An attractive Victorian faux tortoiseshell hair comb with distinctive scalloped outline
CONDITION: good vintage condition.
SIZE: 5½ ins h x 5¼ ins w (14 x 13 cms)
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 use of the tall Spanish comb has a very long history of use throughout the 19th century and has never been out of fashion in Spain.
This handsome and large example has an attractive scalloped profile and is nicely mottled to resemble the natural version of tortoiseshell.
Combs like this were worn as shown in the final picture which is taken from a contemporary Victorian photograph of the 1880s. We can see that the female sitter is wearing a mantilla style comb with a similar scalloped profile in her very high. The ornament is typically placed standing proud of the head so that the beauty of its design was visible from all angles.
The hairstyles of the Victorian period were large and impressive, with vast quantities of false hair being used to form a huge chignon for the evening. 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.
Such higher topped combs were produced in genuine tortoiseshell for the higher end of the market and in horn, celluloid and other materials for the popular end. The tall mantilla style headings became popular in the 1870s due to the debut of Bizet's opera Carmen in 1875. The type continued to be fashionable but grew smaller and daintier as the 19th century drew to its close.
This attractive accessory is made not from real tortoiseshell but from a celluloid man made equivalent which gives the impression of the real thing. This material was available in a range of mottled finishes some of which so cleverly imitate the genuine article that they are very difficult to tell apart.
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