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Comb

  • Place of origin:

    Italy (northern, probably Venice (or environs), made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1400 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Ivory

  • Museum number:

    151-1879

  • Gallery location:

    Sculpture, Room 111, The Gilbert Bayes Gallery, case 8

This ivory comb with figures at a fountain on one side and other Knights rewarded for their valour, is made in Italy, probably Venice or its environs, in about 1400.

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 ├ętui (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

On one face four male and female figures approach from opposite sides of a fountain. On the other face a standing crowned female figure at the centre holds a pennon in each hand, with a kneeling bearded knight in armour and with shield on each side. Behind the knights on each side are a further three figures, a couple and a single male at the edges.

Place of Origin

Italy (northern, probably Venice (or environs), made)

Date

ca. 1400 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Ivory

Dimensions

Height: 13.2 cm, Width: 16.8 cm

Object history note

In the collection of John Charles Robinson (1824-1913), London: purchased from Robinson in 1879, with numerous other unrelated objects.

Descriptive line

Comb, ivory, with figures at a fountain on one side and other Knights rewarded for their valour, North Italy (probably Venice or environs), about 1400

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

List of Objects in the Art Division, South Kensington Museum acquired in the Year 1879. London, 1880, p. 14
Longhurst, M. Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory London: V&A, 1929, p. 68
Images in Ivory: Precious Objects of the Gothic Age. Princeton, 1997, p. 260
Semper, G. Zeitschrift des Ferdinandeums. III, heft 40 1896, No. 5, p. 176
part II, pp. 618-619
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. 618-619, cat. no. 213

Materials

Ivory

Techniques

Carving

Subjects depicted

Shield; Armour; Pennon; Fountain; Knight; Male figure; Female figure

Categories

Sculpture; Accessories; Personal accessories

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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