A beautiful clarified steer horn mantilla style hair comb from the Victorian period.
CONDITION: the bottoms of the tines may have been shortened and re-pointed in the past, otherwise good vintage condition with a few minor nibbles around the top of the heading.
SIZE: 5 ins h x 5 ins w (13 x 13 cms)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1870s - 1900
MATERIALS: steer horn
Here we have a typical high topped steer horn comb of the later Victorian period when such ornaments were at the height of their fashion. The horn has been clarified and dyed to deep attractive amber. It has a curved heading pierced into an open work border around the top edge.
Combs of this age and design typically have long and finely pointed tines, which are often found chipped and broken. My feeling is that this example may have suffered similar misadventures in the past. As a result the tines have been shortened and re-pointed. This does not affect the wearability of the comb as can be seen from the examples on the mannequin.
The collage picture shows examples of similar accessories and how they were worn and is taken from contemporary sources of the later 19th century.
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.
Horn was one of the most popular materials for hair combs in the 19th century. The material was cheap and easily available and it could be easily treated to obtain a number of decorative effects. Horn could also be clarified so as to be almost translucent. This gives it the attractive colour of honey, and is a feature of many combs of the period. It could also be carved, pierced, stamped and when heated, twisted into ornamental shapes in a plastic manner. Horn is an extremely flexible material, and when heated it can be bent, pierced and stretched into all manner of forms, almost like plastic.
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