A beautiful Art Deco period Spanish style hair comb in lacy amber celluloid asymmetric design
PROVENANCE: this beautiful comb comes from the estate of the dancer Rosita Hammer Arcade who was an international dance star of the “Hollywood Greats” era
CONDITION: good vintage condition
SIZE: 7½ ins h x 7 ins w (19 x 18 cms)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1920s
This comb is of the type known as a Spanish or mantilla comb because it resembles the traditional ornaments worn by Spanish ladies with their native dress.
The comb is made in translucent amber celluloid in a strong asymmetrical design which is full of lively movement. It has a high and deeply curved side swept heading with a lacy and delicate openwork design which features conventional florets between radiating spokes.
Large celluloid hair combs like this became extremely fashionable in the early 20th century when there was a vogue for a “Spanish” look in fashion. There are many popular postcards showing actresses and contemporary beauties in Spanish style dress wearing large combs.
The comb can be compared with the final two illustrations which are taken from glamour postcards such as those mentioned above. Both show actresses of stage or screen wearing a species of “Spanish” costume and combs of considerable height and elaboration. Such large combs were not for the faint hearted and seem to have mostly been worn by actresses, models and for fancy dress.
The use of the very tall Spanish comb has a very long history of use throughout the 19th century and has never been out of fashion in Spain. In Spanish tradition a beautiful lace scarf is draped over a high comb which was made of beautifully carved tortoiseshell. It was worn for church and also for traditional fiestas and bull fights.
Rosita Hammer Arcade was born in 1917 of Spanish parents who immigrated to the United States. Discovering that she had a talent for dancing Rosita took lessons and later grew proficient enough to support her entire family by her performances. Rosita danced in Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, and then Havana, where she met Paul Whiteman. She danced at the Copa Cabana in Brazil. Later she danced at the Roxy Theatre and Radio City Music Hall, sharing the program with Janet Gaynor, Douglas Fairbanks and Ginger Rogers. She danced on Broadway and in the summers, in Chicago.
Even at the end of her life, her feet never stopped dancing to the music. This graceful little girl, who supported her family through the Great Depression, became a lovely woman and mother.
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