Hair Pin thumbnail 1
Hair Pin thumbnail 2
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Not currently on display at the V&A

Hair Pin

late 14th century (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This is an ivory gravoir with a crowned lion at its top, made in North Italy in the late fourteenth century.

The gravoir, also described as a broche or discernibulum in medieval documents, was used to part the hair and in some cases was worn as a large hairpin.

In the period between 1300 and 1325 workshops in Paris enjoyed a thriving market for secular ivory carvings. They produced mirror-cases, combs and gravoirs (hair parters), often selling them as sets in leather dressing cases. Subjects from romance literature appeared frequently, as did the allegorical Siege of the Castle of Love.
Ivory combs, together with mirror cases and gravoirs for parting the hair, formed an essential part of the trousse de toilette or étui (dressing case) of the typical wealthy lady or gentleman in the Gothic period. Considering the original ubiquity of such combs and in comparison with ivory mirror cases, a surprisingly small number survive from the fourteenth century.




object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Carved elephant ivory
Brief Description
Hairpin, carved ivory, surmounted by the crowned figure of a lion, North Italy, late 14th century
Physical Description
Carved ivory hairpin surmounted by the crowned figure of a crouching lion. A lion with a crown on his head and with its tail curled round its right hind leg crouches on top of a rectangular capital with stylised leaves.
Dimensions
  • Length: 35.2cm
  • At capital width: 2.1cm
  • At capital depth: 1.1cm
Object history
From the Webb Collection.

Bought in 1861 for 9s. 3d.
Subject depicted
Summary
This is an ivory gravoir with a crowned lion at its top, made in North Italy in the late fourteenth century.



The gravoir, also described as a broche or discernibulum in medieval documents, was used to part the hair and in some cases was worn as a large hairpin.



In the period between 1300 and 1325 workshops in Paris enjoyed a thriving market for secular ivory carvings. They produced mirror-cases, combs and gravoirs (hair parters), often selling them as sets in leather dressing cases. Subjects from romance literature appeared frequently, as did the allegorical Siege of the Castle of Love.

Ivory combs, together with mirror cases and gravoirs for parting the hair, formed an essential part of the trousse de toilette or étui (dressing case) of the typical wealthy lady or gentleman in the Gothic period. Considering the original ubiquity of such combs and in comparison with ivory mirror cases, a surprisingly small number survive from the fourteenth century.





Bibliographic References
  • Longhurst, Margaret H. Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory. Part II. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1929, p. 62
  • Inventory of Art Objects Acquired in the Year 1861 In: Inventory of the Objects in the Art Division of the Museum at South Kensington, Arranged According to the Dates of their Acquisition. Vol I. London: Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., 1868, p. 20
  • Maskell, W., A Description of the Ivories Ancient and Medieval in the South Kensington Museum, London, 1872p. 27
  • Williamson, Paul and Davies, Glyn, Medieval Ivory Carvings, 1200-1550, (in 2 parts), V&A Publishing, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2014part II, p. 640
  • Williamson, Paul and Davies, Glyn, Medieval Ivory Carvings, 1200-1550, (in 2 parts), V&A Publishing, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2014, part II, p. 640, cat. no. 222
Collection
Accession Number
7500-1861

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record createdSeptember 2, 2004
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