An unusual Spanish mantilla style mid Victorian comb in gilt filigree openwork
CONDITION: good vintage condition
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1870s - 1900
SIZE: 6¼ ins h x 3½ ins w (16 x 9 cms)
This beautiful example is made in gold tone filigree metal and has a high heading which is filled out with openwork designs. Two large leaves are placed above a row of circular motifs which resemble formalised florals. I do not know where this comb was made but would guess at Spain or Italy.
This type of ornament is known as Spanish or mantilla comb because it resembles the traditional high topped tortoiseshell ornaments worn by Spanish ladies with their native dress. The tall mantilla style headings became popular in the 1870s due to the debut of Bizet's opera Carmen in 1875. 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.
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 sitter is wearing a comb of similar wedge shaped design. The ornament is typically placed standing proud of the head so that the beauty of its design was visible from all angles.
Such higher topped combs were produced in genuine tortoiseshell for the higher end of the market and in horn, metal, celluloid and other materials for the popular end. The mantilla type comb continued to be fashionable but grew smaller and daintier as the 19th century drew to its close.
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