‘Red & Gold’ Straits Chinese Wedding Dresser Mirror
Singapore or Malaysia
height: 71cm, width: 39cm, depth: 25.5cm
This mirror, on a base with three carved drawers, is decorated with elaborate gilded carvings of foliage and flowers including prunus or plum blossom. The sides of the base and mirror also are similarly carved and gilded. The ensemble most probably is made of Namwood.
The mirror glass itself is surmounted by a finely carved and openwork floral scroll.
‘Red and gold’ furniture was commissioned from artisans in southern China and from local Chinese carvers in the Straits settlements and the East Indies by wealthy
Peranakan Chinese merchants in the Straits Settlements of Singapore, Malacca and Penang, and Java and Sumatra in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Such elaborate mirrors were intended to sit atop similarly elaborate dressers as part of the bedroom furnishings of a newly married Straits Chinese bride and groom.
Peranakan Chinese of Southeast Asia formed a distinct community from other local Chinese. Their families had been in Southeast Asia for at least several generations and often they were the product of intermarriage between local Chinese and the indigenous population. Their customs were a curious blend of English, indigenous and Chinese customs. Weddings were very important. For these, furniture for the bridal chamber such as this dresser mirror was commissioned.
See Khoo (1996, p. 156) and Ho (1994) for examples of related mirrors.
This dresser mirror was acquired in the UK. Most probably it has been in the UK since the colonial era.
The mirror dismantles to some extent, making shipping easier. There are no losses to the carving of the mirror as viewed from the front. A small side moulding has been lost from the lower back however, as well as another small section of detail, also from the back. These losses are very minor and again, do not affect the mirror’s appearance from the front or sides. Otherwise the mirror is in fine condition and very decorative.
Ho, W.M., Straits Chinese Furniture: A Collector’s Guide, Times Books International, 1994.
The Straits Chinese: A Cultural History, Pepin Press, 1996.
UK art market
Inventory no.: 3615