6645

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Fine Pair of Straits Chinese Flower Girl’s Wedding Slippers

Peranakan or Straits Chinese, Singapore or Malacca, Malaysia
late 19th-early 20th century

length: 15cm

Sold

Provenance

UK art market

This tiny pair of couched velvet shoes would have been for a little Straits Chinese flower girl to wear during her role in a traditional Straits Chinese wedding.

They are in near-pristine, museum-quality condition.

They are a fully-enclosed slipper with side flaps as well. This style seems to have been in vogue at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the twentieth century in the Straits Settlements and was worn by both brides and flower girls. Similar examples are illustrated in Wee (2009, p. 41), and Cheah (2017, p. 22, 56).

The uppers comprise green velvet with blue trim, with decoration in high relief entirely with gold and silver metallic thread, and metal sequins. The gold thread was sewn over little cardboard cutout shapes to give the effect of high relief. This work was known as sulam benang mas (Cheah, 2017, p. 16). The motifs used are stylised sprays of chrysanthemum blooms and foliage. The work is very similar to the couching done by the local Malays and possibly was done by a Malay embroiderer for a wealthy Straits Chinese client.

The soles are lined with thick brown leather which show little wear.

Overall, this is an exceptional and exceptionally well-preserved museum-quality pair of Straits Chinese wedding slippers, that is unusual for their small size.

The sole of one of the shoes has faint writing in ink that is largely illegible but which appears to include the date of 1913 which is most likely when the slippers were collected.

 

A small Straits girl, dressed for a wedding, and wearing related slippers.

References

Cheah, H.F., Phoenix Rising: Narratives in Nyonya Beadwork from the Straits Settlements, NUS Press, Singapore, 2010.

Cheah, H.F., Nyonya Needlework: Embroidery and Beadwork in the Peranakan World, Asian Civilisations Museum, 2017.

Ho, W.M., Straits Chinese Beadwork & Embroidery: A Collector’s Guide, Times Books International, 1987.

Khoo, J.E., The Straits Chinese: A Cultural History, The Pepin Press, 1996.

Wee, P., A Peranakan Legacy: The Heritage of the Straits Chinese, Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2009.

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