A fine and large Art Deco hair comb with an unusual configuration of tines
CONDITION: good vintage condition
SIZE: 7 ins h x 4 ins w (18 x 10 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1910s – 1920s
MATERIALS: celluloid faux tortoiseshell
Here we have a large and handsome faux tortoiseshell comb from the Art Deco period. The ornament has a tall wedge shaped heading and curved tines which have an unusual configuration. The heading design comprised a set of vertical “blades” with a little pierced work in between. The tall geometric design is typical of the period.
This type of ornament is often known as Spanish or mantilla comb because it resembles a smaller version of the traditional large shell ornaments worn by Spanish ladies with their native dress. In practice any comb which has a high upstanding heading or top which stands proud of the top of the head is often called a mantilla comb.
Art Deco glorified the new technology of the automobile and the glory of speed and power and movement. This influence can be seen in the design of combs whereby blades or rays radiate outwards from the base of the heading. This is a very typical motif in Art Deco combs, and in the art of the period. Some people interpret the spokes as representing the wheel, and thus symbolising the Futurist fascination with speed and machinery.
By this period genuine tortoiseshell had become very expensive. Therefore most of the hair ornaments which appear to be made of tortoise are, in fact, made from synthetics. These faux tortoise combs are some of the prettiest to be found at this period, since it is unusual to find two exactly alike. Some of them are very convincing and difficult to distinguish from the genuine material, and are skilfully treated to imitate the brown and orange mottling of genuine tortoiseshell.
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