A fine Regency or late Georgian hair comb in pressed tortoiseshell
CONDITION: good vintage condition with expected wear
SIZE: 6¼ ins h x 6 ins w (15.5 x 15 cm) decorative part 3 ins h (7.5 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1820s -1830s
Here is a very beautiful early Victorian comb in natural pressed tortoiseshell. High mantilla style combs such as this were at the height of their popularity during the late 1820s and early 1830s. However their height had diminished to more modest proportions by the accession of Victoria,
The comb is fashioned out of one large solid piece of the mid brown mottled form of 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. The heading has a rectangular shape with a serrated upper border. The heading is impressed with a classic design such as is found on many combs of this period. It is inlaid with a delicate silver pique pattern.
This very beautiful example has nine long slender tines. These tines are all nicely pointed, not broken or chipped at the bottom as in many shell combs.
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.
Pressed combs are most often found in steer horn because of its thermoplastic qualities. However natural tortoiseshell which has similar qualities, could also be treated in this manner to obtain elaborate decorative effects. Combs known as “pressed” were manufactured by pressing and squeezing the material between heated iron plates until it softened. Various types of presses were used, according to the desired shape of the finished comb. Heating an d pressing of the horn on prepared forms which imitated the contours of the human head produced curved combs. Many of these pressed combs have an elaborate design impressed into the surface which appears to be hand carved but was, in fact, produced by this mechanical process. The combs were subsequently hand finished and polished. Combined with techniques such as dying and piercing, many of these pressed combs were both elaborate and beautiful.
The collage photograph shows illustrations taken from contemporary sources and depicts similar ornaments and how they were placed in the hair styles of the day.
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Regency period hair comb pressed tortoiseshell hair accessory
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