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Comb - Hunting scene and dancers

Hunting scene and dancers

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Netherlands (South , made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1440-1470 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved elephant ivory

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This is an ivory comb, made in the South Netherlands in about 1440-1470. It represents a hunting scene on one side and five dancers on the other.

The comb has since the Antiquity been a fundamental tool for personal grooming, used both by men and women. In the Gothic period ivory was often employed for the production of deluxe decorated combs. The Gothic comb is always carved on both faces and consists of two registers of teeth, one fine the other broader, above and below the narrative strips.
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.

Physical description

Ivory comb with hunting scene and dancers. On one face, five figures are engaged in the moresca, a folk dance popular in the fifteenth century. Two bearded men flank a lady; all three striking the energetic moves of the dance; a musician at the left plays a pipe and tabor, and a fool holding a staff with fool's head cavorts on the right. On the other face is a stag hunt, with an archer at the left firing his bow and striking the stag with an arrow in its hind quarters. The stag is pursued by tow hounds, while a huntsman, holding his spear in his left hand, blows a large horn.

Place of Origin

Netherlands (South , made)


ca. 1440-1470 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Carved elephant ivory


Height: 12.7 cm, Width: 14.3 cm at top, Width: 14.6 cm at bottom

Object history note

In the possession of John Webb, London, by 1862 (London 1862, cat. no. 148); purchased from Webb in 1867, for £14.

Descriptive line

Comb, ivory, with hunting scene and dancers, Sotuh Netherlandish, ca. 1440-1470

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Inventory of Art Objects acquired in the Year 1867. Inventory of the Objects in the Art Division of the Museum at South Kensington, arranged According to the Dates of their Acquisition. Vol. 1. London : Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., 1868, p. 6
Longhurst, Margaret H. Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory. London: Published under the Authority of the Board of Education, 1927-1929, Part II, p. 54
Randall, Richard H. Jr. The Golden Age of Ivory: Gothic Carvings in North American Collections. New York: Hudson Hills Press, 1993, cat. no., 195
p. 88
Maskell, W., A Description of the Ivories Ancient and Medieval in the South Kensington Museum, London, 1872
pl. 40, no. 116
Winter, F. Die Kämme alter Zeiten von der Steinzeit bis zur Gegenwart (The Rake’s Progress), Leipzig, 1906
I, pp. 428, 429, II, cAT. NO. 1153, III, pl. CXCIII
Koechlin, R., Les Ivoires gothiques français, 3 vols, Paris, 1924 (reprinted Paris 1968)
p. 558
Gaborit-Chopin, Danielle. Ivoires Médiévaux, V-XV siècle. Paris, 2003
part II, pp. 624-625
Williamson, Paul and Davies, Glyn, Medieval Ivory Carvings, 1200-1550, (in 2 parts), V&A Publishing, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2014
Williamson, Paul and Davies, Glyn, Medieval Ivory Carvings, 1200-1550, (in 2 parts), V&A Publishing, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2014, part II, pp. 624-625, cat. no. 216




Carving; Relief

Subjects depicted

Musician; Tabor; Ladies; Hunter; Hounds; Hunting; Bow; Pipe; Men; Dancers; Stag; Horn; Spear


Personal accessories; Sculpture; Hunting; Accessories


Sculpture Collection

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