A large and handsome Art Deco hair comb in dark amber celluloid overlay
CONDITION: good vintage condition with expected wear
SIZE: 7½ ins h x 8 ins w (18 x 20 cm) decorative part 4½ ins (11 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1910s – 1920s
Here we have a large and handsome version of a classic Art Deco hair comb made in the “sunray” style. The ground material is amber coloured celluloid with an interesting two toned effect.
This fancy effect was laminate celluloid (also known as celluloid overlay) which produced a two tone result by layering two pieces of collared celluloid together. Then the design was carved or incised to expose the contrasting colors. In this case, for example, a shell of pale translucent amber has been overlaid by an upper coat of warm brown, producing an interesting topography around the edges of the design. The tines are in black celluloid on a piece which has been separately applied by heat welding.
The collage picture includes examples taken from contemporary sources and shows similar items and the fashionable hair dressing of the day.
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 motif of radiating lines which appears in the centre of the heading of this comb was an archetypal Art Deco one, and appears in many forms. Sometimes it is abstracted to a series of lines or mere “spokes” which radiate out from the base of the heading. This is a very typical motif in Art Deco combs, and in the art of the period. Some people interpret the spokes as representing the wheel, and thus symbolising the fascination with speed and machinery. Others believe that the rays represent the sun, and indicate the popular fetish for sun bathing and outdoor exercise. Still others see them as representing the palm leaf, derived from the Egyptian Revival influence which was popular in the 1920s. Whatever the explanation these Deco combs are extremely attractive and very typical of their period.
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