A stroll amid Roman legionaries' tough caligae, Greek courtesans' seductive sandals and the sophisticated footwear that shod the aristocracy of the ancient world, with more than a passing glance at the incredible range of shoes, boots and sandals worn by the stars of such epics as Ben Hur and The Gladiator, or at the creations of eminent fashion designers who turned to the Classical world for their inspiration such as Emilio Pucci, Salvatore Ferragamo and Yves Saint Laurent.

All of this and more awaits visitors to “Worn by the Gods”, an exhibition curated by Lorenza Camin, Caterina Chiarelli and Fabrizio Paolucci, and hosted in the Museo della Moda e del Costume in Palazzo Pitti from 16 December 2019 to 19 April 2020.

The exhbition, focusing on a theme as fascinating as it has been hitherto unexplored, sets out to recount the myriad roles played by footwear in the Western world from antiquity to the present day. The stars of the show, consisting of some 80 works (several of which have been loaned by such leading international museums as the Louvre), are the examples of the main types of footwear used in the Classical era from the 5th century BC to the 4th century AD, illustrated both on precious works of art such as painted vases and reliefs and "in the flesh" by a series of outstanding archaeological finds from the Roman fort of Vindolanda in Northumberland.

But the exhibition also sets the ancient world alongside the modern, showcasing footwear by some of the contemporary world's greatest stylists (Genny, Céline, Richard Tyler, Renè Caovilla, Donna Karan) together with original models by Calzaturificio Pompei, Italy's most celebrated maker of costume footwear, for such cult epics as Cleopatra with sandals that graced the feet of Liz Taylor, Ben Hur with shoes worn by Charlton Heston, or The Gladiator and Alexander with the footwear that shod Russell Crowe and Colin Farrell

The exhibition winds up with a multivision devised and directed by Gianmarco D'Agostino (Advaita Film) immersing visitors in a world of images in which archaeology and fashion merge with the legends of the silver screen.


Gallerie degli Uffizi Director Eike Schmidt: "Since time immemorial, man has always sought to turn the humble shoe, a item of daily use if ever there was one, into a reflection of the principles of harmony and symmetry that governed Classical taste. Thus the shoe became a work of art in its own right, an object shaped more for aesthetic than for practical considerations. With the deliberate aim of fully illustrating this 'destiny', whose premises are already found in the Greek and Roman worlds, we decided to expand the exhibition to include two closely connected aspects of contemporary culture, fashion and the cinema. Taking their cue from the Classical world, the curators explore this novel aspect of the 'popularity of the ancient world', discovering echoes, evocations and assonances that forge an unexpected link between the past and our own day thanks to films such as Cleopatra or to the inspiration of leading fashion designers".



Fabrizio Paolucci, curator of the exhibition and Director of the Uffizi Antiquities Department:

"That shoes are far more than a mere accessory was something the ancient world was already quite clear about, as indeed it was about the skill required to make them. Plato, for example, showed no hesitation in labelling the shoemaker's art a science in its own right. With its shapes and its colours, this item of clothing said everything there was to say about its wearer: their gender, their wealth (or otherwise), their social standing and their profession. An item that has long been considered a mere detail in a person's attire now plays the star role in an exhibition aiming to restore the humble shoe to its rightful place as a valuable document recording the taste and techniques of the Greek and Roman worlds".



The style of a person's footwear frequently denoted their specific social class, status or profession in the Classical world. Hobnailed caligae, for instance, were primarily worn by soldiers because they were ideal for long marches, while calcei, a kind of ankle boot often brightly coloured when worn by women, pointed to the wearer's membership of the upper classes (patricians, senators and emperors). Historical sources, on the other hand, inform us that courtesans often wore sandals with small nails arranged on the sole in such a way as to leave a message for prospective customers in the dust of the roadway: "Follow me!"

But then seduction has always been a feature of this item of clothing, and it is no mere coincidence that footwear played an important symbolic role in the wedding ceremony in antiquity. In fact the shoe was a leading player in such myths as that of Rhodopis, the Cinderella of the ancient world, first recounted by Herodotus and subsequently relayed by Strabo. Footwear has also featured in numerous figures of speech since that era. In one of his Philippics, for example, Cicero uses the expression "mutavit calceos" to tell us that a certain person's social status had changed. The man had become a senator, and the calcei of a senator were a very  different matter from those of an ordinary patrician.

