A handsome Victorian Spanish mantilla style hair comb in faux tortoiseshell
CONDITION: good vintage condition
SIZE: 6 ins h x 6 ins w (15 x 15 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1870s - 1900
MATERIALS: faux tortoiseshell
Here we have a handsome faux tortoiseshell Spanish style comb which is beautifully marked and mottled. The comb has eight tines and a wedge shaped heading. The comb is fashioned out of one large solid piece of the mid brown mottled form of faux tortoiseshell. The material is very nicely marked and polished. The “tortoise” type patterning is very pronounced, with well defined mottling of lighter semi transparent patches on a dark opaque ground.
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.
Hair accessories at this period are at their largest and most chunky, and often with high Spanish style headings. The debut of the opera Carmen promoted a fashion for these high topped ornaments, which were to remain in vogue for two decades. Mottled tortoiseshell and faux tortoiseshell combs like this, without any form of decoration, continued to be worn even when the large and elaborate mid Victorian combs has begun to lose their popularity. Their appearance relied upon the lustre and markings of the material for their effect. They were considered most suitable for day wear in an era when a woman’s appearance was not considered complete without her combs.
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 skillfully treated to imitate the brown and orange mottling of genuine tortoiseshell.
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