Oiseaux et Iris

Philippe Wolfers (1858-1929), who enjoys an international reputation for his Art Nouveau jewellery, created a total of nine decorative hair combs. Oiseaux et iris, however, is the only comb to have come to us in its entirety. It carries the mark of Exemplaire Unique and is still in its original case, making it a museum piece of special importance. This 1899 decorative comb is also well documented. It was twice presented in important exhibitions and the preparatory drawing for the comb, which is also dated, has been preserved too. Between 1898 and 1907, Wolfers created around 130 Exemplaires Uniques, of which only around twenty pieces still exist today. Made to exhibit the artist’s technical mastery, they were sent to be presented at important national and international exhibitions. Each piece carried the mention « EX. UNIQUE » beneath the silversmith’s initials. Even at the time, this jewellery was extremely expensive. Pieces that had been exhibited several times without being sold were dismantled and the precious stones and materials were recuperated to create other pieces of jewellery. By 1900, the jewelled combs were already rare and particularly exclusive objects. In present-day jewellery, jewels to be worn in the hair have almost disappeared. No Belgian museum possessed such a jewel. The Oiseaux et Iris comb is therefore really unique. It is currently exhibited at the Musées Royaux d’Art et d’Histoire in Brussels. Website Musées Royaux d’Art et d’Histoire Further information about the Léon Courtin-Marcelle Bouché Fund (in French)

Jewelled comb
Material / technique: 
Gold, enamel, Brazilian opal and rock crystal
11 x 11 cms
Type of acquisition: 
Acquired by the Léon Courtin – Marcelle Bouché Fund
Year of acquisition: 
Depository institution: 
Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels