Woman's Comb

Date: 15th or 16th century

Culture: French or Italian

Medium: Ivory, paint and gilding

Dimensions: Overall: 3 7/16 x 5 1/16 x 3/16 in. (8.8 x 12.9 x 0.4 cm)

Classification: Ivories

Credit Line: Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917

Accession Number: 17.190.245


Combs and other personal grooming implements were often included in bridal trousseaux during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in Italy. In 1474, for example, Caterina Pico da Carpi had seven ivory combs in her wedding trousseau. This one is decorated on both sides with animals and birds, and the center of one side has the amorous device of a flaming heart.

Combs were very much part of the pictorial imagery of the beautiful woman, not always in a virtuous context. The comb was also considered a privileged object in that it could touch the beloved directly. This idea was expressed in poetry as a metaphor for much-desired intimacy.