A large and handsome green celluloid Spanish style hair comb from the Art Deco period
CONDITION: good vintage condition with expected wear
SIZE: 7 ins h x 6 ins w (18 x 15 cm) decorative part 3 ins h (7.5 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1910s – 20s
Here is a large and attractive Spanish style hair comb dating from the Art Deco period. It is made in green celluloid with an asymmetric leaf design which meanders across the heading.
It has been manufactured in laminate celluloid (also known as celluloid overlay) which produced a two tone effect by layering two pieces of coloured celluloid together. Then the design was carved or incised to expose the contrasting colours. In this case for example a translucent shell has been overlaid by an upper coat of glossy green, producing an interesting topography around the edges of the design and on the tips of the tines.
The collage picture includes examples taken from contemporary coloured postcards 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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