An attractive amber celluloid hair comb with Art Nouveau styling
CONDITION: good vintage condition with expected wear
SIZE: 6 ins h x 4½ ins w (15 x 11 cm); decorative part 3 ins h (7.5 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1890s – 1900s
Here is a very beautiful amber coloured translucent Spanish style hair comb dating from the Art Nouveau period which straddled the turn of the 20th century. The ornament has an attractive asymmetric design in a combination of leaf shapes and scroll work which is typical of Art Nouveau in its more popular manifestation.
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.
The first Art Nouveau ornaments were hand made and carved from clarified horn. These were very expensive and beyond the means of working people. They were quickly followed by mass produced versions made in celluloid for the popular market. These cheaper versions reproduced the typical motifs of the genre, but were produced by machine. Typically they were made in translucent amber and faux tortoiseshell effects with a swirling asymmetric design suggestive of organic forms.
Such 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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Art Nouveau hair comb amber asymmetric style hair accessory