Beadwork tablecloth


Penang, early 20th century
Glass beads, cotton, 126 x 118 cm
2006-01927, Restoration sponsored by BNP Paribas Foundation and BNP Paribas Singapore Branch

Over a million glass beads make up this tablecloth, the largest known example of Peranakan beadwork. It was probably used on a round table because of the circular arrangement of motifs in the centre. The design shows many European and South American birds and flowers, with only a few Asian species. Parrots and macaws stand on branches with butterflies and dragonflies hovering nearby. The tropical hibiscus and pineapple can be seen, along with the many European flowers.

The combination of pink and yellow on a turquoise ground is characteristic of Penang Peranakan beadwork. During the traditional Peranakan wedding, the family would decorate the table with prized pieces of silver and porcelain, as well as gifts and food. Although the beads used are from Europe, this cloth could have been commissioned from professional beadworkers in the region or in China.