Unusual Japanese hair comb Art Nouveau period pierced openwork design
CONDITION: good vintage condition with accepted wear
SIZE: 2½ ins h x 4 ins w (6 x 10 cm) decorative part 1 ins h (2.5 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1890s – 1900s
MATERIALS: tortoiseshell, metal
It has long been acknowledged that many Art Nouveau objects owe some of their inspiration to the art of Japan, and this unusual comb is no exception.
The ornament is made in the form of a back comb with a tortoiseshell comb base. The top of the heading is pierced into a flowing openwork design which is overlaid with gold and silver coloured metals. There are no geishas or chrysanthemums. Instead, we find Japanese aesthetics fully internalised, the artist giving expression to something bold and modern, completely of its own place and time. The mirror of Japanese art has cast the gaze of Western artist back on to their own traditions, encouraging them to seek innovation and renewal in a refreshing new style.
Around 1860 commerce with Japan began to develop. Before that time, Japan had lived in complete seclusion for centuries. This contact initiated an assimilation of Japanese styles by European artists and artisans, particularly in the areas of design, which ultimately moulded and directed the progression of the Aesthetic Movement as a whole. This assimilation, referred to as Japonisme or Japonaiserie by the French, "paved the way for a whole new philosophy of art and design. In England the same style was gradually submerged beneath the pseudo medievalism of the Arts and Crafts movement.
Japonism had a strong influence upon the development of Art Nouveau in its use of asymmetry and the fondness for motifs taken from plants and nature, often considerably stylized. Japonaism flourished from circa 1870 to 1900. For both French Japonistes and British Aesthetes, the study of Japanese art encouraged new ways to think about pictorial composition, colour, subject matter and the traditional hierarchies of artistic materials and techniques.
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Art Nouveau Japanisme hair comb openwork design hair accessory