A handsome Spanish mantilla style hair comb with pierced openwork design
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: 1870s – 1880s
MATERIALS: steer horn
Here we have a very handsome hair comb which is carved out of natural horn that has been dyed a dark opaque brown. The heading has a wedge shaped curve with openwork piercings set in horizontal rows.
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 were very fashionable between 1870s and 1880s in Victorian Britain. They were worn placed high on the head in order to allow the beauty of their ornamental cresting to be admired.
The hairstyles of the mid-Victorian period were large and impressive, with vast quantities of false hair being used to form a huge chignon or, for the evening, trailing ringlets... Therefore the ornaments which were used to adorn them were often equally large and impressive. Large and handsome combs would have been used by a fashionable Victorian lady to adorn the back of the hair, probably being placed above a large chignon. For day they were made of plain horn or tortoiseshell, carved or twisted into ornate designs. For evening, no ornament could be too large or too elaborate.
Horn was one of the most popular materials for hair combs in the 19th century, not only because the material was cheap, but also because it could be easily treated to obtain a number of decorative effects. It could be dyed a range of colours and was most often dyed a deep shade of honey or amber. It could also be carved, pierced, stamped and when heated, twisted into ornamental shapes in a plastic manner. Horn is an extremely flexible material, and when heated it can be bent, pierced and stretched into all manner of forms, almost like plastic.
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Spanish style hair comb pierced steer horn hair ornament