Monday, January 27, 2014

Step into the Footwear of Royalty

By Senior Curator Elizabeth Semmelhack

Some of the most sumptuous footwear in the Bata Shoe Collection comes with royal pedigree.  Whether made from delicate silk or embellished with gold and precious gems the extravagance of royal footwear proclaim the privileges of wealth and power.  

Associations between footwear and royalty are long standing.  One of the most famous ancient Egyptian artifacts, The Narmer Palette from around 3100 B.C.E, depicts a barefoot pharaoh slaying an enemy of Egypt while his sandal bearer waits in the background holding his royal footwear.  Sandal bearers in ancient Egypt were part of the royal retinue and often went on to achieve high status – a practice strikingly similar to the role played by the sandal bears for the Asantehenes today in Ghana.   The sandals depicted on the Narmer Palette, are in keeping with the fashions of the day, but it is more than likely that they also would have featured some details that set them apart as royal.  Later examples of royal Egyptian footwear show ample use of gold decoration, a feature shared by royal footwear around the world as the Nizam of Hyderabad’s mojari attest. Gold has been prized by the powerful for its rarity and for its ability to never tarnish and can often be found on royal footwear. Colour has also been used in royal dress another means of conveying status.  The rulers of Byzantium for example always wore red shoes to signify their position and the French King Louis XIV famously made the wearing of red heeled footwear a prerogative of court privilege.   Sometimes colour has been used by a monarch to signify something more personal.  Queen Victoria may have worn white silk shoes in 1840 but after the death of her beloved husband Prince Albert in 1861, she wore mourning black including black footwear for the rest of her life.   From head to toe, royals have traditionally dressed to impress.

Don't forget to visit our Facebook and Twitter page for a more in depth look at each of the royal shoes from this week's #bsmshoeoftheday!


Image 1 - These bejeweled mojari are said to have been worn by the Nizam of Hyderabad, Shikander Jah (early19th century)


Image 2 - This pair was worn by the Asantehene of Kumasi and features soles in the shape of human figures.Ghana, 1930s.


Image 3  - These royal shoes are believed to date to the last Burmese dynasty, the Konbang dynasty (1755-1885)

Image 4 - These shoes, worn by Queen Victoria, are virtually identical to the ones she wore to her wedding, also date from the year of her wedding - 1840.






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