[Tokyo]: [Japan Art Society], . Item #01948
The Art of Japanese Hair Combs
A Singular Scrapbook
[DECORATIVE ARTS]. [In Japanese]. Setsu Kushi Hinagata [Patterns of Miniature Combs]. [Tokyo: Japan Art Society, 37th Year of the Meiji (1905)].
Octavo (9 1/2 x 5 3/4 in; 242 x 140 mm). 154 pp. A unique scrapbook of over 500 charcoal rubbings on rice paper of Japanese miniature comb and hairpin (koagi) patterns tipped-in to the pages of three issues of Japanese Art Society Reports bound together. The original collector has crossed-out the original titles, publisher, etc., and provided their own manuscript title in black marking pen. Each page has two rubbed patterns, each pattern with upper and lower views of each comb, and the rubbings are remarkably sharp with even small details very clear.
Publisher's original string-bound wrappers with losses but the integrity of interior of the book remains complete and intact. Early auction clipping for this item ("Kushi Hinagata") mounted to the inside of the rear (Japanese front) cover. Housed in a green silk drop-back box with traditional Japanese clasps with paper label on spine, lettered in Japanese.
The art of Japanese hair decoration, or kushi, dates back hundreds of years and has rich and varied heritage. As with much Eastern art it served to "beautify items of everyday use, to make the commonplace extraordinary [and] to tell of the life and status of the wearers, who were geisha, courtesans, court ladies, and housewives" (Ziesnitz and Momoko, Combs and Hairpins, Daruma: Japanese Art and Antique Magazine, Summer 2002). And, indeed, this work is a testament to the beautiful and elegant diversity of this Japanese decorative art.
A curious, attractive and visually arresting book, one with certain aesthetic merit, given the obsessive care and attention necessary to compile such a volume which, with its use of a marking pen, dates this compilation to sometime post-1952, the year that marking pens were introduced. A valuable historical, cultural, and artistic record as well as an object that, as much as its subject, renders the commonplace extraordinary, and takes its place along side of Hokusai's classic Imayo Kushi Hinagata (1823) as a key reference.
"Women have always adorned themselves but perhaps none so subtly as the Japanese. You can reproduce the old hairstyles seen in painting and sculpture but their hair ornaments remind us of the coiffures on which they were worn. In other words, hair ornaments are tangible souvenirs of ancient hairstyles.
"Hair ornaments were not mere accessories to feminine coiffure and attire. In keeping with the Japanese urge to beautify items of everyday use, to make the commonplace extraordinary, they were turned into artistic objects mirroring cultural and and social history. They tell of the life and status of their wearers, who were geisha, courtesans, court ladies, and housewives.
"They give a glimpse of the exceptional beauty of Japanese art..." (Ziesnitz, Sharon. Combs and Hairpins. Daruma 35, vol. 9, No. 3, Summer 2002).