‘Red & Gold’ Beaded Wedding Stool (Bangku Kaki Kahwain)
Straits Chinese, Singapore
length: 34cm, width: 36cm, height: 20cm
Ceremonial wedding stools (bangku kaki kahwain) are among the rarest and most sought after Straits Chinese artifacts. According to Ee (2008, p. 224-5), ‘Wedding footstools are rarely seen today. This could be because very few were ever made.’ Ho Wing Meng (1994, p. 85) writing almost twenty years ago said that ‘The wedding footstools are rarely seen nowadays. They were infrequently encountered even 25 years ago [ie around 1970]…’
Made in pairs (here we have only one), they were commissioned items and as such are always unique.
This oval example, of gilt and red painted wood, probably namwood, with carved rococo-style flourishes, scalloped aprons, and four cabriole-like legs,features a superb beadwork cover. The multi-coloured rocaille beadwork is in the form of four prominent phoenixes and two butterflies amid foliage and flowers around a large central blue, pink and yellow peony bloom. Each of these elements is particularly auspicious for a Straits Chinese wedding.
The condition of this example varies. The wooden base is in a fine, robust condition. The beadwork cover however has faded, is frayed at the edges and some small sections of the beadwork have been lost. This, however, must be considered against the relative rarity of these items.
Cheah, H.F., Phoenix Rising: Narratives in Nyonya Beadwork from the Straits Settlements, NUS Press, Singapore, 2010.
A Baba Wedding, Marshall Cavendish, 2009.
et al, Peranakan Museum A-Z Guide, Asian Civilisations Museum, 2008.
Straits Chinese Beadwork & Embroidery: A Collector’s Guide, Times Books International, 1987.
Straits Chinese Furniture: A Collector’s Guide, Times Books International, 1994.
Brown & Gold: Peranakan Furniture from the late 19th Century to the mid-20th Century, Ong Poh Neo, 1994.
UK art market
Inventory no.: 1797
A Straits Chinese bride and groom, Straits Settlements, dated 1938. Note the use of footstools.