A very large Spanish mantilla comb in celluloid faux tortoiseshell
CONDITION: good vintage condition
SIZE: 11 ins h x 6½ ins w (28 x 17 cm) decorative part 8 ins h (20 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1910s – 1920s
Here is a large and impressive Spanish mantilla comb in celluloid faux tortoiseshell which probably dates from the Art Deco period. The comb has a classic wedge shaped profile made in the popular scroll design.
This type of ornament is often known as Spanish or mantilla comb because it resembles 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 early 20th century sources of Spanish ladies and depicts similar ornaments, showing how they were placed in the hair styles of the day.
The term 'Spanish mantilla combs' is often used as a kind of umbrella category for any decorative hair comb with a high upstanding cresting that rises up proud from the top of the head when the comb is placed in position.
However the true Spanish comb or peineta is an ornament worn in Spain and other Spanish speaking countries for a very high ornamental comb which is typically draped with a lace veil. The Peineta is particularly associated with the region of southern Spain known as Andalusia.
In the past such veils were worn when attending church, and others formal events. Although the use of these high combs and mantilla veils has declined in Spain, they are still used on formal occasions. Smaller versions of the high topped comb are also popular with Flamenco dancers and for weddings. The high combs with which we are familiar were adopted at the Spanish court and this led to their being regarded as part of traditional Spanish costume.
The use of the peineta declined somewhat in its native Spain during the 20th century. However the growth of the Spanish tourist industry in the mid 20th century led to a new interest in Spanish costume, music and dance. Large combs are now popular souvenirs with tourists. They are also worn for Spanish dance and on festive occasions such as fiestas.
In the past such combs were hand wrought from metal, horn or tortoiseshell. Nowadays they are mass produced and are usually made in some synthetic material which does not need to be “tortoiseshell” coloured.
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