Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Celebrating Celebrity Shoes - Mikhail Baryshnikov

"These plain black oxford platform shoes belie the fascinating story of their entry into the Museum's collection.  Their original owner, Mikahil Baryshnikov was born in Latvia in 1948 and became a soloist with the Kirov Ballet of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), Russia in 1964.  These are the street shoes he was wearing when he defected from the USSR, seeking political asylum in Toronto in 1974 when the Kirov was touring Canada.  Baryshnikov gave these shoes to a friend who kept them as a memento, eventually donating them to the Museum in 1996. Baryshnikov continued his career in Canada and the United States, going on to become one of contemporary ballet's most well recognized dancers.  "
Ada Hopkins, Conservator

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Shoes Fit For a Princess

The Bata Shoe Museum has in it's collection three pairs of shoes which belonged to the late Princess Lilian of Belgium. Born Mary Lilian Baels in 1916, she was the second wife of HM King Leopold III of Belgium, who reigned from 1934 to 1951.

A 'commoner', Princess Lilian faced criticism from some members of the public. She had secretly married the King in September 1941, not only shortly after the death of the King's popular first wife, but also during World War II, when the country was occupied and the people were suffering.

After the war, King Leopold did not return to the throne. Unable to overcome the nation's negative opinion of his war-time conduct and remarriage, he bestowed his constitutional powers upon his son Baudouin in 1950. The King and Princess Lilian led a quiet life in Argenteuil, travelling and working with charities. It is at philanthropic and social events that the Princess would have worn the shoes acquired by the Museum, with customized and matching Christian Dior outfits.

Princess Lilian was known for her glamour and sense of style, and this is evident in her elegant footwear. The shoes now in the Museum's collection were custom designed for Princess Lilian by Roger Vivier, one of the most innovative shoe designers of the 20th century. He maintained an eye for cutting edge design, referencing the history of fashion while incorporating modern elements of science and engineering. The Museum is delighted to have these shoes, rich in both history and beauty, in its collections.

Photo of King Leopold with Princess Lilian who is wearing a red chiffon dress, hat and the shoes pictured above.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Celebrating Celebrity Shoes - Drew Barrymore

"These black patent Mary Jane shoes were worn by Drew Barrymore to the Youth in Film awards in 1984. I chose to highlight these shoes because they were worn by Barrymore shortly after she starred in the movie "E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial", which was a transformative movie for many people in my generation. E.T. is the first movie that I can ever remember seeing in a movie theatre; watching a young girl that was my age, acting in an extraordinary movie while munching on popcorn was pure magic."
Sarah Beam-Borg, Assistant Curator

Monday, September 6, 2010

"Shoe Stories" Chronicle the Past

When looking at some of the intriguing artefacts in the Bata Shoe Museum, people are often curious to have more information then it's possible for us to provide for each item on display - who did they belong to, what do they tell us about the historical period they came from, what is that shoe's story? Beginning this fall, we're introducing a fascinating series of podcasts which will take an in-depth look at some of the "shoe stories" in our collection. As a sneak peek, here are the stories of two exemplary artefacts.

The cherished footwear of two 17th century ladies reveals the importance of shoes in their lives. This pair of 17th century slap-soled shoes is so exceptional that when the Bata Shoe Museum acquired them at a Sotheby's auction in England, an import license was originally denied on the ground that they were irreplaceable examples of British cultural heritage.

Slapsoles, Possibly made in Italy and worn in England, c.1660's.

These slap-sole shoes were once the property of the descendents of Frances Walsingham, whose secret marriage to Robert Devereux, the last favourite of Queen Elizabeth I, may have contributed to his downfall. The attenuated toes reflect 1660's fashion and suggest they may have been a gift to one of Walsingham's family members during that decade. They certainly must have been considered a prized possession as they have remained in the family of her last husband since the 1600's. Visual evidence of the origin of the slap-sole, which was originally a mule and a heeled sole joined together, almost disappears in this late version of the style. The mule is no longer a structural component of the shoe but is simply indicated by a decorative braid outline.

On the sole of this finely crafted mid-17th century mule is an inscription which reads "Sarah Hammersley, Prince William III".

Mules, England c.1670-89

It has been established that Sarah Hammersley was the daughter of the Lord High Mayor of London, but why does the name of Prince William appear? Prince William of Orange became King William III of England in 1689. This information helps to date the mules to before 1689, but we are still left to ponder what connection Sarah may have had to the Prince. Do these beautifully shaped mules reflect her taste, or that of Prince William?

All images copyright 2010 Bata Shoe Museum