A large and handsome Spanish style pierced openwork hair comb by the master comb maker of the Art Deco period.
CONDITION: good vintage condition.
SIZE: 7½ ins h x 4½ ins w (19 x 11 cm) decorative part 4 ins h (10 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1910s – 1920s
MATERIALS: celluloid (an early collectible synthetic)
Here is a wonderful Spanish style comb by Auguste Bonaz, the master comb maker of the Art Deco era. No comb collection is complete without an example of the work of Bonaz. The comb is executed in black celluloid. It has a very high wedge shaped heading with a lacy openwork design. The maker’s signature appears on the back of one of the tines.
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 collage photograph shows several illustrations taken from contemporary sources and depicts similar ornaments and how they were placed in the hair styles of the day.
Maison Bonaz worked in new materials such as Bakelite and Galalith, and explored the versatility of the materials and their specific qualities. The work of House Bonaz reflected the modern qualities of the constructivist and futurist art movements, and the aesthetics of the Bauhaus. In Modernism the emphasis was upon the medium, and the process of production rather than the intrinsic value of the materials. Futurism too discarded the art of the past in favour of change, originality and innovation. It glorified the new technology of the automobile and the glory of speed and power and movement. The Bauhaus was an attempt to combine craftsmanship and high design with mass production.
The discovery of new synthetic substances allowed fashion and jewelry designers to produce new and modern forms which were not previously possible. These materials easily lent themselves to different designs as the material could be dyed, drilled, embossed and cut in a variety of ways, all while being relatively inexpensive to produce. The material was often used to make imitations of other materials such as tortoiseshell, ivory and jade. However this entirely new material lent wings to the creativity of more forward-thinking designers who viewed the material as an opportunity to completely revolutionize jewelry design. Designers such as Auguste Bonaz utilized strong linear and color juxtapositions which reflect the changes taking place in such artistic movements as Cubism and Modernism.
Many of these Art Deco combs are in pure, abstract forms, with little surface ornamentation for a very powerful effect. The strong contrasting shapes which they contain – ovals, square, or oblongs - show a deep appreciation and understanding of the potential of the material, whether plastic, metal or organic.
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