A very large and handsome Spanish mantilla comb in celluloid faux tortoiseshell
CONDITION: good vintage condition with expected wear
SIZE: 9¼ ins h x 5½ ins w (24 x 14 cm) decorative part 5 ins h (13 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1910s – 1920s
MATERIALS: celluloid faux tortoiseshell
Here is a very large and handsome Spanish style hair comb from the Art Deco period made in celluloid faux tortoiseshell. It has a high curved heading with three open work panels, each of which contains radiating lines which arise from the base of the heading.
Such fan shaped and frequently 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.
The collage photograph shows some examples of similar hair accessories taken from contemporary illustrative sources, and reveals the manner and hair styles in which they were worn.
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. Such combs are worn placed high on the head in order to allow the beauty of their ornamental cresting to be admired.
By the late 19th century genuine tortoiseshell had become very expensive. Therefore most of the hair ornaments which appear to be made of shell are, in fact, made from synthetics. These faux tortoise combs can be very pretty and effective since it is unusual to find two with exactly the same markings. Some of them are very convincing and are skilfully treated to imitate the random brown and orange mottling of genuine tortoiseshell. However, examined with a loupe, genuine shell has a three dimensional quality which cannot be duplicated.
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Large Art Deco hair comb celluloid faux tortoiseshell Spanish style headpiece