An unusual natural steer horn hair comb with asymmetric styling.
CONDITION: good vintage condition.
SIZE: 5½ ins h x 4½ ins w (14 x 11 cms)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1870s - 1900
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. Traditionally and comb with a high upstanding heading may be referred to as a mantilla comb.
The comb mount is made from polished natural steer horn which has been treated to resemble the more expensive tortoise shell. The heading which is of carved natural steer horn is carved all in one with the tines. It has an unusual asymmetric profile resembling openwork leaf or fern fronds, inclined to the right.
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 Victorian ladies. Higher topped combs such as this were produced in genuine tortoiseshell for the higher end of the market and in horn, faux tortoise celluloid or other materials for the popular end.
The ornament can be compared with picture 9 which shows the way in which such eye catching accessories could be worn. It is taken from a Victorian tin type photo of the 1880s shows a sitter with a high topped mantilla style comb with a similar asymmetrical treatment. The ornament is sited in such a way as to allow the beauty of the design to be seen and admired from all angles.
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