Late Victorian Black Celluloid Mourning Hair Comb With Black Rhinestones
SIZE: 7 ins h x 3 ins w (18 x 7.5 cms)
CONDITION: excellent no issues
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1900 – 1910s
MATERIAL: celluloid, jet rhinestones
Here we have a lovely example of a late Victorian or possibly Edwardian comb which may have been used for mourning. In the late 19th and early 20th century mourning was still an important social custom observed by all classes. Etiquette decreed that only dull dark materials could be sued for personal ornaments. However once the initial stage was passed then more shiny ornaments could be introduced. A favourite among these was French jet.
This handsome comb is made from glossy black celluloid with a high wedge shaped heading that is typical of the period. It has a panel of open scrollwork occupied in the centre by a leaf shape which is etched with a formalised design representing the veins of the leaf. Faceted rhinestones of the black glass known as French jet are set at salient points in the design.
The wedge shape of the comb can be compared with that of the sitter in the final picture, who wears the costume and enormous sleeves of about 1895. She is wearing a beautiful evening dress and a high topped comb which has been boldly placed so that is shows from all angles. This is taken from a contemporary photograph.
This comb is of the type known as a Spanish mantilla comb or peineta because it resembles the traditional ornaments worn by Spanish ladies with their native dress. The very tall Spanish comb has a very long history of use throughout the 19th century and into the twentieth. The production of the opera Carmen led to a fashion for high Spanish combs in the 1870s.
We can see some evidence of the transition from Art Nouveau to Art Deco in the design of the heading. Deco replaced the free-flowing curves and naturalistic motifs of Art Nouveau with more geometric and symmetrical themes, which began to emerge about 1910. There is a stiffness and artificiality about the form of the general design which is leading inexorably towards the formalised geometry of Art Deco.
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