A handsome Regency or early Victorian Spanish style hair comb in natural pressed tortoiseshell
CONDITION: good vintage condition
SIZE: 7 ins h x 6½ ins w (18 x 15 cm) decorative part 4 ins h (10 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1830s – 1840s
Here is a classic pressed tortoiseshell comb which probably dates from the late Georgian or early Victorian period in the 1830s – 1840s. High mantilla style combs such as this were at the height of their popularity during these years.
The comb is fashioned out of one large solid piece of the mid brown mottled form of tortoiseshell. The material is very nicely marked and highly polished. The “tortoise” type patterning is very pronounced, with well defined mottling of lighter semi transparent patches on a dark opaque ground. The heading has also been impressed with a design which resembles leaves or foliage.
This very beautiful example has a curved heading and eight long slender tines. These tines are all in good condition and nicely pointed, not broken or chipped as in many shell combs.
This type of ornament is often known as a Spanish or mantilla comb because it resembles a smaller version of the traditional large shell ornaments worn by Spanish ladies with their native dress. Such combs became the mode in the early 19th century when the fashionable coiffure became extremely tall and elaborate. Combs such as this were used to support the dressing and give extra height. Great loops of hair (often false) arise from the crown of the head back backed up by these Spanish style combs. The final picture illustrates a number of contemporary sitters wearing comb ornaments and shows how they were worn.
Pressed combs are usually found in steer horn, but natural tortoiseshell could also be treated in this manner to obtain elaborate decorative effects. Combs known as “pressed” were manufactured by pressing and squeezing the material between heated iron plates until it softened. It could then be placed into in mould and would retain the desired shape when it cooled. Many of these pressed combs have an elaborate design impressed into the surface which appears to be hand carved but was, in fact, produced by this mechanical process. The combs were subsequently hand finished. Combined with techniques such as dying and piercing, many of these pressed combs were both elaborate and beautiful.
All state and federal documentation and certificates required by law for commercial sale, import or export, have been obtained for this item. Proper legal paperwork will be included with it at shipment.
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