Comb thumbnail 1
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Jewellery, Rooms 91, The William and Judith Bollinger Gallery

Comb

ca. 1820 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This piece of ornamental cast iron reflects both the virtuosity of the foundries and the upper range of their clientele. Only women in the highest level of society would wear such an object of personal adornment. This delicate jewellery, resembling black lace, is known as ‘Berlin iron’ jewellery. It was produced by the Prussian Royal Iron Foundries from about 1806. It became particularly popular during the Prussian wars against the French emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte. At that time, those donating gold jewellery to the war effort were rewarded with iron jewellery in exchange.
As a result of the French occupation of Berlin, the technique spread to Paris, but it remained primarily a Prussian speciality. Production continued there into the second half of the 19th century. Because iron is a very brittle material and also susceptible to rust, comparatively few examples have survived. This splendid piece combines a Neo-classical cameo (also of cast iron) with Gothic Revival ornament.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Cast iron
Brief Description
Comb, iron with a cameo of Iris set in the gallery, Germany, about 1820
Physical Description
Comb, iron with a cameo of Iris set in the gallery.
Dimensions
  • Height: 15.5cm
  • Width: 14.5cm
  • Depth: 8.5cm
Credit line
Given by Sydney Vacher
Subjects depicted
Summary
This piece of ornamental cast iron reflects both the virtuosity of the foundries and the upper range of their clientele. Only women in the highest level of society would wear such an object of personal adornment. This delicate jewellery, resembling black lace, is known as ‘Berlin iron’ jewellery. It was produced by the Prussian Royal Iron Foundries from about 1806. It became particularly popular during the Prussian wars against the French emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte. At that time, those donating gold jewellery to the war effort were rewarded with iron jewellery in exchange.

As a result of the French occupation of Berlin, the technique spread to Paris, but it remained primarily a Prussian speciality. Production continued there into the second half of the 19th century. Because iron is a very brittle material and also susceptible to rust, comparatively few examples have survived. This splendid piece combines a Neo-classical cameo (also of cast iron) with Gothic Revival ornament.
Bibliographic Reference
Cast Iron from Central Europe, 1800-1850 Bard Graduate Centre, 1994, p.305
Collection
Accession Number
546-1899

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record createdFebruary 11, 2003
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