- Museum number
Hair comb; gold openwork mount riveted to a tortoise-shell comb, the mount hand-cut and pierced; contained in its original green leather retailer's case with beige velvet inner tray stamped with the van de Velde monogram in gold; the silk lining of the lid is labelled with an inscription.
- Production date
1903 (circa, made)
Width: 11.30 centimetres (case)
Width: 7.90 centimetres (mount)
- Curator's comments
- Text from J. Rudoe, 'Decorative Arts 1850-1950. A catalogue of the British Museum collection'. 2nd ed. 1994, no. 290
Van de Velde trained as a painter in Antwerp before turning to design in 1892. He designed rooms and furniture in Paris for both Bing's Maison de l'Art Nouveau in 1895 and for Meier-Graefe's La Maison Moderne in 1898, founding in that year his own decorating firm near Brussels. Having received commissions from German clients since 1897, he settled in Berlin in 1900, and went on to design in other fields such as silver and ceramics. After his move to Weimar in 1902, to become artistic adviser to the Duke of Saxe-Weimar and then professor of the new school of applied arts, a number of his silver designs were executed by the court jewellers, Theodor Müller.
Van de Velde's jewellery executed c.1898-1900, before his move to Germany, is generally thought to have been made by his own firm, the Ateliers Société van de Velde, Ixelles, Belgium (Herte Hesse-Frielinghaus, 'Das Silber Henry van de Veldees im Karl Ernst Osthaus Museum', Heft 1, Hagen 1976, pl.1, and U. von Hase, 'Schmuck in Deutsche und Osterreich 1895-1914', Munich 1977, Haus der Kunst, 'Weltkulturen und moderne Kunst', ed. S. Wichmann, nos 517-19, but these three items apparently bear no maker's marks). However, several pieces are recorded which bear, in addition to the artist's monogram, the maker's mark 'TM' conjoined for Theodor Müller, together with the gold and silver standard marks in use in Germany (von Hase nos 527-33, 535, 537-9)- That this comb was intended for export is suggested by the appearance of the French design registration mark 'DEPOSE, often used by firms with large-scale export production, to protect their designs: see Decorative Arts 1850-1950, Cat. 342. The van de Velde pieces, however, do not seem to have been made in large numbers.
An identical comb was exhibited in 1900 at the Salon de la Libre Esthétique in Brussels (see La revue des Arts Décoratifs, Paris June 1900, 175). It was also included in an article on jewellery in Die Kunst 2, Munich 1899-1900, 10. While the French commentator praised above all the jewels that relied on the sinuous curves of the metal alone, without the addition of gemstones, the writer of the German article found the flat, linear goldwork too severe, preferring the greater relief of the gem-set pieces.
Supplementary information to Rudoe 1994:
The comb itself is not the same shape as the comb in the illustration in 'La revue des Arts Décoratifs', 1900, p. 175. The proportions are different, in that the sides are straight not tapered, the teeth are thinner, and the fitting in the centre to attach the comb is a double rivet. On the BM comb the fitting is a triple element. The gold mount appears to be identical, but on the BM comb the spiral at the outer edges on each sides has been pushed in slightly so that the upper layer overlaps it. On the 1900 photo there is a clear gap. The BM comb may therefore be a replacement, perhaps slightly smaller than the original. Alternatively the versions made in Weimar used different combs from those made in Brussels. This is the most likely explanation sicne the the comb fits the case. (J. Rudoe 26.3.2008).
Information supplementary to Rudoe 1994:
See also M. Collins, 'Towards Post-Modernism, Design since 1851', London, British Museum, revised ed. 1994, fig. 32.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Purchased by John Jesse at Sotheby's Belgravia.
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number