An interesting and gothic looking mid Victorian hinged hair comb in dyed natural horn with balls and hoops
CONDITION: there is a very small ding on the lower left side of the heading otherwise good vintage condition
SIZE: 4 ins h x 4¼ ins w (10 x 11 cms)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1850s – 1880s
Here we have a very interesting and gothic looking hair comb which is carved out of natural horn that has been dyed a dark reddish brown. The heading has a spiky openwork design which is further embellished with polished balls and hoops of carved horn. This makes for a very complex and unusual appearance.
Horn was one of the most popular materials for hair combs in the 19th century, not only because the material was cheap, but also because it could be easily treated to obtain a number of decorative effects. It could be dyed a range of colours and was most often dyed a deep shade of honey or amber. It could also be carved, pierced, stamped and when heated, twisted into ornamental shapes in a plastic manner. Horn is an extremely flexible material, and when heated it can be bent, pierced and stretched into all manner of forms, almost like plastic.
The hairstyles of the mid-Victorian period were large and impressive, with vast quantities of false hair being used to form a huge chignon or, for the evening, trailing ringlets.. Therefore the ornaments which were used to adorn them were often equally large and impressive. Large and handsome combs would have been used by a fashionable Victorian lady to adorn the back of the hair, probably being placed above or within a large chignon.
Combs like this were worn as shown in the final picture which is taken from a contemporary Victorian fashion illustration from a magazine called The Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine of 1873. It features the elaborate Victorian evening coiffures and the carved high topped combs which were worn in them. Such ornaments were typically placed standing proud of the head so that the beauty of their design was visible from all angles.
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