A large and handsome Art Deco faux tortoiseshell Spanish mantilla style comb
CONDITION: good vintage condition
SIZE: 8 ins h x 5 ins w (20 x 13 cm) decorative part 5 ins h (13 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1910s – 1920s
Here is a large and impressive Spanish mantilla style hair comb dating from the early 20th century.
This lovely comb is made in celluloid faux tortoiseshell and has a high wedge shaped heading. Placed across this, at a diagonal, is a band of openwork resembling foliage. The asymmetrical treatment is typical of Art Deco styling.
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 illustrations taken from contemporary sources and depicts similar ornaments and how they were placed in the hair styles of the day.
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. These faux tortoise combs are some of the prettiest to be found at this period, since it is unusual to find two exactly alike. 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 large mantilla style combs which had enjoyed popularity in the Victorian period were to enjoy two more decades of popularity when they returned to fashion in the early Art Deco period. This was the age of house parties, with a vogue for dressing up in fancy costumes. Spanish style dress was particularly popular. Many famous actresses and early film stars had themselves portrayed on glamour postcards in a version of Spanish dress. Along with fashion magazines they were an important element in how people chose a “look” and its accessories. Some of the hair combs worn in this period were so huge that they resembled the traditional Spanish peineta in their height and or breadth.
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