The Fountain of Youth and a Hunting Scene

Comb
second quarter fifteenth century (made)
The Fountain of Youth and a Hunting Scene thumbnail 1
The Fountain of Youth and a Hunting Scene thumbnail 2
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Sculpture, Room 111, The Gilbert Bayes Gallery
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This is an ivory comb made in the Upper Rhine or the Burgundy, in the second quarter of the fifteenth century, depicting the Fountain of Youth and a Hunting Scene.
During the 14th century specialist ivory craftsmen carved both secular and religious objects in great numbers. Although Paris was the main centre of production, other workshops emerged in Italy and Germany. Some of the craftsmen may have been trained in Paris as their work often combines French and local styles.

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.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Carved elephant ivory, painted and gilded
Brief Description
Comb, ivory, depicting the Fountain of Youth and a Hunting Scene, Upper Rhine or probably Burgundy, second quarter of the fifteenth century
Physical Description
Ivory comb, decorated on one side with the Fountain of Youth.

On the left an old woman, leaning on a walking-stick, is directed towards the fountain by an old man with a beard. Between him and the fountain sits a fool wearing a cap with ass's ears and playing the bagpipes, emphasising the folly of the quest for eternal beauty. Inside the fountain are two small naked figures upon whose heads the streams of water pour from above. On the right are the old couple made young again, the lady with an abundant head of hair and the man offering her a large flower, its stiff stem alluding to his renewed virility. On the other face is a hunting scene: on the right a hunter with a soft cap holds a spear in one hand and a horn in the other, watching two large dogs chasing a stag (and a rabbit below) through the woods. On both faces the sides of the comb are decorated with clusters of grapes and vine leaves.
Dimensions
  • Height: 14.5cm
  • Width: 14.7cm
Object history
In the possession of John Webb, London, by 1862 (London 1862, cat. no. 147); purchased from Webb in 1867, for £48.
Subjects depicted
Summary
This is an ivory comb made in the Upper Rhine or the Burgundy, in the second quarter of the fifteenth century, depicting the Fountain of Youth and a Hunting Scene.

During the 14th century specialist ivory craftsmen carved both secular and religious objects in great numbers. Although Paris was the main centre of production, other workshops emerged in Italy and Germany. Some of the craftsmen may have been trained in Paris as their work often combines French and local styles.



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.

Bibliographic References
  • Longhurst, Margaret H. Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory. London: Published under the Authority of the Board of Education, 1927-1929, Part II, p. 72
  • 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
  • Maskell, W., A Description of the Ivories Ancient and Medieval in the South Kensington Museum, London, 1872p. 88
  • Maskell, A., Ivories, London, 1905pl. L, I
  • Winter, F. Die Kämme alter Zeiten von der Steinzeit bis zur Gegenwart (The Rake’s Progress), Leipzig, 1906pls 39, 40, nos 113, 115
  • Koechlin, R., Les Ivoires gothiques français, 3 vols, Paris, 1924 (reprinted Paris 1968)I, pp. 428, 507, 525-526, II, cat. no. 1151, III, pl. CXCIII
  • Williamson, Paul and Davies, Glyn, Medieval Ivory Carvings, 1200-1550, (in 2 parts), V&A Publishing, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2014part II, pp. 622-623
  • 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. 622-623, cat. no. 215
Collection
Accession Number
231-1867

About this object record

Explore the Collections contains over a million catalogue records, and over half a million images. It is a working database that includes information compiled over the life of the museum. Some of our records may contain offensive and discriminatory language, or reflect outdated ideas, practice and analysis. We are committed to addressing these issues, and to review and update our records accordingly.

You can write to us to suggest improvements to the record.

Suggest Feedback

record createdOctober 14, 2004
Record URL