A beautiful carved and stained Art Nouveau hair comb with organic design
CONDITION: good vintage condition
SIZE: 4 ins h x 3½ ins w (10 x 8 cm) decorative part 2 ins h (5 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1895-1910s
MATERIALS: steer horn
Here is a very beautiful hand carved Art Nouveau comb made from steer horn. The material has been clarified, carved into a wonderful openwork design suggestive of flowers and foliage, and then hand tinted with greens and browns.
In the Art Nouveau period horn was the preferred material of the famous French jewellers such as Rene Lalique and Lucien Gaillard. In the case of such ornaments the material was usually first clarified to render it semi transparent. It could then be dyed and tinted a range of subtle colours. Some of the most beautiful horn Art Nouveau combs are those in which the material has been carved to represent themes from nature, such as insects, flowers and leaves.
Horn was one of the most popular materials for hair combs throughout the 19th and into the early 20th centuries. The material was cheap, easily available, and could be easily treated to obtain a number of decorative effects. It could be dyed a range of colours. Horn could also be clarified so as to be almost translucent. This gives it the attractive colour of honey, and is a feature of many combs of the period. It could also be carved, pierced, stamped and when heated, twisted into ornamental shapes in a plastic manner. Horn is an extremely flexible material, and when heated it can be bent, pierced and stretched into all manner of forms, almost like plastic.
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