Footwear that tell tales of the wearer and their greatness, go on display at Italy's Pitti Palace - GulfToday

Footwear that tell tales of the wearers and their greatness go on display at Italy's Pitti Palace


Sandals are displayed during the exhibition "Worn by the Gods" at the Fashion and Costume Museum.

It’s a very common thing among most people to judge a person by the footwear they are wearing.

But little do we know that some of the great people of the past didn’t think very differently regarding the same.

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Ancient footwear, especially some worn by greats of fashion and the world of cinema, carry so many stories behind them.

 The classics are always in, as evidenced by the new show in Florence's Pitti Palace.

An Italian museum took the opportunity to put on display a series of different styles of sandals, boots, and footwear worn by eminent personalities of the past, that have become almost a symbol of association with their characters.

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 with the elegance of the ancients.

"At the Feet of the Gods: The art of footwear in ancient Rome, epic film and contemporary 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 till April 19.

A visitor views sandals during the exhibition "Worn by the Gods."

"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, said.

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

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 35 kilometres (22 miles) per day.

Visitors view a sculpture during the exhibition "Worn by the Gods."

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."

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.

Boots are displayed during the exhibition "Worn by the Gods."

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.

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