A handsome Victorian natural tortoiseshell hair comb with pierced and engraved floral decoration.
CONDITION: good vintage condition
SIZE: 5½ ins h x 4½ ins w (14 x 11 cm) decorative part 2½ ins (5.5 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1870s – 1880s
Here is a very beautiful Spanish style comb in natural tortoiseshell. It is carved all in one piece with a rectangular heading that has an openwork pierced design. This features an asymmetric pattern of flowers and foliage. The comb is fashioned out of the mid brown mottled form of tortoiseshell. The material is very nicely marked and polished. The “tortoise” type patterning is very pronounced, with lighter semi transparent patches. These have been well employed by the artist in executing the design. The elements of the design have been further enriched by surface carving and engraving.
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, 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 large and impressive.
In the 1870s the debut of the opera Carmen led to a fashion for high topped mantilla style combs which lasted almost 20 years. High topped and handsome combs like this would have been used by a fashionable Victorian lady to adorn the back of the hair, probably being placed above a large chignon. For day they were made of plain horn or tortoiseshell, carved or twisted into ornate designs. For evening, no ornament could be too large or too elaborate.
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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