French or Flemish boxwood ‘love token’ comb c.1500, £7000 at TimeLine.

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This French or Flemish boxwood comb c.1490-1510 is meticulously carved with the inscription de bon [coeur] donne’qui de bon [coeur] eyme translating to ‘He who loves from the heart, gives with a good heart’.

It was probably given as a love token in much the same way as posy rings were gifts between lovers.

As they could touch the beloved directly, combs were considered intimate objects and were often included in bridal trousseaux. The tradition of using boxwood for combs is also an ancient one: the Latin word for boxwood, buxum, also signifies comb.


Detail of French or Flemish boxwood ‘love token’ comb c.1500, £7000 at TimeLine.

Such a well-preserved example is a rarity. A similar piece dated c.1500 is illustrated in Edward Pinto’s collecting bible Treen and Other Wooden Bygoneswhile another similarly inscribed front and back A ma tres douce amie pour bie le done sold for $6000 at Christie’s New York in June 2022.

This example, formerly in an American collection, was entered for sale by a Suffolk vendor to the Antiquities sale at TimeLine (25% buyer’s premium) in Harwich, Essex.

Offered on the first day of the March 5-9 sales series, it was guided at £1000-1400 but sold at £7000.