A large and attractive Art Deco hair comb in French ivory Spanish style
CONDITION: good vintage condition with expected wear to pique for age
SIZE: 6 ins h x 6½ ins w decorative part 3½ ins h (9 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1910s – 1920s
MATERIALS: French ivory
Here is an interesting Spanish style comb of the Art Deco period made from a substance popularly called “French ivory”. This was a synthetic substance intended to substitute for genuine elephant bone, and contains no material from an endangered species.
The design of the fan shaped heading is a traditional one which resembles the stick of an unfurled fan.
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 photographic sources of the early 20th century.
The motif of radiating blades or panels 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 or panels 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 fan shaped Deco combs are extremely attractive and very typical of their period.
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