A handsome late Victorian or Edwardian back comb with a classic Greek key design
CONDITION: good vintage condition
SIZE: 3 ins h x 4½ ins w (7.5 x 11 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1890s -1900s
MATERIALS: faux tortoiseshell, rhinestones
This attractive late Victorian or Edwardian back comb is made in celluloid faux tortoiseshell. The wide rectangular heading has a classic Greek key decoration in gold leaf, into which are set clear rhinestones.
A back comb is a type of hair accessory specifically designed to be worn at the rear of the hairdressing, above, below or within the chignon. 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.
Such combs were at the peak of their popularity around the turn of the 20th century as a result of changes in dressing the hair. The famous “Gibson Girl” hair dressing was swept up to the crown of the head into a well padded cottage loaf shape, and required support at the back to keep the stray hair tidy. Large back combs were used for this and also to support the huge hats of the period.
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.
The Greek Key is an ancient pattern, found in classical Greek and Roman architecture and also used in Mediterranean vases and in mosaics. It is a type of running ornament, often contained within a border, consisting of a fret design with many involved turnings. Some historians feel that the Greek key has its basis in the Greek myth of the labyrinth that imprisoned the minotaur. Another suggestion is that it is a stylised representation of waves. Whatever its origin, the Greek key is one of the most attractive and typical designs which appear upon Victorian hair ornaments.
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