A fine mid Victorian hinged steer horn comb with figural cameo
CONDITION: good vintage condition
SIZE: 3 ins h x 5 ins w (7.5 x 13 cms)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1850s – 1880s
MATERIALS: steer horn, metal
Here is a classic hinged mid Victorian comb with a fold down heading. The comb mount and oval heading are made from steer horn, which have been left in their natural colouring of browns and fawns. In the centre of the heading is set a dark grey metal cameo of a Grecian looking lady with a very elaborate headdress.
There are some holes in the bottom of the heading where something (possibly looped chains) may originally have been attached.
The main feature in this type of comb is that the heading is adjustable. The comb is technically sophisticated, being attached to the prongs by a flexible hinge of metal, which allows it to rotate through 90 or more degrees. This enables the ornament to be adjusted to various positions within the coiffure.
The collage picture shows examples of similar hinged hair accessories and how they were worn and is taken from contemporary sources of the early 20th century.
This comb has been made in the style known as Archaeological Revival, which refers to the neo-styles of the 18th and 19th centuries inspired by excavations and discoveries of Roman, Egyptian, Hellenistic and Etruscan sites. The first revival came after excavations of the buried cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, which led to the neoclassicism of the 18th century. The second revival was inspired by finds in Etruscan burial sites and came in the mid Victorian period.
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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