A handsome mid Victorian hinged hair comb in dyed horn with ornate gilt metal heading
CONDITION: good vintage condition
SIZE: 3¼ ins h x 4 ins w (8 x 10 cms)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1850s – 1870s
This beautiful faux tortoiseshell and gilded brass comb dates from the mid Victorian period. This is a classic example of a hinged late Victorian or Edwardian hair comb. The hinge permits the heading to rotate so that the ornament can be worn in various positions in the coiffure. In this case the heading is mounted upon a faux tortoiseshell comb with six tines in such a way that it can be completely folded down over the teeth.
Here we have one of the iconic Victorian combs, in which the curved heading is topped off by a twisted element in gilded brass which resembles a plait. The type of design featuring a plait, spiral or cable chain is found in all kinds of materials at this time but chiefly in metal, tortoiseshell and horn.
The downward curve of the heading would have provided an excellent cover for where false pieces (known as postiche) were attached with hairpins to bulk out the elaborate hairdressing.
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.
This comb was designed to be worn in a number of different ways, according to the fancy of the wearer.
The illustration with the line drawing (picture 8) shows the comb inserted with the heading folded down over the tines. The Victorian coiffure was often padded out with false hair and added on switches for evening wear. Combs such as these would have been very effective at concealing the juncture where these false tresses were pinned to the wearer’s own hair. Such combs could also be worn on the nape about a low chignon.
Picture 9 is taken from contemporary Victorian carte-de-visite and shows another ways of placing these hinged combs. The sitter wears a similar hinged comb with a metal heading which she has placed in front of the chignon like a mini tiara. In this case the tines would point backwards and would be concealed by the hair.
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