CONDITION: good vintage condition
SIZE: 3 ins h x 4½ ins w (7.5 x 11 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1890s – 1900s
MATERIALS: faux tortoiseshell, brass
Here is a very handsome back comb in the Art Nouveau taste which probably dates from the period around the turn of the 20th century.
The comb mount is made from celluloid faux tortoiseshell with a heading that has a very distinctive asymmetric design and showing Art Nouveau influence in its organic, flowing lines. The heading is overlaid with a panel in brass, which is riveted to the material beneath.
A back comb is a type of hair accessory specifically designed to be worn at the rear of the hairdressing, as its name implies. It is usually identified by a deep curve made to fit the skull. These combs are usually wider than they are high and often have an elaborate heading or top decorated in some way.
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. Backcombs of this kind, often in sets, were employed to support the padded pompadour hairdressing and the huge elaborate hats of the period.
The first Art Nouveau ornaments were hand made and carved from clarified horn. These were very expensive and were quickly followed by mass produced versions made in celluloid for the popular market. As the Art Nouveau style gained in popularity, a whole class of popular jewellery was mass produced which reproduced the typical motifs of the genre, but was manufactured by machine.