A large and handsome Spanish mantilla style hair comb in celluloid faux tortoiseshell
CONDITION: good vintage condition with expected wear
SIZE: 4½ ins h x 4½ ins w (11 x 11 cm) decorative part 2 ins h (5 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1910s – 1920s
MATERIALS: celluloid, rhinestones
Here is a classic faux tortoiseshell comb of the type which was worn in the mid Victorian period. The comb has a high wedge shaped 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 in the later Victorian era during the 1870s and 1880s. This was due to the debut of the opera Carmen, which promoted a fashion for Spanish style combs with extremely tall headings.
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 lustre 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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Victorian faux tortoiseshell hair comb Spanish mantilla style hair ornament