A large and handsome Spanish mantilla style hair comb in celluloid faux tortoiseshell
CONDITION: good vintage condition with expected wear
SIZE: 6 ins h x 4½ ins w (15 x 11 cm) decorative part 2½ ins h (6 cm
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1850s – 1880s
MATERIALS: celluloid faux tortoiseshell
Here is a classic faux tortoiseshell comb of the type which was worn in the mid Victorian period. The comb has a high curved heading and is fashioned out of one large solid piece of the mid brown mottled form of faux tortoiseshell. The material is very nicely marked and polished. The “tortoise” type patterning is very pronounced, with well defined mottling of lighter semi transparent patches on a dark opaque ground.
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 or mottled pattern to be admired.
The collage picture shows a selection of illustrations taken from contemporary sources which depict similar ornaments and the classic Victorian hair styles with which they were worn.
This handsome ornament probably dates from the latter part of the Victorian era when these large combs were in fashion. High topped combs like this were extremely popular and can be seen in many of the mid Victorian daguerreotype portraits. In such illustrations the hair is often drawn smoothly back from a center parting and coiled into a large chignon on the back of the head. The comb is placed atop the chignon in such a way that it can clearly be seen from the front, rising up like an aureole from the crown of the head.
The collage picture shows a selection of illustrations taken from contemporary sources which depict similar ornaments and the hair styles with which they were worn.
Mottled tortoiseshell and faux tortoiseshell combs like this, without any form of added decoration, were worn throughout the 19th century. They appealed to older ladies or those in secondary mourning and continued to be worn even when the large and elaborate mid Victorian combs has begun to lose their popularity. Their appearance relied upon the luster and markings of the material for their effect. They were considered most suitable for day wear in an era when a woman’s appearance was not considered complete without her combs.
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Faux tortoiseshell hair comb Spanish mantilla hair accessory