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Antique Chinese Betrothal Baskets

Often referred to as wedding basket by foreigners’ betrothal baskets is more accurate as they are traditionally used during the betrothal or engagement.  The family of the groom fills the basket with dowry gifts for the bride’s family. The gifts traditionally come in even numbers. Food, sewing materials, a nightgown, and red sheets for the wedding night are sometimes included. Red is the symbol of prosperity, joy, and love. It is the main color used in Chinese weddings.

The baskets are commonly hand-made from thin strips of split bamboo. The strips are dyed red.   Ours, which is located in the studio to the right of the fireplace features exquisite weaving, with a double layer and an intricate design on top of the lid. Sometimes the weaver would sign their name on the wide bottom strips.  The one at Bonnet House is unsigned.  It dates from the early 1900s.

According to Things Chinese: Antiques, Crafts, Collectables by Ronald G. Knapp they “… usually come in pairs so that they can be carried on the ends of a balanced shoulder pole. In some areas of China today, rather than purchasing a set, one has the option of renting one from a wedding cake shop.”

There is a strong possibility Mr. Bartlett purchased this basket on his wedding trip to China with his second wife, Helen Birch Bartlett. They were married in 1919.

The eagle in the Drawing room was also made in China. It was purchased by Evelyn Fortune Bartlett from Phyllis Cramer who owned the Kampong gallery in Palm Beach. Mrs. Cramer told Mrs. Bartlett that the eagle is a Chinese house decoration. The small animals on the gray tables around the courtyard were also purchased from the Kampong gallery. The store was located at 10 Via Parigi, an arcade opposite the Everglades Club. It was advertised as “a shop like a museum.”




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