Beaded Slipper

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Object Name: 
Beaded Slipper
Place Made: 
Accession Number: 
95.6.1 A
Dimensions: 
Overall H: 4 cm, W: 5.9 cm, L: 16.3 cm
Location: 
Not on Display
Date: 
1875-1899
Web Description: 
The binding of feet was a unique cultural phenomenon practiced by women in China. It probably began during the latter part of the Tang dynasty, which ended in 906, or just before the Song dynasty around 950, and it spread from the upper classes to all levels of society. The ideal shape for a bound foot was the lotus, with an optimal length of three inches. According to tradition, girls had their feet bound between the ages of five and seven. This excruciating process curled four toes inward and often broke the arches, greatly limiting mobility for life. The practice was perpetuated by the cultural belief that tiny feet were an important aspect of physical beauty and that, without bound feet, a woman was “unmarriageable.” Foot binding continued until modern times, when it began to be viewed by younger generations as a passé custom. It was outlawed in 1911, following the fall of the Qing dynasty. Shoes specially made for bound feet were also considered to be a source of beauty. There were variations in style, form, and decoration among the provinces and even among the villages. They included everyday shoes, special wedding shoes (usually red), and fancy shoes. The decoration of fancy shoes ranged from extensive embroidery to the inclusion of sequins and beads. The pair shown here are completely covered with glass beads, including the bottoms, so they were probably intended for decoration or perhaps for burial. The flower depicted is a lotus blossom, a traditional symbol of purity to Buddhists and Taoists. However, the lotus was also associated with fertility, making it an appropriate motif for an item that was thought to heighten a woman’s beauty.
Department: 
Provenance: 
Oriental Art & Antiques, Former Collection
Category: 
Color: 
Technique: 
Primary Description: 
Beaded Slipper. Multi-colored glass, leather, linen; beaded embroidery. One of a pair of beaded slippers fabricated of layers of brown, natural, and cream linen, with a brown leather lining. The beaded decoration covering the entire exterior, including the bottom of the sole, is embroidered onto a natural beige linen ground. The opening of the shoe is framed by a band dominated by a zigzag pattern of black opaque seed beads on a white and pink ground. The surface of the shoe is dominated by lotus blossoms with black stems on a ground of green transparent seed beads.
Venue(s)
Corning Museum of Glass
For 30,000 years, mankind has crafted beads from natural materials. With the discovery of glassmaking in the second millennium B.C., glass began to be used for this same purpose. Glass beads are universal. They have been produced throughout the 35 centuries of glass manufacturing, and by nearly every culture in the world. The glass beads and beaded objects on view in this exhibition are arranged thematically, comparing the manner in which diverse cultures have utilized beads, frequently for the same purposes, but sometimes for unique reasons. These themes explore how glass beads adorn the body and our possessions; how they convey messages about power and wealth, and identify the stages of human life; how they serve ritual purposes, as well as decorate clothing and objects used in rituals; and how they have been employed across the centuries as a means of exchange, both commercial and cultural. Through the centuries, beads have been made using a variety of processes. Understanding how beads were made has allowed scholars to follow the transmission of beads and beadmaking techniques across the globe. Across time and around the world, glass beads have become a common element of mankind. Through their manufacture and function, they are one of the strings that bind humanity together. “Life on a String” celebrates this common bond while also revealing the distinctiveness of different societies through their use of glass beads to celebrate their unique cultural heritage.
19th Century Beaded Work From China
Venue(s)
Michelle Liao Collection 1995-12-02 through 1995-12-15
 
Glass Beads: Selections from The Corning Museum of Glass (2013) illustrated, pp. 48-49, no. 31; BIB# 134720