A handsome Spanish style hair comb in natural pressed tortoiseshell
CONDITION: good vintage condition
SIZE: 5 ins h x 5 ins w (13 x 13 cm) decorative part 2¼ ins (5.5 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1870s – 1880s
Here is a handsome pressed tortoiseshell hair comb from the mid Victorian period c 1870s – 1880s. 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 comb shows a wedge shaped heading which is finished with an attractive scalloped border and decorated with an impressed design of radiating lines. The ornament has nine tines and appears to be made from one large piece of tortoiseshell. The material is very nicely marked and polished. The “tortoise” type patterning is very pronounced, with lighter semi transparent patches well distributed across the heading.
The collage photograph shows illustrations taken from contemporary sources and depicts similar ornaments, showing how they were placed in the hair styles of the day.
The hairstyles of the mid-Victorian period were large and impressive, with vast quantities of false hair being used to form a huge chignon or, for the evening, trailing ringlets. Therefore the ornaments which were used to adorn them were often equally impressive. Large and handsome combs like this would have been used by a fashionable Victorian lady to adorn the hair.
Pressed combs are most often found in steer horn. However natural tortoiseshell which has similar thermoplastic qualities could also is 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. Various types of presses were used, according to the desired shape of the finished comb. Heating and pressing of the horn on prepared forms which imitated the contours of the human head, produced curved combs. 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. Combined with techniques such as dying and piercing, many of these pressed combs were both elaborate and beautiful.
This item is over 100 years old and therefore predates the Endangered Species legislation. If this item includes any CITES Appendix I materials documentation and certificates required by law for commercial sale, import or export, have been obtained for this item and will be included with it at shipment.
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