5928

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Unusually Tall Ottoman Woman’s Mother-of-Pearl Inlaid Wooden Stilted Clogs (Qabqab)

Ottoman Turkey
19th or early 20th century

height to top of toe strap: 30cm, lengths: 22.8cm, widths: 18cm

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Provenance

UK art market

This pair of woman’s clogs (qabqab or nalin) is most probably from Ottoman Turkey or possibly from elsewhere in the Ottoman empire. They are very high – in fact they are among the tallest examples of this type of footwear that we have seen.

Each comprises two high platforms which flare to be quite wide towards the ground, a sole, and the original raised upper metallic strap. (The undersides of the straps have been reinforced relatively recently with what seems to be a vinyl material to protect and better support the straps.)

Each is carved from wood (possibly olive wood) and inset with numerous mother-of-pearl slithers arrayed in geometric patterns along with silver or pewter wire inlay. This decoration is across all exposed wooden surfaces. It is quite profuse (compare, for example with a lower pair in the British Museum – see the image below.)

Such clogs were designed for a wealthy woman so that when worn she would be elevated above a wet and dirty floor. Walking, however, required the assistance of an attendant, and the higher the clog, then the more attendants who would be needed, so particularly high clogs – such as those here, which must be among the highest available – became status symbols. Their Arabic name –qabqab – derives from the sound they made when they were being used.

The pair here is in very good condition. There are no losses to the mother-of-pearl inlay. As mentioned, the toe straps have later reinforcements.

A pair of smaller and less elaborate qabqab displayed in the British Museum.

References

Koc, A., et al, Istanbul: The City and the Sultan, Nieuwe Kerk, 2007.

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