Scenes from the Story of Joseph

Date: mid-16th century

Culture: probably Flemish

Medium: Ivory

Dimensions: 4 9/16 × 5 3/4 in. (11.6 × 14.6 cm)

Classification: Natural Substances-Ivory

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1911

Accession Number: 11.93.13


Combs with ivory teeth, ornamented with secular scenes, were produced in Flanders, northern France, and Italy during the Middle Ages. The carving style of this unusual later example is more refined and its iconography is more elaborate. The detailed rendering of architecture seems to relate to the plaques on the gun in this case. Joseph, who stored up grain during "seven fat years" to provide for "seven lean years," was an exemplar of thrift and chastity and thus was often depicted on Netherlandish wedding items; perhaps this comb was made for a bride.