Shoes on Canvas

about-anna-parsec-wallis
by Anna Parsec
Updated: May 9, 2024
10 minute read
Shoes on Canvas

When I went to the National Portrait Gallery in London for the first time I didn’t know much about British history and its main personalities. It was hard to truly enjoy the portraits of famous people of Great Britain. Names of the sitters and artists didn’t tell me much so very soon I found myself bored. Until the moment a very nice pair of footwear caught my eye.

George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, attributed to William Larkin, oil on canvas, circa 1616
George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, attributed to William Larkin, oil on canvas, circa 1616
George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, attributed to William Larkin, oil on canvas, circa 1616 (fragment)
George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, attributed to William Larkin, oil on canvas, circa 1616 (fragment)

The next thing I did was taking pictures of each footwear on canvases I saw in that gallery. At that moment I felt very excited and motivated to run around looking for another pair of nice shoes.

Next months wherever I went I took a picture of footwear. Very soon I realised that I already have some collection to compare: from National Portrait Gallery, National Gallery and the Houses of Parliament. Most painters were English (for example, Robert Peake the Elder, William Larkin, William Hogarth, Thomas Hawker and Thomas Hudson) but there were also fragments of canvases by a French painter Louis Gabriel Blanchet,Flemish painter who became popular in England, Anthony van Dyck and Dutch painters Daniël Mijtens and Gerbrand van den Eeckhout. As a result I got a collection of mostly English footwear fashion among noble class and that was worn by men.

Sir Francis Drake by Unknown artist oil on panel, circa 1581 (fragment)
Sir Francis Drake by Unknown artist oil on panel, circa 1581 (fragment)
Henry, Prince of Wales by Robert Peake the Elder oil on canvas, circa 1610 (fragment)
Henry, Prince of Wales by Robert Peake the Elder oil on canvas, circa 1610 (fragment)
Prince Charles Edward Stuart by Louis Gabriel Blanchet oil on canvas, 1738 (fragment)
Prince Charles Edward Stuart by Louis Gabriel Blanchet oil on canvas, 1738 (fragment)

For a long time I was looking at these pictures but I didn’t understanding what I could write about footwear of XVI-XVIII centuries. I looked thought some books and articles — I got random ideas but it was hard to visualisein my mind fashion in footwear without look ingat the pictures.

Keeping in mind Tchaikovsky’s words that there would be no inspiration if there would be no work done I started sorting out the pictures. Dates, centuries, shoes. When groups of pictures were ready I realised that something was wrong: I couldn’t see any pattern, any significant difference between centuries because, for example, some shoes from XVII century was so similar to some pairs of shoes from XVIII century. After some investigation I found my mistakes in titles and dates. After correction it was clear: this is XVI, this is XVII and that is XVII century. Do you see the diffrences now?

The painting on the walls of St.Stephen’s Hall in the Houses of Parliament (fragment)
The painting on the walls of St.Stephen’s Hall in the Houses of Parliament (fragment)
King James I of England and VI of Scotland by Daniel Mytens oil on canvas, 1621 (fragment)
King James I of England and VI of Scotland by Daniel Mytens oil on canvas, 1621 (fragment)
George Frideric Handel by Thomas Hudson oil on canvas, 1756
George Frideric Handel by Thomas Hudson oil on canvas, 1756

Shoes in XVI century

Comfortable simple shoes mostly made of cloth (probably, silk). No heels

The painting on the walls of St.Stephen’s Hall in the Houses of Parliament (fragment)
The painting on the walls of St.Stephen’s Hall in the Houses of Parliament (fragment)
Sir Francis Drake by Unknown artist oil on panel, circa 1581 (fragment)
Sir Francis Drake by Unknown artist oil on panel, circa 1581 (fragment)
The painting on the walls of St.Stephen’s Hall in the Houses of Parliament (fragment) 2
The painting on the walls of St.Stephen’s Hall in the Houses of Parliament (fragment) 2
Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton by Unknown artist oil on canvas, circa 1600 (fragment)
Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton by Unknown artist oil on canvas, circa 1600 (fragment)

Shoes in XVII century

in the first half of the century: Fancy shoes with floral decoration. In the second half floral elements were changed to a bow. Mostly light colours were used for footwear at that period.

Henry, Prince of Wales by Robert Peake the Elder oil on canvas, circa 1610 (fragment)
Henry, Prince of Wales by Robert Peake the Elder oil on canvas, circa 1610 (fragment)
St.Stephen’s Hall wall painting (fragment)
St.Stephen’s Hall wall painting (fragment)
George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, attributed to William Larkin, oil on canvas, circa 1616 (fragment)
George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, attributed to William Larkin, oil on canvas, circa 1616 (fragment)
King James I of England and VI of Scotland by Daniel Mytens oil on canvas, 1621 (fragment)
King James I of England and VI of Scotland by Daniel Mytens oil on canvas, 1621 (fragment)
Shoes in XVII century 1
Shoes in XVII century 1
Shoes in XVII century 2
Shoes in XVII century 2
Shoes in XVII century 3
Shoes in XVII century 3
King Charles II attributed to Thomas Hawker oil on canvas, circa 1680 (fragment)
King Charles II attributed to Thomas Hawker oil on canvas, circa 1680 (fragment)

Shoes in XVIII century

It was time for leather buckled shoes. Many of them were black with golden buckles and 1-2 inches heels. Royal buckles were decorated with precious stones.

Shoes in XVIII century 1
Shoes in XVIII century 1
Prince Charles Edward Stuart by Louis Gabriel Blanchet oil on canvas, 1738 (fragment)
Prince Charles Edward Stuart by Louis Gabriel Blanchet oil on canvas, 1738 (fragment)
Shoes in XVIII century 2
Shoes in XVIII century 2
King George II by Thomas Hudson oil on canvas, 1744 (fragment)
King George II by Thomas Hudson oil on canvas, 1744 (fragment)
George Frideric Handel by Thomas Hudson oil on canvas, 1756
George Frideric Handel by Thomas Hudson oil on canvas, 1756
Shoes in XVIII century 3
Shoes in XVIII century 3
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