Pretty Art Deco hair comb in synthetic tortoiseshell
CONDITION: good vintage condition with expected wear
SIZE: 5½ ins h x 2½ ins w (14 x 6 cm) decorative part 3 ins h (7.5 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1910s – 1920s
MATERIALS: celluloid faux tortoiseshell
Here is a classic Art Deco hair comb made in imitation tortoiseshell in the iconic design of an unfurled fan shape. In this design lines or blades radiate out from the base of the heading. This 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 about such designs is that the sun rays emerged 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!
The collage picture shows similar hair ornaments taken from contemporary illustrative sources and the hair styles with 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.
Such frequently large and fan shaped Spanish style 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.
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A handsome Art Deco imitation faux tortoiseshell hair comb
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