A beautifully marked faux tortoiseshell hair comb with sterling floral overlay
CONDITION: good vintage condition.
SIZE: 5 ins h x 4¾ ins w (13 x 12 cms)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1890s – 1900
MARKS: F I (?) 826
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.
It is made from a very distinctively mottled celluloid faux tortoiseshell with an application of silver to the top of the heading. The silver application is attached to the top of the heading by rivets which are driven into the material. It forms a formalised floral design which shows some Art Nouveau influence in the formation of the flower motifs.
For almost two decade afterwards these high topped mantilla combs, often with elaborately decorated and pierced headings, were the ornaments of choice for fashionable ladies.
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 final photograph is taken from a late Victorian carte de visite and shows an unusual side view which illustrates how such ornaments might be placed.
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.
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