was cut on a comb-making machine in Oyonnax. This is a masterpiece. I think any museum thinking of doing an Art Deco exhibition could make this Bonaz a centerpiece, and viewers would gasp.

I will date this comb as late Edo / Early Meiji. It is painted lacquer with a sumptuously colored tree with red and gold berries or buds. The tines are also painted gold, and the comb is signed. I can’t wait until they create their own photographs of it.

What makes this French Empire comb special is the combination of design elements: cones made out of wrapped silver wire, cut steel “jewels” dotting the silver frame, and clear aquamarines. The comb is imaginative, unusual, original, and an unknowingly prophetic nod to modernism.

Marquetry is the furniture maker’s and jeweler’s craft of applying pieces of veneer onto a smooth surface. This technique allows the artist to create pictures and sumptuous designs. In this early 19th-Century comb from Russia, a master jeweler used gold marquetry to create delicate garlands amid thicker gold circles and arches on tortoiseshell comb.

This kind of taste and buying ability, combined with writing and photography, is what makes a museum. Bravo.


For more scholarly research, please see the publications and exhibits of the Creative Museum, as well as the books in our Resource Library.

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

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)

Celluloid Combs: Leominster, MA, and France’s Oyonnax Valley

Who invented celluloid? The credit cannot go to one person or one continent. However, the world’s first thermoplastic was registered in 1870. With celluloid, heat and machines could be used to mold, cut, and carve many objects per hour for the first time. Capitalists invested. Artists’ imaginations went wild. Endless possibilities of color, shape, and intricacy gave birth to the Art Deco Movement, and the Industrial Revolution met comb making.

Two of the most famous manufacturing areas at the turn of the 20th Century were in Leominster, Massachussets, and France’s Oyonnax Valley. Leominster combs were unsigned. However, the most famous designer of Oyonnax was Auguste Bonaz.

What I want to show is how designer, material, hand tools, machine, manufacturing process, and factory were one, while the art had infinite identities.

This comb-rubbing machine resides in an old Leominster factory. It made about 1300 revolutions per minute and held the parts of celluloid combs together.

These are tools used by Leominster factory workers to do hand work on more expensive pieces.

This machine is a Farnham Plummer, which could cut 120-dozen side combs a day, in horn. It could be constructed to cut combs of any size.

In Oyonnax, you see a factory of similar turning machines made by French inventors.

And here is the breathtaking art they produced.

American Celluloid Combs from The Creative Museum.

Auguste Bonaz: from The Creative Museum, The Mary Bachman Collection, The Myrna Klitzke Collection, and The Jo Sullivan Collection.


For more scholarly research, please examine

Collector’s Guide to Hair Combs: Identification and Values by Mary Bachman

The Comb: Its History and Development by Jen Cruse

Comb Making in America by Bernard W. Doyle

Le peigne: Dans le monde by Robert Bollé

Auguste Bonaz in the Machine

The Industrial Revolution was built on the invention of new materials and the machines that allowed them to be mass produced into cheap products, quickly. The exploitation of sweatshop laborers had a profound impact on society. Plastic comb making was no exception.

In America, the most famous factory was in Leominster, Massachusetts. In France, combs were made in Oyonnax, an administrative region of Ain, which is located in the Rhône-Alpes. The town even has a Museum of the Comb and of the Plastics Industry.

Some of Auguste Bonaz’s combs were made there.

Today, collectors think only about the artwork, the artist, design genius, and have an image of a master carving a masterpiece with his own hands.

After 1900, however, women sat for 16 hours a day in front of hydroelectrically powered turning machines. Then the French mechanic Humbert adapted the band saw, which allowed plastic combs to be cut in patterns. In 1871, Lyon Vuillermoz invented a machine that enabled a worker to punch the pattern into the plastic with a single stroke of the arm.

Here is what the women who made plastic combs in Oyonnax looked like.

Here are some of Auguste Bonaz’s glorious designs that they might have made.


For more scholarly research, please examine

The Comb: Its History and Development by Jen Cruse

Les matieres plastiques dans l’art contemporain: 23 mai-4 juillet 1992, exposition a Valexpo, Oyonnax (French Edition)

Comb Making in America

Plastic Jewelry of the Twentieth Century: Identification & Value Guide

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.