A pretty French ivory Art Deco style hair comb with hand painted decoration
CONDITION: good vintage condition with expected wear
SIZE: 5½ ins h x 5 ins w (14 x 13 cm) decorative part 3 ins h (7.5 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1910s – 20s
MATERIALS: celluloid, paint
This handsome Art Deco period hair comb is made from an early celluloid substance, popularly known as French ivory, because it was invented to substitute for the much more expensive elephant ivory which was becoming rare and expensive by the early 20th century. It contains no materials from an endangered species.
This pretty Spanish style hair accessory takes the traditional form of the unfurled fan in which a series of panels or blades arise from the base of the heading, resembling the sticks of the fan. These have been hand painted in a sort of red and green splatter effect with a hand painted design.
The collage picture includes examples taken from contemporary coloured postcards and shows similar items worn by attractive female sitters.
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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