A Dutch silver curry comb or ‘roskam’

Frederik Sijlstra van der Lei, Leeuwarden, circa 1770

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A Dutch silver curry comb or ‘roskam’

Of typical rectangular section, the top surface engraved with a scrolling, foliate and stylised volute cartouche in Louis XIV-style, centred by the Franeker town crest, a bell within a shaped banded shield, below the shield the letters S.P.Q.F. (latin for Senatus Populusque Franeker, .i.e. the government and people of Franeker, the city considering itself as offspring of the Mother of all cities, Rome), the edges engraved with stylised scallop pattern surrounded by a gadrooned border, the smooth surface embellished with stippled whirling leaves scattered allover, the crest surmounted by stylised crown below an applied scallop mount and issuing a plain tube containing a turned wood, baluster and ringed handle with knob finial.

A silver curry comb was a premium or prize given by the city council for the best horse dealer or roskammer (ancient Dutch for a dealer in horses). Professionals wanted to improve their trade and, by promising such prizes, the horse dealers were more tempted to bring their best stock to the market.

In the 18th century a number of city councils, e.g. of Bolsward, commissioned utensils made in silver or even gold as prizes, e.g. silver handballs (kaatsballen), a golden whip (ring driving), but what is extraordinary is that the councils also commissioned such objects as the present curry comb to improve the trade in horses and cattle. Bolsward had a long reputation as a trades centre and the council did its utmost to support their local trades. The curry comb could be won during the annual fair in the city and this stimulated the farmers to bring their best animals to the venue. The curry comb was manufactured by Frederik Sylstra (van der Lely/Lei), who was a nephew of the Leeuwarden silversmith, Gabynus van der Lely; both worked in that city between 1748 and 1754. After the decease of his uncle Frederik continued his business there until 1788.

Another Frisian curry comb, engraved with the crest of Bolsward and the letters S.P.Q.B., by Sytze Djurre Westerbaan, dated 1790, is held in the collection of the Fries Museum in Leeuwarden (inv. n° Z00979A).

Another by the same maker, but without the wooden handle and dated 1971, is kept in the Oudheidkamer, Bolsward. Another one, made by an unidentified maker in Alkmaar in 1771, but commissioned by the city council of Beverwijk, is kept in the collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London (inv. n° M.29-1934). A curry comb made by Benjamin Overdorp of Deventer in 1722 is in the collection of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (inv. n° BK-14910).

Private collection, The Netherlands

Associated Literature
For similar curry comb see:
Johan R. ter Molen, Fries goud en zilver Vol II, Uitgeverij Bornmeer, 2014, pp. 480-481

Frederik Sijlstra van der Lei, Leeuwarden, circa 1770

20 x 16,8 cm.

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