Tortoiseshell Combs

Comb, American, 19th century, Tortoise shell, carved, 14.7 x 14.9 x 5.4 cm (5 13/16 x 5 7/8 x 2 1/8 in.), Gift of Mrs. Edward Jackson Holmes, 54.1366.

A tortoiseshell comb rests on a mount of 4-ply rag board that has been arched to match the shape of the comb. The arched top board is adhered to a straight board to hold its shape. The comb is blocked in place with Volara foam pads to prevent slipping. The comb may be lifted straight up and off the mount.

A design sketch for the construction of comb mounts.


 

from left: Comb, American, 19th century, Tortoise shell, carved, 14.7 x 14.9 x 5.4 cm (5 13/16 x 5 7/8 x 2 1/8 in.), Gift of Mrs. Edward Jackson Holmes, 54.1366; Comb, French, 19th century, Tortoiseshell carving, 16.4 x 17 x 5.6 cm (6 7/16 x 6 11/16 x 2 3/16 in.), Gift of Mrs. Henry K. Metcalf, 49.513.

Mounts were occasionally designed to nest together, to maximize available storage space. 

Metal Combs

from top: Comb, Western European, 19th century, Gilded metal, glass pearls and green paste stones, 10.4 x 16.9 x 3.4 cm (4 1/8 x 6 5/8 x 1 5/16 in.), The Elizabeth Day McCormick Collection, 43.2239; Comb, Western European, 19th century, Gilded metal, glass, 9.3 x 17.4 x 4.3 cm (3 11/16 x 6 7/8 x 1 11/16 in.), The Elizabeth Day McCormick Collection, 43.2236; Comb, Western European, 19th century, Ruby-colored paste stones, synthetic pearls, and gold-colored metal, 9.6 x 16.7 x 4.2 cm (3 3/4 x 6 9/16 x 1 5/8 in.), The Elizabeth Day McCormick Collection, 43.2234; Comb, Western European, 19th century, Amethyst-colored stones, ivory carved and painted, white paste stones, and gold-colored metal, 10.6 x 15.5 x 3.7 cm (4 3/16 x 6 1/8 x 1 7/16 in.), The Elizabeth Day McCormick Collection, 43.2235.

Metal combs are grouped and supported facing upward so they can be examined without being handled. The combs are held in place by sliding their tines into loops of cotton twill tape.

The arched foam supports are padded with polyester batting for a custom, cushioned fit, then covered with Tyvek to prevent snagging or scratching the combs.

from top: Comb, Western European, 19th century, Gilded metal, glass pearls and green paste stones, 10.4 x 16.9 x 3.4 cm (4 1/8 x 6 5/8 x 1 5/16 in.), The Elizabeth Day McCormick Collection, 43.2239; Comb, Western European, 19th century, Gilded metal, glass, 9.3 x 17.4 x 4.3 cm (3 11/16 x 6 7/8 x 1 11/16 in.), The Elizabeth Day McCormick Collection, 43.2236; Comb, Western European, 19th century, Ruby-colored paste stones, synthetic pearls, and gold-colored metal, 9.6 x 16.7 x 4.2 cm (3 3/4 x 6 9/16 x 1 5/8 in.), The Elizabeth Day McCormick Collection, 43.2234; Comb, Western European, 19th century, Amethyst-colored stones, ivory carved and painted, white paste stones, and gold-colored metal, 10.6 x 15.5 x 3.7 cm (4 3/16 x 6 1/8 x 1 7/16 in.), The Elizabeth Day McCormick Collection, 43.2235.

The supports are attached to a lifting board, and the board is fitted into a box to serve as a handling device and to contain loose parts.