An unusual faux tortoiseshell leaf design hair comb from the Art Deco period
CONDITION: good vintage condition with expected wear
SIZE: 5 ins h x 3 ins w (13 x 7.5 cm) decorative part 3½ ins h (9 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1890s – 1900s
MATERIALS: celluloid faux tortoiseshell
Here is a pretty faux tortoiseshell hair comb from the turn of the century period which displays some of the watered down elements of Art Nouveau. This is apparent in the use of naturalistic leaf designs and the asymmetrical tendency by which they incline to the left.
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 or faux tortoiseshell effects with a swirling asymmetric design suggestive of organic forms.
The collage picture shows a selection of illustrations from contemporary sources with similar hair accessories 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.
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Art Deco faux tortoiseshell hair comb leaf design hair accessory
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