A striking over sized faux tortoiseshell hair comb in an acutely pointed form
CONDITION: good vintage condition
SIZE: 9 ins h x 4 ins w (23 x 10 cm) decorative part 4½ ins (11 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1910s – 1920s
MATERIALS: celluloid faux tortoiseshell
Here is a very large and dramatic Art Deco hair comb in celluloid faux tortoiseshell. The ornament has a wedge shaped asymmetric heading with an acutely pointed styling.
Many early 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.
The collage photograph shows illustrations taken from contemporary sources and depicts similar ornaments with this acutely pointed styling, and how they were placed in the hair styles of the day.
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 surface of the material in this hair ornament is beautifully marked with the typical “tortoise” style mottling and is a very faithful imitation of genuine shell. Many of the later 19th century the hair ornaments which appear to be made of tortoise are, in fact, made from synthetics. 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.
The discovery of new synthetic substances allowed fashion and jewelry designers to produce new and modern forms which were not previously possible. 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.
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