A spectacular Algerian or Moorish style hinged Victorian comb
CONDITION: good vintage condition
SIZE: 3¼ ins h x 4¾ ins w (8.5 x 11.5 cms)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1840s – 1860s
MATERIALS: horn, brass, enamel
This attractive type of hair accessory specifically designed to be worn at the rear of the hairdressing, within or covering the chignon. The comb mount is of gilded brass mounted upon a horn foundation with eight large pointed tines to pierce the hair. The heading is attached to the comb mount by a flexible brass hinge which allows it to rotate.
The heading comprises a curved piece made in polished brass in the shape of a wide rectangle. The chief form of decorative effect is on the surface of the metal where an engraved lattice design is formed of alternately shiny and matte lozenges. This area is framed by a narrow border in black enamel.
Pendant from the bottom of the heading are a series of chains of gilded metal, each having a brass ball at the extremity. The chains are arranged alternately long and short to that the fringe of brass pendants is staggered.
The effect of the ornament in wear can be seen on the mannequin. It can be compared with the final illustration which is a compilation of “Algerian style” combs drawn from contemporary engravings of the early to mid Victorian period.
This comb is of a type generally called a peigne d’Alger or Algerian comb. The most elaborate examples were also called cascade combs. In the early 1840s the French-Algerian wars led to an interest in Moorish art, and this is strongly reflected in the design of comb headings and hairpins until about 1875. The Crimean War further helped to popularize Turkish and Oriental designs in Britain during the 1860s and 1970s. This Moorish influence was manifested in the use of pseudo-oriental and Islamic motifs and the use of dangling and curiously shaped pendants, looped chains beads and tassels on combs and hairpins.
One of the characteristics of the Victorian period was the immense amount of borrowing which occurred from other periods and cultures. This affected all aspects of the decorative arts, but particularly the design of jewellery and personal adornments. Therefore we have combs and hair ornaments in the Gothic, the Renaissance, the Algerian styles, and so-on. What this means is that the ornaments were decorated with designs which were felt to be representative of the period or culture in question. There was no attempt at authenticity, and often the ornaments show a kind of pastiche of motifs which were believed by the designer to represent the particular genre.
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