A pretty fan shaped faux tortoiseshell hair comb from the Art Deco period
CONDITION: good vintage condition with expected wear
SIZE: 5 ins h x 5 ins w (13 x 13 cm) decorative part 2½ ins h (6 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1920s – 1930s
MATERIALS: faux tortoiseshell
Here is a very attractive Art Deco period hair comb made from celluloid faux tortoiseshell. It is formed in the iconic fan shape design, in which lines or blades radiate out from the base of the heading. Here the blade like elements are separated by scrollwork motifs.
The heading design is typical of many combs of the period, with radiating lines or panels resembling sunrays, or perhaps the spokes of a wheel. One theory is that the idea of sun rays comes from the popular vogue for sunbathing which began at this time. Previously ladies had shunned the idea of sunbathing. Another theory is that the spoke like designs reflected the wheel, and the obsession with speed and technology. This was the age of the car and the plane after all!
These fan shaped and sometimes large Spanish combs became extremely fashionable in Britain and America during the early 20th century. They were worn in a characteristic manner, being placed in the side or back of the hairdressing at an acute angle, and in such a way that the tall heading stood up proud. This enabled the often beautiful openwork decoration or the decorative effect which had been applied to the material, to be viewed from all angles, and for the details to be seen effectively outlined against the light.
Hair accessories like this which have a high upstanding top or heading are generally known as Spanish or mantilla combs because of their resemblance to the beautiful ornaments worn by Spanish ladies with their native dress. The comb is placed to that the beautiful and intricate heading can be seen from all angles, allowing its fancy decoration to be appreciated. The final illustration shows a selection of similar ornaments taken from contemporary sources.