Woman’s shoe, 1991 , Designed by: Vivienne Westwood (English, born in 1941), English, Printed twill-weave cotton, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Textile Income Purchase Fund, Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Foot Fashion, the Stylish Byproducts of Bipedalism

Pair of pattens, early 19th century, Wood, leather, and metal, Overall: 13.5 x 8.5 x 25.4 cm, Other (patten): 5.7cm, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston,The Elizabeth Day McCormick Collection, 44.571a-b,© 2009 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Woman’s stilts (kabkabs or nalins), Turkish or Syrian, 18th-19th century, Wood inlaid with mother-of-pearl, ivory, wood and lead, Overall (a): 27.5 x 19 x 23 cm, Overall (b): 27.4 x 23.2 x 21.7 cm, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, The Elizabeth Day McCormick Collection, 43.1542a-b,© 2009 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Pair of doll boots, French (Paris), 1870s, Leather, metal buttons, H x L: 51 x 44 mm, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Gift of Anne Bennett Vernon, 2000.971.20, © 2009 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.





Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Avenue of the Arts
465 Huntington Avenue
Walk This Way
September 27, 2007-
March 23, 2008

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA) has a world-renowned collection of shoes from throughout the ages, which it will showcase in the exhibition Walk This Way. From ancient Egyptian and Nubian sandals to contemporary designs by Vivienne Westwood and Marc Jacobs, the collection provides fertile ground for exploring the shoe and its cultural significance. About 25 shoes, shown individually or in sets, will be placed throughout the Museum’s galleries and “paired” with a wide range of works from the MFA’s encyclopedic collection of art to which they are related historically, artistically, or culturally, providing insights into their design and use. For example, a pair of 17th-century slap-soled shoes will be exhibited with a genre painting by the Dutch artist Eglon van der Neer, in which a man wears a similar style, and a pair of wedges with rococo carved heels from the current MIU MIU collection will be exhibited with 18th-century carved furniture.

While shoes serve a practical function, they have long been prized as highly ornamented objects of obsession. At their most sensible, shoes, boots and sandals were made from simple, readily available materials that stood up to wear and tear, such as the plaited reed sandals of ancient Egypt or wooden clogs, or geta, worn by Japanese. At their most lavish, high-status shoes, like those worn by well-heeled Hollywood celebrities, European royalty or Indian princes, have been embellished with diamonds, rubies or pearls. Whatever the materials or cost, shoes have always reflected the time and place in which they were made and worn, the status of the owner, and the skills and creativity of the people who designed and produced them. Walk This Way is a treasure hunt throughout the Museum, and offer intriguing surprises for both those seeking every example on display, and those who happen to stumble upon them.

Alexander McQueen Floral Engraved Boots, Fall, 2010.

Valentino Lace Effect Wellington Boots.

Chopine, possibly 1740s, Venetian, Silk cut velvet with gilt-metal lace trim and linen lining, silk satin ribbon, metallic woven trim, metal nails, wood, and leather, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The Elizabeth Day McCormick Collection, Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.