A handsome celluloid faux tortoiseshell Art Nouveau hair comb with interlaced design
CONDITION: good vintage condition
SIZE: 5 ins h x 3 ins w (13 x 7.5 cm) decorative part 2½ ins (6 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1900s – 1910s
Here is a handsome Art Nouveau comb in celluloid faux tortoiseshell with a complex interlaced design of three openwork loops. This is an example of hair accessories produced for the more popular end of the market around the turn of the 20th century. These ornaments often show elements of a watered down Art Nouveau influence in their design. However they are mass produced from materials like celluloid, in contrast to the more expensive hand made ornaments carved from horn which are distinctive of this style.
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 collage photograph shows illustrations taken from contemporary sources and depicts similar ornaments, showing how they were placed in the hair styles of the day.
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.
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