A handsome Spanish mantilla style faux tortoiseshell hair comb from the Victorian period.
CONDITION: good vintage condition with expected wear
SIZE: 4¼ ins h x 3½ ins w (10.5 x 9 cm) decorative part 2 ins h (5 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1880s - 1900
Here is an attractive high topped Victorian Spanish style hair comb with a complex pierced design. This handsome ornament is made in celluloid faux tortoiseshell with a classic leaf and scroll motif.
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 collage picture includes similar examples taken from contemporary Victorian photographic sources and shows the fashionable hair dressing of the day.
High topped combs like this were extremely popular in the later Victorian era during the 1870s and 1880s. This was due to the debut of the opera Carmen, which promoted a fashion for Spanish style combs with extremely tall headings. Such combs were produced in a variety of materials from tortoiseshell and silver for the higher end of the market down to horn, celluloid and plated metals for the more popular end.
Mid Victorian hair combs and tiaras might be beautifully carved or wrought into fancy shapes like the example here. One of the most important characteristics of celluloid faux tortoiseshell its ability to be melded into various forms. In comb making this means that various decorative elements intended to ornament the headings could be fused in position without apparent joins, giving the appearance of having been hand carved from one large piece. Its thermoplastic properties mean that material may be pressed or shaped to a basic shape in a mould. It can then be further embellished by other decorative treatments. This is how such elaborate designs were formed.
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