Clogs as luxurious items of the Armenian dowry

Clogs as luxurious items of the Armenian dowry

The clogs that once belonged to an Armenian woman found their permanent place in 2013 in the collection of the British Museum ( See, clog (qabqāb), 19th century, Aleppo, wood, textile, metal, repoussé, the British Museum, 2013,6033.2.a-b). 

As part of a collection of ethnographic artifacts given by Zeina Klink-Hoppe in September 2013, artifacts were collected in Lebanon and Syria between 1995 and 2005. These clogs were given to Zeina Klink-Hoppe by an Armenian lady whose family settled in Aleppo after the Armenian Genocide of 1915. The clogs had originally belonged to the lady’s grandmother, who had received them as part of her wedding trousseau or dowry.

Each clog or qabqāb/qabqab is made from one piece of wood covered with purple velvet and decorated with floral open-work and repoussé low-content silver metal plaques. Each clog has a leather strap to hold the foot, also covered in purple velvet, with a floral open-work and repoussé metal strip with a central undecorated oval medallion on top. Round bells are attached to the sides and front of each clog.

Another pair of the splendid mother of pearl and wood clogs, dated back to the 18th-19th centuries, have been sold in Sotheby’s. Comprising two tall wooden stilts set with triangular mother of pearl plaques in a geometric design with wire outlines, leather and velvet straps with silver-thread decoration bear the Armenian initials ‘YML’, 

The high stilts of such clogs would have proved useful in protecting the bathers’ feet as they walked on the heated floors of the bathhouse. Used exclusively by women, surviving shoes are frequently decorated in various manners. The wearer’s status determined the plates’ height and the embellishments’ quality. The height varied from 5 centimeters (2.0 in) to 30 centimeters. 

Interestingly, one of the paintings from Sotheby’s identified as “Ottoman Armenian School, Ladies in the Hammam,” inscribed and dated (1741), represents an Oriental bath scene with identical clogs in the foreground.  

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