On Ebay, there are some really nice Japanese sets and stand-alone kushis from the Edo, Meiji, and Taisho eras. Edo’s shape is square, Meiji is round but made of natural materials, and Taisho is round and gets into bold vivid, color. These pieces are in excellent condition. The only problem is the price. I’m not paying $900 for a kushi. Next Life. But enjoy!
This late-Edo tortoiseshell comb is held in an open silver frame with a silver mount Fuji behind gold and silver birds. The fruit on the tree are pearls. A similar decoration graces the matching kogai stick. It comes in its original box and is selling for $1400 on Trocadero.
I also liked this carved gilt lacquer comb inlaid with mother of pearl flowers and decorated with flying cranes. With matching kogai stick, the set is signed Sho Rin. It is selling for $1200 on Trocadero.
However,I just bought my second Chinese export comb for the Victorian market, c. 1890, because it had a bird on it, and I don’t have a birdie comb. ;-) The price was $355 on ebay.
The first comb is not in perfect condition. There are bug bites, and the seller is accurate in showing them. However the comb takes you into a Japanese water garden with lillies. I have not identified the plant whose leaves line the pond. A Meiji artist painted this. Right now, it’s at $90 with 7 days to go. I assume it will go higher, but I have no idea what the winning bid will be. I’ll update this post in a week.
There is another late 1800s Edo comb for sale, lovely gold, black, and red design. There are also bug bites on the tines, but this one is selling for $67.99 with 16 hours to go.
After the opening up of trade routes to Japan, Edo and Meiji combs were introduced at the Paris exhibition of 1867. They took the European art world by storm and began a craze in France called Japonisme . It is interesting to compare Lalique’s masterpiece Two Swallows with a Stalk of Oats c. 1906-1908, carved horn gold and diamonds, with a Meiji kanzashi of plover birds.
In Swallows, Lalique incorporates the art nouveau philosophy of Symbolism: one thing transforms into another. He elongates the swallows’ wings to engineer the tines of the comb. It’s a double entendre.
The Meiji ornament, which went on a kanzashi stick, shows the relationship of a mated couple of plover birds in a tree. The shell used had different colors, which adds shadow, but the perspective and theme are realistic, emotional, and stunningly carved. The French skewed nature to match the intellectual ideas all art forms were using in that time.
French Empire diadem on the traditional brass comb. There are some teeth missing, but 3 galleries of cut brass decorations surrounding two rows of coral beads make this a magnificent piece. It sold for $529.50 on March 3. Myrnatoo bought it. It is attached to two sets of metal combs bent inwards, so it can be truly worn as a tiara. Gorgeous.
This Japanese early Meiji ivory set with gold makie birds flying in the trees has its matching kogai stick. It’s everything a collector wants: signed, perfect condition, rare material, exceptional artistry, age. The dealer wants $1600 for it. My offer of $1000 was turned down. It’s too expensive in my view, but this would be a first-class addition to any collection.
This beautiful Spanish mantilla-style comb is made of blonde tortoiseshell, and came from the Norma Hague collection. It sold for only $99. Great bargain! Beautiful, original decorative design.
And last is this c. 1910 art nouveau horn comb with two 14K gold birds meeting on top, for which the dealer wants $800, but has not accepted the one offer that was made.
This Meiji tortoiseshell comb has one pair of mandarin ducks swimming in the water with chrysanthemum decorations on the left side. The artist , Shorin, was able to do a three-dimensional carving of the ducks in the water. The other side has a lotus design. Gold makie is used in the carving. And most importantly, the comb is in perfect condition, no bug bites. It is signed. With the matching kogai stick, it would really be a prize, but as it is now, it’s stunningly gorgeous for all the Japanese comb collectors out there. It’s selling for $1100 on Trocadero.
I am buying a very interesting late Meiji kushi and kogai set. Although the material is tortoiseshell, has gaps in the gold makie paint to allow light to show through the comb, has the Meiji feature of the design folding over the top of the comb as it goes from front to back, and the size and shape are definitely Meiji, this set is creeping toward a modern aesthetic.
Like modern Japanese sets, the design objects are bigger, the painting goes over the tines of the comb, there is a bigger picture on the front and a punctuated design on the back, and most notably, there is color. I think the red flowers on this comb got to me, and I had to have it. But I love this set because it has one foot in the past and one foot in the future.
This style is dark tortoiseshell, elaborately carved with gold makie, and a gold border. One of the most beautiful characteristics of Meiji combs is that the artist folds the carved painting over the comb, so that the front and the back are part of the same idea. This is done with ivory combs as well. But here is an excellent example of a dark shell, gold makie style of Meiji comb that went at live auction for $950.
The condition was excellent, it was signed, the carving was a painting of flying birds with inlaid mother or pearl flowers, and it was a full set. You might think that this is very expensive for one of these combs. However, on Trocadero, there is an asian art dealer with a similar set in excellent condition, who wants $2000 for it. There was another comb in this style that went for $260. The carving was ornamental, but it was in good condition, and the dealer offered a full set.