A well marked Spanish style hair comb from the Victorian period
CONDITION: good vintage condition
SIZE: 5 x 5 ins (13 x 13 cm) decorative part 2 ins h (5 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1880s – 1900
MATERIALS: faux tortoiseshell
Here is a handsome late Victorian ornament which probably dates from the 1880s – 1900s.
The comb is made in beautifully marked faux tortoise shell with well defined mottling of lighter semi transparent patches on a dark opaque ground. It has a broad shallow heading and the eight tines are all in good condition and nicely pointed, not broken or chipped.
The collage picture shows a number of sitters from contemporary paintings, revealing the fashionable hair style and wearing similar ornaments.
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.
The debut of the opera Carmen led to a fashion for the Spanish style comb in the mid 1870s and this lasted for almost two decades.
The hairstyles of the mid-Victorian period were large and impressive, with vast quantities of false hair being used to form a huge chignon or, for the evening, trailing ringlets... Therefore the ornaments which were used to adorn them were often equally large and impressive. Large and handsome combs would have been used by a fashionable Victorian lady to adorn the back of the hair, probably being placed above a large chignon. For day they were made of plain horn or tortoiseshell, carved or twisted into ornate designs. For evening, no ornament could be too large or too elaborate.
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