A pretty hair comb or pick in the Art Nouveau style with typical interlaced design
CONDITION: good vintage condition
SIZE: 5 ins h x 2 ins w (13 x 5 cms)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1890s 1900s
MATERIALS: silver (tested) opals
This simple but very beautiful two pronged comb or hair pick has been made in the distinctive Art Nouveau style. A reaction to the academic art of the 19th century, Art Nouveau was inspired by natural forms and structures, particularly the curved organic lines of plants and flowers.
The comb base is a simple rectangular one in faux tortoiseshell. It has two long prongs and a rising curve. However the decorative panel which is affixed to the heading by rivets is a typical Art Nouveau one.
The metal has been worked into a distinctive design of the type which is generally known as the “whiplash”. Such decorative “whiplash” motifs are formed by dynamic, undulating, and flowing lines in a syncopated rhythm. They are found throughout the architecture, painting, sculpture, and other forms of Art Nouveau design.
In this example the design is further embellished by small opals set into collets mounts at salient intervals in the design.
Art Nouveau practitioners attempted to return to the Medieval ideal whereby an item was designed and made by the same craftsperson, using traditional techniques and hand working. Some of the most beautiful and sympathetic treatments of Art Nouveau, appear in combs and hairpins.
However, in practice, many of the ornaments produced by this school exhibit a curious naivety, and lack the sophistication of the exotic designs produced in Europe. The materials used by British Art Nouveau practitioners were often very modest. Silver was the favourite metal for settings. It was set with semi-precious stones such as opals, turquoises, amethysts, carnelians and moonstones. These gems were usually presented as cabochons. The designs were also austere, and many jewels have a Celtic or Medieval feeling.
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