A striking Art Deco period hair comb in French Ivory made in the Japonaiserie style
CONDITION: good vintage condition
SIZE: 7 ins h x 3½ ins w (18 x 8 cms)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1900s – 1920s
MATERIALS: French Ivory
Here we have a large and impressive Spanish mantilla style comb in French ivory. This is a synthetic material designed to imitate genuine ivory and contains no substance from an endangered species.
The comb has a wedge shaped heading which supports an intricate engraved design showing a geisha like Japanese lady. The lines have been in filled with black pigment to accentuate the design.
This type of ornament is often known as Spanish or mantilla comb because it resembles a smaller version of the traditional large tortoiseshell ornaments worn by Spanish ladies with their native dress. In practice any comb which has a high upstanding heading or top is often called a mantilla comb.
Ornaments 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 final illustration shows a selection of sitters wearing similar ornaments and is taken from contemporary sources of the early 20th century.
Around 1860 commerce with Japan began to develop. Before that time, Japan had lived in complete seclusion for centuries. This contact initiated an assimilation of Japanese styles by European artists and artisans, particularly in the areas of design, which ultimately moulded and directed the progression of the Aesthetic Movement as a whole.
This assimilation, referred to as Japonisme or Japonaiserie by the French, "paved the way for a whole new philosophy of art and design. In England the same style was gradually submerged beneath the pseudo medievalism of the Arts and Crafts movement. Japonisme had a strong influence upon the development of Art Nouveau in its use of asymmetry and the fondness for motifs taken from plants and nature, often considerably stylized. Japonisme flourished from circa 1870 to 1900.
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