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  • Place of origin:

    Japan (made)

  • Date:

    1800-1880 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Ivory, painted with gold lacquer and pigments

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 125, Edwin and Susan Davies Gallery, case 1

Object type
This is a typical 19th-century Japanese ornamental comb. Combs were often made of luxurious and eye-catching materials, in this case ivory decorated in gold lacquer with a pattern of maple leaves. This motif is found in the work of British architects and designers such as Edward W. Godwin (1833-1886).

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

Ivory, painted with gold lacquer and pigments


Height: 4.5 cm, Width: 9.2 cm, Depth: 0.5 cm

Descriptive line

Ivory comb with gold inlay - leaf decoration

Labels and date

British Galleries:
Japanese motifs and the Japanese depiction of nature often inspired the work of E.W. Godwin. This wallpaper design by him features bamboo leaves, a popular Japanese motif found on fashionable objects such as this comb. His decorative combination of foreground and background patterns also derives from Japanese art. [27/03/2003]

Subjects depicted



Personal accessories


East Asia Collection

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