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  • Place of origin:

    Japan (made)

  • Date:

    1800-1880 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved and incised ivory, with openwork

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 125, Edwin and Susan Davies Gallery, case 3

Object Type
This is a typical 19th-century Japanese ornamental comb. Combs were often made of luxurious and eye-catching materials such as lacquer or ivory, as in this case. The decoration of cranes symbolises long life.

Ownership & Use
This type of comb was meant to be used as a decorative hair ornament rather than as something with which to actually comb the hair. Combs became popular with the emergence of elaborate hairdos during the 17th century. They complemented the elegant kimono of their wearers and were usually used in combination with ornate hairpins and bodkins.

In the mid-1850s Japan was opened up after more than two centuries of seclusion from the rest of the world. The passion for all things Japanese that this triggered in the West was termed Japonisme. Japanese art objects were avidly bought by western collectors, artists and designers from specialist dealers or shops such as Liberty's. Kimono and dress accessories were regarded as the embodiment of Japanese femininity. Combs were pretty items that could be bought relatively cheaply.

Place of Origin

Japan (made)


1800-1880 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Carved and incised ivory, with openwork


Height: 6.1 cm, Width: 14.5 cm, Depth: 0.4 cm

Descriptive line

Ivory comb with cranes

Labels and date

British Galleries:

To a Victorian audience the image of a woman dressed in a kimono embodied Japan. Items of Japanese women's dress and accessories were popular purchases. Combs such as these were very attractive and not very expensive. They could be bought from specialist dealers and from shops such as Liberty's in London. [27/03/2003]

Subjects depicted

Cranes (birds)


Personal accessories


East Asia Collection

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