A large and handsome tortoiseshell hair comb from the Victorian period
CONDITION: good vintage condition with acceptable wear
SIZE: 6 ins h x 6 ins w (15 x 15 cm) decorative part 3 ins h (7.5 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE:1850s – 1870s
This fine and large Spanish style tortoiseshell comb probably dates from the mid to later Victorian period. The ornament 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 ornament has a widely curved heading and eight long tines, all of which are in good condition. It is signed on the back of the heading with the impressed mark DEJEAN
Ornaments like this are generally know as Spanish style, a name used to describe any hair accessory with a tall upstanding heading or top. They resemble the very beautiful tortoiseshell ornaments which Spanish ladies wear with their national dress, hence the name. The ornament is placed high on the head in such a position that it can be seen from every angle. This means that the beautifully carved or decorated heading can be seen to full advantage.
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. The typical Victorian hair style of this period has the hair draped smoothly back from a central parting and coiled into a large chignon on the back of the head. Typically the high comb was inserted above the chignon so that it could be seen from all angles. There are many early and mid Victorian photographs which illustrate how the headings of these beautiful combs seem to rise like a halo from the top of the wearer’s head,
The hairstyles of the mid-Victorian period were large and impressive, with vast quantities of false hair being used to form a huge chignon. 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 chignon. For day they were made of plain horn or shell, carved, twisted or stamped into ornate designs.
Large solid tortoiseshell combs like this remained a favourite hair ornament throughout the Victorian period. Mottled tortoiseshell combs like this, without any form of added decoration, were worn throughout the 19th century. They appealed to older ladies or those in secondary mourning and continued to be worn even when the large and elaborate mid Victorian combs has begun to lose their popularity. Their appearance relied upon the lustre and markings of the material for their effect. They were considered most suitable for day wear in an era when a woman’s appearance was not considered complete without her combs.
This item is over 100 years old and therefore predates the Endangered Species legislation. If this item includes any CITES Appendix I materials documentation and certificates required by law for commercial sale, import or export, will be included with it at shipment.
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Spanish style hair comb natural tortoiseshell hair ornament