A striking Victorian Spanish mantilla style hair comb with elaborate engraved and gilded detail
CONDITION: there are two small nicks in the back of the heading which are scarcely visible from the front.
SIZE: 7 ins h x 4¼ ins w (18 x 11 cms) heading height 4 ins (10 cms)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1870s – 1880s
MATERIALS: faux tortoiseshell
This comb is of the type known as a Spanish or mantilla comb because its tall stand up heading resembles the traditional ornaments worn by Spanish ladies with their native dress.
This beautiful ornament probably dates from the 1870s or 1880s when the vogue for these tall Peineta like combs was at its height. The comb is made in beautifully mottled faux tortoiseshell and has a tall wedge shaped heading with a rising curve along the top edge. It has been deeply and fully engraved with a design which covers the entire back of the heading and of which the lines are in filled with gilding. In the centre is a large urn which is surrounded by elaborate scrolls and leaves. As we can see the back of the comb also has a simple gilded design.
The outline of the comb can be compared with the high wedge shaped mantilla style ornament worn by the sitter in picture 9, which is taken from a late Victorian carte de visite photograph. Combs like this were worn in a characteristic manner, being placed such a way that the tall heading stood up proud. This enabled them to be viewed from all angles and for the details to be seen effectively outlined against the light.
The use of the tall Spanish comb has a very long history of use throughout the 19th century and has never been out of fashion in Spain. The tall mantilla style headings became popular in the 1870s due to the debut of Bizet's opera Carmen in 1875. Early performances scandalised audiences but it quickly became one of the most popular operas in the world with a significance fashion influence.
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