Recently a very nice Art Nouveau back comb sold on E-Bay for a little less than the $2400 Buy-It-Now price. Dimensions: 6 inches wide by 5 1/2 inches high. The subject was Sycamore-maple-leaf seeds. The comb was made from horn with pearl seeds and signed, illegibly, with the number 14 next to the signature.
At first glance I thought it was Lucien Gaillard because he has made many hair ornaments with this theme.
Why? People get excited when they see something new. There are so few Art Nouveau-master combs on the market, it is easy to want to see something that isn’t there.
So what must you keep in mind?
1. Accuracy of observation: The great Art Nouveau jewelers were meticulous and passionate, but not sentimental. Decay was beautiful to them. Complex plique-a-jour enameling techniques were used to show variations in color and texture.
In nature, each Sycamore maple seed pod has a seed. A pair of pods would have a pair of seeds. This comb showed one pearl in between two seed pods. It is a lovely comb, but a master didn’t make it.
2. Style: Gaillard’s maple-seed pods are laid out symmetrically and face down. This comb had pods going in various directions. Also the tines were completely off for Gaillard.
3. Signature: The signature was not correct. There are a number of authorized Gaillard marks, even a picture of one on a hair pin. In the signature, or original box, lies much value.
Rene Lalique also made a Sycamore maple comb out of horn, gold, black onyx, and chalcedony in a completely different style.
In my ear, I could hear Sherlock Holmes saying, “You see, but you do not observe.” Compare the pictures. Observe, and thank you Alain Touzinaud of the Creative Museum