Category Archives: Religious

European Liturgical Combs

When a new bishop was consecrated in Medieval Europe, ceremony required several rituals be performed before he stepped onto the altar. He wore sandals, sat on a throne, covered his shoulders with an amice, and purified his hair. Ivory combs decorated with Biblical scenes were made specifically for this purpose.

This comb portrays the Torah portion where King David seduces Bathsheba. It was made in the 16th Century and resides in the Musée du Louvre.

The Creative Museum has this ivory comb, where two angels hold the bishop’s monogram securely on a pedestal.

Made in the 9th Century AD, this comb depicts Samson taming the lion and also resides in the Musée du Louvre.

The Latin inscription on the edge says, “This comb was sent by Queen Bertha to Pope Gregory.” Queen Bertha converted her husband King Ethelbert, thereby bringing Christianity to Anglo-Saxon England. Although the historical event occurred c. 590 AD, the comb was made in the second half of the 12th century and resides in London’s British Museum.

This Northern Italian 15th-Century comb depicts the Adoration of the Magi (also known as the Three Kings) and can be seen in the Musée du Louvre.


For more scholarly research, please examine

Le peigne: Dans le monde by Robert Bollé

French 15th Century Boxwood Comb

First, I’d like to thank the ebay community, especially 0o–seamstress–o0, qmbridges, bengaltiger55, igmato, kynana33, mypinkmimosa, dorothy4284, and pelliott4dz0 for their prayers and comments. They touched my heart and were most appreciated.

Today, I’d like to go back to a subject I talked about earlier in the blog, 15th-century French ivory- and boxwood-carved H combs. First used as religious objects, their designs went secular just about the time madrigals left the church and started being about love.

This comb, being sold at Sothebys, est. $12,000, has multiple panels, and a pierced heart on one side, a Romanesque motif on the other. It might be part of that tradition of ideas, but it is in perfect condition, and I think magnificent. To think that the French made H combs at all, given what they did to comb making 400 years later is amazing to me.


The H Combs of Medieval France

The H comb, with tines for thick hair on one side and thin hair on the other, is one of the comb’s earliest known forms. The art was in the H, and the form can be found in all cultures. H combs are still made today in Turkmenistan, and you can see one from time to time on ebay. The H casing is silver or gold plate with gemstone cabachons in the middle.

However, today, I want to talk about the H combs of 15th-century France. They were liturgical with elaborate, stunning carvings of the Adoration of the Magi, and were made from ivory and wood. They were made when the Church ruled art and music and followed the progression from sacred to secular as the Medieval Period gave way to the Renaissance. You can only find them in museums.

St. Albans, Peigne liturgique en ivoire, c. 1120. Used in religious ceremonies, the carving represents the Massacre of Innocents, Adoration of the Magi. From the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Annonciation – Adoration des Mages, ivory, 15th Century, Anonymous, The Louvre, Paris.

Liturgical combs were also made of wood, some with mirrors in the middle or ivory inlay.. The wood appears to be about 1/2 inch thick in the middle, tapering to 1/8 at the tips of the teeth. These 15th Century combs reside in The Musée National du Moyen Age – Thermes de Cluny.

In the late 15th century, you start to see secular decorations in the H combs, as with these three examples:

Lovers in a Garden, French, Ivory, Anonymous, from the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Ivory comb with two jousting swordsmen, France, from the Fundación Lázaro Galdiano in Madrid.

Ivory Comb, openwork, France, 16th century, from the Fundación Lázaro Galdiano in Madrid.