A beautiful Art Nouveau faux tortoiseshell hair comb with silver tone flowers
CONDITION: good vintage condition
SIZE: 4 ins h x 4½ ins w (10 x 11 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1900s – 1910s
MATERIALS: faux tortoiseshell, silver tone metal
Here we have a very beautiful faux tortoiseshell back comb with silver metal applied flowers. The Art Nouveau styling of the flowers suggests a date in the early 20th century.
In this example the surface of the material 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.
A back comb is, as its name suggests, an ornament specifically designed to be worn at the read of the head. It is distinguished by being deeply carved and usually broader than it is high. Most back combs have some kind of ornamentation on the top part of the heading. 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. These ornaments reproduced the typical motifs of the genre, but were produced by machine and were turned out in their hundreds. Mail order catalogs of the late Victorian and Edwardian period are filled with such ornaments.
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