Shoes fit for the Gods go on dis­play at Italy’s Pitti Palace

Shoes fit for the Gods go on dis­play at Italy’s Pitti Palace

Muscat Daily - - FRONT PAGE -

As sandal sea­son fast ap­proaches, a new ex­hibit on an­cient footwear at a top Ital­ian mu­seum seeks to re­mind to­day's well­heeled that when it comes to fash­ion, do as the Ro­mans did.

The clas­sics are al­ways in, as ev­i­denced by the new show in Florence's Pitti Palace, which traces the hum­ble sandal's out­sized in­flu­ence in con­tem­po­rary fash­ion and film, while as­ton­ish­ing the mod­ern eye by the ele­gance of the an­cients.

At the Feet of the Gods: The art of footwear in an­cient Rome, epic film and con

tem­po­rary fash­ion fea­tures 80 works from sculp­tures and dec­o­ra­tive urns to san­dals an­cient and new, many on loan from in­ter­na­tional mu­se­ums.

The show - which prom­ises to sat­isfy the cu­rios­ity of both shoe fetishists and wear­ers of plas­tic Crocs alike - runs through April 19.

"With this show, we've tried to make the shoe, com­monly thought of as an ac­ces­sory, in­stead the pro­tag­o­nist," Fabrizio Paolucci, one of the cu­ra­tors, told AFP.

In an­cient times, shoes acted as a sort of ‘iden­tity card’ for their owner.

They could re­veal a great deal of in­for­ma­tion about the wearer - such as their sex, pro­fes­sion or eco­nomic sta­tus - even more so than to­day, when the choice of a pair of red-bot­tomed Chris­tian Louboutin stilet­tos, Nike swooshes or or­thopaedic (but now trendy) Birken­stocks is loaded with mean­ing.

The hum­ble sandal, whose pre­his­toric fore­run­ners date as far back as 10,000 years, flour­ished un­der the an­cient Greeks, whose deities were their best mod­els.

Mas­sive feet in mar­ble and bronze, the rem­nants of de­stroyed stat­ues of gods and oth­ers, are brought to­gether in the show, all adorned with ‘krepi­des’ - san­dals fas­tened via an in­tri­cate web of laces cov­er­ing the foot.

The del­i­cate footwear is also seen on pot­tery dat­ing back as far as the fifth cen­tury BC.

On one vase, Eros, the Greek god of love, helps a vir­gin change into the skin-ex­pos­ing san­dals she will wear as a bride.

On an Etr­uscan urn, a cour­te­san laces up san­dals whose nailed soles left im­pres­sions on car­pets spell­ing, "Fol­low me".

San­dals with socks?

Greek footwear paved the way cen­turies later for the ‘caliga’ worn by Ro­man sol­diers, au­then­tic ex­am­ples of which can be seen in the show, their leather still in­tact.

The low san­dals with ex­posed toes, re­in­forced by iron studs ham­mered into the soles and some­times worn with socks, were ideal footwear for Ro­man ar­mies, who of­ten marched as far as 35km per day.

They were also the ideal in­spi­ra­tion for Hollywood cos­tume de­sign­ers tasked with out­fit­ting thou­sands of ex­tras in the "sword-and-san­dals" movies of the 1950s and be­yond, from Ben Hur in 1959 and

Cleopa­tra in 1963 to Gladiator in 2000.

The ex­hi­bi­tion places side by side an­cient ob­jects with footwear from these films, in­clud­ing the brown and gold boots worn by Charl­ton He­ston in Ben Hur -a sort of an­cient Ro­man Doc Martin - or El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor's tow­er­ing gold plat­forms in Cleopa­tra.

"Footwear in film of­fers some very ac­cu­rate com­par­isons based on de­tailed study of how the shoes were cre­ated," said Lorenza Camin, an­other of the show's cu­ra­tors. "Oth­ers are more im­pre­cise."

One case in point is the 2004 film Alexan­der star­ring Colin Far­rell about the

Greek gen­eral of the same name - in which the ac­tors nev­er­the­less sport Ro­man footwear.

Glad­i­a­tors with hairy feet

Set in the sump­tu­ous rooms of the or­nate palace, the ex­hi­bi­tion's more mod­ern takes on an­cient footwear would cause Imelda Mar­cos to swoon.

Few would be re­minded of hairy-toed glad­i­a­tors when gaz­ing on the del­i­cately criss-crossed gold an­kle boots from Ital­ian brand Genny in 1994 or Emilio Pucci's thigh-high stiletto san­dals con­structed of 26 bands of leather - per­fect for a

Ro­man dom­i­na­trix.

Ro­man-in­spired cre­ations by Yves Saint Laurent, Fer­rag­amo and Richard Tyler all ap­pear, and to end the show, a ruby red Rene Caovilla sandal with a snake-like strap em­bossed with Swarovski crys­tals slith­ers up an imag­i­nary an­kle.

And in case of sore feet, the show also boasts a sec­ond-cen­tury ther­a­peu­tic foot warmer in which warm liq­uid would have been poured into a cav­ity cov­er­ing a ce­ramic foot form.

Glad­i­a­tors, sol­diers - and wear­ers of mod­ern-day stilet­tos - would be grate­ful.

With this show, we've tried to make the shoe, com­monly thought of as an ac­ces­sory, in­stead the pro­tag­o­nist Fabrizio Paolucci

(AFP pho­tos)

A sculp­ture is dis­played dur­ing the ex­hi­bi­tion ‘Worn by the Gods’ at the Fash­ion and Cos­tume Mu­seum in Palazzo Pitti in Florence on Jan­uary 30, 2020

A vis­i­tor views a sandal in ‘Worn by the Gods’ in Palazzo Pitti

An ex­hibit in the ‘Worn by the Gods’ show in Palazzo Pitti

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