6426

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Unusual Straits Chinese (Baba-Nonya) Embroidered & Couched Wedding Slippers

Straits Chinese (Baba-Nonya) communities, Straits Settlements, Malaysia or Singapore
early 20th century

lengths: 23cm

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Provenance

UK art market

This pair of slippers most probably was intended for a groom, on account of their larger size. Such slippers were worn as part of the wedding costume by brides and grooms from the Straits and related communities of localised Chinese known as the peranakan or the babas and nonyas. These communities blended their (largely Hokkien) Chinese cultural affectations with those of the local Malay communities.

It is possible too that these were made to be worn by a Malay – the embroidery and couching is noticeably Malay in style.

The slippers here are embroidered in Malay-style padded couching with metallic thread with flower motifs and birds that are highly stylised.  The pair  is unusual in that each of the toe caps has thin central panel decorated with four bees in relief and sewn with metallic and orange silk threads

The soles are lined with thick red-brown leather, with only the merest suggestion of a heel, and the interiors are lined with red leather and cotton along the sides.

The pair are in a stable condition with some minor losses and fraying.

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.

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