A handsome Victorian Spanish mantilla style hair comb in faux tortoiseshell
CONDITION: good vintage condition
SIZE: 7 ins h x 4 ins w (18 x 10 cm) decorative part 4 ins h (10 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1880s - 1900
MATERIALS: faux tortoiseshell
Here is a large and handsome faux tortoiseshell mantilla style comb from the later Victorian period. The comb shows a tall wedge shaped heading and eight long tines.
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.
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 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.
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.
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