A handsome Victorian mantilla style hair comb with painted and rhinestone trim
CONDITION: I missing stone on the left
SIZE: 5½ ins h x 4 ins w (14 x 10 cms)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1870s - 1900
This type of ornament is known as a Spanish or mantilla comb because it resembles the traditional high topped tortoiseshell ornaments worn by Spanish ladies with their native dress. Traditionally any comb with a high upstanding heading may be referred to as a mantilla comb.
The comb mount is made from polished celluloid faux tortoiseshell and has a distinctive circular heading with an open work panel in the centre. The curved top border of the comb is delineated by a row of clear rhinestones placed between rows of metal studs. At intervals there appears a hand painted floral design which appears to resemble a violet.
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 faux tortoise celluloid or other materials for the popular end.
The ornament can be compared with picture 9 which shows how this accessory could be worn. It was taken from a Victorian carte de visite of the 1880s and shows a sitter with a high topped mantilla style comb placed in front of the chignon. It 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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