A beautifully marked Georgian or early Victorian mantilla style hair comb with curved profile
CONDITION: there is a slight chip out of one tine, otherwise excellent condition for age.
SIZE: 4½ ins h x 4½ ins w (11 x 11 cms)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1830s to 1850s
This comb is of the type known as a Spanish or mantilla comb because it resembles the traditional ornaments worn by Spanish ladies with their native dress. The name is often given to any comb which has a tall upstanding heading like this one.
The comb is made from natural shell and has been carved out of one large piece of this attractive material. The close up pictures show that it is beautifully marked with good contrast between the darker opaque and lighter orange-brown translucent patches which are characteristic of this material. The comb has a widely curved shape which is without added decoration. The random mottling of the shell is its chief adornment.
Combs like this were worn as shown in picture 9 which is taken from a contemporary painting showing a sitter in the dress of the 1830s. We can see that the sitter is wearing a similarly shape comb in beautifully mottled shell and has placed at a jaunty angle in the hair so that the heading can be seen from all angles. The sitter's extravagant hairstyle is typical of the period.
The hairstyles of the late Georgian period were extremely tall and complex, especially for formal occasions. Great stiffened loops of hair (usually false), ribbon bows, feathers and all manner or ornaments adorned the evening coiffure. Placed at the back and acting partly as a support for all these decorations the favourite ornament was a large tortoiseshell or pierced horn comb. Such combs are widely illustrated in the pages of fashion journals such as the "World of Fashion" and "La Belle Assemblee". They are also seen in early American portraits where ladies who aspired to fashion seemed to have worn their combs proudly.