An unusual carved bone hair comb of ethnic manufacture depicting a figural monkey
CONDITION: good vintage condition
SIZE: 7 ins h x 3 ins w (18 x 7.5 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: early 20th century (?)
Here is a very unusual hair comb which is probably of ethnic, possibly African, manufacture. It was probably made as a souvenir for the tourist trade.
The comb has been quite obviously hand carved from one large piece of bone. Bone can be distinguished from ivory by its comparatively less glossy surface appearance. On close inspection one can also see tiny black flecks in the surface of the material where the veins have been. This can be seen in the close up photograph.
The comb has five long slender tines and a high curved heading decorated with an openwork panel. The most striking aspect is that of the mischievous looking figural monkey which appears on the heading.
Animals play a huge part in African culture, and their symbolism can be found throughout countless pieces of art and historical accoutrements. Each animal has a specific meaning and signifies a certain quality or characteristic.
Several African tribes believe wearing animal carvings on their masks will improve their communication with animal spirits which live in the desert or wooded areas.
In African art the monkey is used to symbolize mischievousness and curiosity. Monkeys are humorous, social creatures. The monkey also represents comedy and friendship.
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