A pretty faux tortoiseshell back comb decorated with Damascene or Toledo work
CONDITION: good vintage condition
SIZE: 2 x 3½ ins (5 x 8 cms)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1890s – 1900s
MATERIALS: faux tortoiseshell, metal
Here is a pretty back comb in faux tortoiseshell which probably dates from the period around the turn of the 20th century.
This ornament is very wearable with a modern style for a special occasion.
The top of the heading is very gently scalloped. It is fitted with a metal plate decorated in the technique known as Damascene or Toledo work. The design is a conventional one of flowers and foliage.
A back comb is a type of hair accessory specifically designed to be worn at the back of the hairdressing, above, below or within the chignon. It is usually identified by a deep curve made to fit the skull. These combs are usually wider than they are high and often have an elaborate heading or top decorated in some way.
The collage picture shows sitters from contemporary photographs, revealing the fashionable hair style and wearing similar ornaments.
The “Gibson Girl” hair dressing was named after the drawings of the American artist Charles Dana Gibson and was very influential in fashion around the turn of the 20th century. The hair was swept up into a padded cottage loaf type of arrangement, sometimes with a few wispy curls left hanging at the sides or back. In order to help support this arrangement, as well as the huge hats of the period, large barrettes, back combs, and suites of matching combs were popular. The illustrations with the mannequin show how these combs were placed to achieve the desired effect.
Damascene, "Damasquinado de Oro or "Damasquino" is the art of decorating non-precious metals with gold. The craft, perfected by the Arabs and brought with them to Spain, has remained virtually unchanged over the centuries. Damascene items generally reflect two distinct traditional types of patterns; the Arabesque or geometric designs, and the Renaissance motifs, displaying variations of birds and flowers. These patterns are obtained by engraving deep, patterned cuts into steel and then placing a gold foil into the lines of the design. This foil is hammered until the gold penetrates into the cuts, forming the design. Each piece is treated with a bluing solution to obtain oxidation and a black background is created.
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