From the Vault: Mules from Malaaca

Take a peek into our 14,000+ collection with our blog series, From the Vault! Every other week, we're sharing interesting stories about one of our artefacts.

What is the provenance of this pair? When did they enter the BSM collection?

This pair of mules was acquired by the museum from Christie’s in London in 1998. They had been consigned to Christie’s by Gisela Horsnell.

Are there any features that distinguish this pair from other mules from the same period and geographical location?

The Peranakan Chinese community in Malaysia was established in the 19th century when immigrants from Southern China moved to the Selat Melaka (Strait of Malacca) region. One Han Chinese cultural tradition integrated into this new community was the importance placed on shoes made by wives and daughters, especially those made for marriage. Young brides-to-be created elegant mules with elaborately beaded and embroidered uppers for their prospective grooms and families to assess. Brides also often made the mules that they wore at their weddings. Many of these mules were long kept as treasured family heirlooms.

Can you elaborate more on the materials used to make this pair?

This pair features an upper made using silver-coloured metallic thread brocade and green velvet. The vamp is embellished with the Buddhist swastika in purple and green while the throat line is decorated with embroidered beetles and spiders. Small gold sequins are also used. The mules came with cushioned interior supports for storage and the original cloth in which they were wrapped.

Who would have worn this pair and where or for what occasion?

A bride would have worn this pair at her wedding and most likely would have made them as well.

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