Barbaraanne's Hair Comb Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Kanzashi


For the kanzashi collector, it is helpful to be able to discern between that which is decorative and pieces which are art. Auction prices often confirm the fact that the more art qualities a kanzashi has, the more collectable it becomes. Decorative hair combs (which are often quite beautiful in their own right), will not possess the depth of expression that is seen in more artistic pieces.  Art is distinguished by its originality, a sense of aesthetics and clear, purposeful expression. Often, within in it, one feels the presence of the maker – there is the sense that the piece has its own personality.

In the top comb set we see an overall decorative flower design, but on second glance we find a demonic figure hiding in the right side of the stick. The inclusion of ugliness with utmost beauty makes a statement about life that is beyond the decorative –the comb set has now become evocative and more poetic in mood.  In the second comb, the artist reaches beyond the decorative in this complex, beautifully executed design. On it are two separate landscapes, each one on golden, smooth lacquer fan shapes. Around these shapes, darker, roughly carved water forms flow. The movement of the water gives a feeling of excitement to the piece, especially when contrasted with the smooth texture of the fan shapes and the serene designs within them. The water even cuts into the fan forms, just as water does in real life, showing that the artist who made this gave a lot of thought to the play between the two opposing elements: the surging water and serene landscapes. When an artisan goes the extra mile to create something exceptional, the result is often that ever-elusive thing we call “art.”

Kanzashi – the difference between art and the decorative

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Chrysanthemums are the imperial flower of Japan. They represent friendship, which masks a secret wish for love. Perfection is defined by the unfolding of the flower’s petals.

As symmetry is an important principle in Japanese art, kanzashi are usually made in pairs. This pair from The Miriam Slater Collection combines dark and blonde tortoiseshell masterfully. You can see mottled sticks, dark leaves and centers, and blonde flowers blooming. A butterfly stops for a moment. The bira bira below have dark shell pieces linked by blonde shell chains. The balance between dark and light affects the way we see both colors. The Japanese were also known for portraying realism in exact detail.

कंघी

For more scholarly research, please examine

Japanese Woodblock Prints: Artists, Publishers and Masterworks: 1680 – 1900

Edo: Arts of Japan’s Last Shogun Age

Beauty & Desire in Edo Period Japan


The kanzashi’s original purpose was a charm against evil spirits. The tradition began as early as 1000 BC to 300 AD, in Japan’s Jomon Era. Decorating them with flowers invited deities. The art captured the Japanese cultural imagination in the Edo era (1603 – 1867), when criminal activity increased. This initiated laws that prohibited people from going out in hats or head coverings, so hairdressing once again came to the forefront of Japanese fashion.

There are many different kinds of kanzashi:

  • Mimikaki: an ear pick on the end.
  • Tama: decorated with a single coral or jade ball. However now, many materials are used.
  • Hirauchi: a flat silver circle decorated with flowers or symbols
  • Hana: strings of dangling flowers, worn by geishas
  • Bira Bira: fans with long dangling chains, which have ornaments at the bottom

The most interesting ones have unique elements, either as a single decoration or a set of concepts. I’d like to feature three today, one each, from my collection, The Miriam Slater Collection, and The Creative Museum.

My bridal kanzashi is decorated with Mino-Kame — a straw raincoat, which used to be worn before the invention of textiles; a tortoise and pine boughs for longevity; a scroll of wisdom; a treasure box; and flowers, indicating nobility.

Miriam’s kanzashi is unique. A man with a fishing pole sits on a curved leaf structure, surrounded by dangling chains.

Finally, the Creative Museum has one I absolutely love: a gold fish, whose face looks almost human.


By Miriam Slater:

The Japanese over the centuries have distinguished themselves by their cultivation of humor, fine design and poetry within their art. In fact, these qualities are what originally attracted me to kanzashi. As an artist I found myself entranced by the variety of expression within these beautifully crafted pieces.

Metaphors and symbols are commonly seen in Japanese hair ornaments. For example, in the top image, a silver hair ornament depicts a clamshell, a symbol that can also suggest a woman in the Floating World. When opened up, to the viewer’s surprise, in the shell is a small gold crab, pinchers ready!

The second ornament (of a similar theme) features a closed clamshell and a knife used to pry open clams. The clam’s moveable parts will open to reveal the prize within, a pearl. Symbolic objects are frequently seen on kanzashi which enhance the expression and meaning of each piece. The tortoise comb with a fishing rod can be seen as a metaphor for flirting and courtship with its implied hooking and the reeling in of one’s “catch”.

The crow, a common bird that is noisy and known for its bad manners, graces a red lacquer hair comb as an elegant adornment for a woman of position and beauty. The juxtaposition of what is considered ugly played with utmost beauty reflects the poetic side of the Japanese culture. So, to thoroughly enjoy and understand  kanzashi, it really helps to see them not only as finely crafted functional objects, but also as works of art imbued with more subtle meanings.

 

 


There have been many lovely combs on the American, British, and French E-bay sites. However, some dealers misidentify their comb’s country of origin. Here are two examples. Please see item #130476761205.

The hairpin is stunning, condition excellent, no arguments that it would be a wonderful piece for any collection. There’s only one problem. It’s a Chinese gold-filigree ornament from the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911). According to research from the Creative Museum, “During the Qing Dynasty, many jewels were made ​​of gold-wire filigree. (See book “Gems of Beijing Cultural Relics Series” published by Beijing Publishing House, page 221 – ISBN: 7-200-04899-2)” Here is a picture of their Qing hairpin:

The second misidentified comb did not sell. Please see item #160568156596.

Another lovely piece, but again, it’s not Japanese. It’s from the Punjab Region of Pakistan. The Creative Museum has a gorgeous one with beads, pearls, wood indentations, and a fish theme.

This kanzashi IS Japanese. It’s gorgeous. Please refer to item #280637283941. It’s going for $725, but the seller is accepting offers.


Brass- or gold-plated metal kanzashi began to be made in the latter part of the Edo era, when hair styles became more complicated. Hair ornaments revealed a woman’s class, marital status, age, and if she had any children.

A woman could also use her kanzashi as a deadly weapon. Female ninja, or kunoichi, practiced ninjutsu, the martial art of guerrilla warfare. They used their kanzashi to rake the eyes of their victims while escaping. Or, they dipped them in poison to assassinate people. Fending off male attackers was another convenient function.

This gold-plated skull kanzashi subtly illustrates beauty’s deadly side. It currently resides in the Daruma Museum


Set of two Meiji tortoiseshell kanzashi with plovers on them. The last two shell kanzashi I bought arrived broken. Let’s hope the third one’s the charm! lol I paid a whopping $77 for them on ebay. I love the seller, though. She’s a superb collector.


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Longlocks Hair Sticks

http://www.longlocks.com

Your long locks are truly one-of-a-kind. Shouldn't your hair jewelry be?

Creative Museum

www.creative-museum.com

Two sparrows clutch berries in this clear horn comb by Albert Vigan, c. 1900

Jen Cruse. Author

The Comg: Its History and Development

Lavishly illustrated with over 500 photographs, this is a wide-ranging, scholarly reference book.

Miriam Slater: Artist, Collector

http://kanzashicollector.com

I hope to share the beauty of Japanese hair ornaments with a broader audience.

Kajetan Fiedorowicz: Artist, Collector

kdg.com.au

May peace and human kindness be victorious over war.

Jessica Beauchemin

www.jessicabeauchemin.ca

"to link the nuances of creation to the precision of the handwork"

ACCCI

www.antiquecombclub.com

The Museum Scholar

http://paper.li/BarbaraAnneMuse/1311651488

Connecting hair comb collectors and major museums

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