A fine Victorian faux tortoiseshell hair comb in the Spanish style
CONDITION: good vintage condition with expected wear
SIZE: 4½ ins h x 5 ins w (11 x 13 cm) decorative part 2 ins (5cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1870s – 1880s
MATERIALS: faux tortoiseshell
Here is a very beautiful and elaborate faux tortoiseshell Spanish style comb from the later end of the Victorian era. It has a high curved heading with five openwork panels which have been pierced to render a conventional scroll work design. The comb has eight tines and is nicely marked in typical tortoise mottling.
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. These high topped combs became fashionable in the mid 1870s due to the influence of the opera “Carmen” and remained in vogue into the next decade.
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 skilfully treated to imitate the brown and orange mottling of genuine tortoiseshell.
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