Piedi di statua di fanciullo in bronzo, con crepidae età romana (fine I secolo a.C. - I secolo d.C.) bronzo fuso con procedimento a cera perduta e con tecnica indiretta, con inserzioni in rame Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Firenze I Foot of a statue of a young boy wearing crepidae Roman era (late 1st century BC – 1st century AD) bronze cast using lost wax method and indirect technique, with copper inserts Museo Archeologico Nazionale, FlorencePiede sinistro di statua colossale I secolo d.C. marmo bianco a piccoli cristalli, forse pentelico Galleria dei Candelabri, Musei Vaticani, Città del Vaticano I Left foot of a colossal statue wearing a crepida 1st century AD white marble with small crystals, possibly Pentelic Gallery of the Candelabra, Vatican Museum, Vatican CityFrammento di piede di statua I secolo d.C. bronzo; fusione cava, patina verde scuro Museo Nazionale Concordiese di Portogruaro, Portogruaro I Fragment of a statue’s right foot 1st century AD bronze Museo Nazionale Concordiese di Portogruaro, PortogruaroCippo sepolcrale del calzolaio C. Iulius Helius prima età adrianea (inizi II secolo d.C.) marmo bianco a grana fine Centrale Montemartini, Musei Capitolini, Roma I Commemorative tombstone of the shoemaker Caius Iulius Helius Early age of Hadrian fine grain white marble Centrale Montemartini, Musei Capitolini, RomePiede calzato di statua virile colossale prima metà del II secolo d.C. statuaria in bronzo Museo Archeologico “Francesco Ribezzo”, Brindisi I Shod left foot from a colossal statue of a man First half of the 2nd century AD bronze Museo Archeologico “Francesco Ribezzo”, BrindisiRilievo frammentario di Septimia Stratonice II sec. d.C. marmo Parco Archeologico di Ostia antica, Ostia I Fragmentary relief of Septimia Stratonice 2nd century AD marble Parco Archeologico di Ostia antica, OstiPiede votivo dedicato a Serapide, Iside e Arpocrate marmo II-III sec. d.C Museo Egizio, Torino I Votive foot dedicated to Serapis, Isis and Harpocrates 2nd – 3rd century AD marble Museo Egizio, TurinPaio di calzature da bambino 200-213 d.C. cuoio, ferro Roman Vindolanda Fort and Museum, Bardon Mill, UK I Pair of children’s shoes 200-213 AD leather and iron  Roman Vindolanda Fort and Museum, Bardon Mill, EnglandCalzare ispirato ai mullei 1950 pelle, camoscio, cuoio, placca in metallo Pompei 2000 Srl, Formello (RM) Questo calzare fu realizzato dal laboratorio POMPEI per Robert Taylor nel ruolo del console Marcus Vinicius, vittorioso comandante in carica della XIV Legione romana, nel film Quo Vadis? di Mervin LeRoi (1951) I Footwear inspired by mullei 1950 leather, suede, metal plaque Pompei 2000 Srl, Formello (RM) Quo Vadis, directed by Mervin LeRoi, 1951Rivisitazione di sandalo antico, su platform 1961 pelle, cuoio Pompei 2000 Srl, Formello (RM) Nato dalla creatività di Irene Sharaff, questo sandalo è stato realizzato dal calzaturificio POMPEI per il personaggio Cleopatra, interpretato da Elizabeth Taylor diretta da Joseph L. Mankiewicz nel film Cleopatra del 1963 I Revisitation of an ancient sandal, on a platform sole 1961 leather Pompei 2000 Srl, Formello (RM) Cleopatra, directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz,1963Calzare ispirato alle endromídes 1999 pelle di camoscio e di maialino, cuoio, filo in cotone Pompei 2000 Srl, Formello (RM) Calzare ideato da Janty Yates e realizzato dal laboratorio POMPEI per Joaquin Phoenix nel ruolo di Commodo, figlio dell’imperatore Marco Aurelio e spietato antagonista di Maximus nel film Gladiator di Sir Ridley Scott (2000) I Footwear inspired by endromídes 1999 suede and pigskin, leather, cotton thread Pompei 2000 Srl, Formello (RM) Gladiator, directed by Ridley Scott, 2000L’Etrusco (Fernando Baldi) Manifesto pubblicitario per Salvatore Ferragamo 2013 acrilico e tempera su tela Museo Salvatore Ferragamo, Firenze I L’Etrusco (Fernando Baldi) Advertisement for Salvatore Ferragamo 2013 acrylic and tempera on canvas  Museo Salvatore Ferragamo, FlorenceSalvatore Ferragamo Flash 2013 sandalo in capretto con ali realizzate a taglio vivo e stampate ad alta frequenza Museo Salvatore Ferragamo, Firenze I Salvatore Ferragamo Flash 2013 vacchetta leather Museo Salvatore Ferragamo, FlorenceYves Saint Laurent Sandalo femminile destro 1992 P/E capretto, cuoio  calzaturificio Rossimoda per Yves Saint Laurent Museo della Calzatura - Villa Foscarini Rossi, Stra I Yves Saint Laurent Woman’s sandal, right foot 1992 Spring-summer collection kidskin, leather  Made by Calzaturificio Rossimoda Museo della Calzatura - Villa Foscarini Rossi, StraRené Caovilla Sandalo femminile destro 2000 raso di seta, tessuto elastico, capretto, Swarovski, cuoio, gomma Museo internazionale della Calzatura – Castello Sforzesco, Vigevano I René Caovilla Woman’s sandal, right foot 2000 silk satin, elasticated material, kidskin, Swarovski, leather, rubber Museo internazionale della Calzatura – Castello Sforzesco, VigevanoPiedi incrociati con krepídes metà del II secolo a.C. terracotta di colore grigio per l’esposizione al fuoco e con minime tracce di colore Museo Archeologico Nazionale “Gaio Cilnio Mecenate”, Arezzo I Crossed sandalled feet Mid-2nd century BC terracotta Museo Archeologico Nazionale “Gaio Cilnio Mecenate”, Arezzo


Exhibition promoted by

Ministero dei Beni e delle Attività Culturali e del Turismo

Gallerie degli Uffizi

Firenze Musei            

Exhibition title

Worn by the Gods. The Art of shoemaking in the ancient world, the epic movie and contemporary fashion

Exhibition venue

Museum of Costume and Fashion - Pitti Palace

Exhibition to run

17 December 2019 – 20 September 2020

Opening hours

8.30 am - 6.30 pm;

the ticket office closes at 5.45 pm.

Closed Monday


17 December 2019 – 29 February 2020:

Full price € 10.00; concession € 2.00 for EU citizens aged 18 to 25;

1 March 2019 – 19 April 2020:

Full price € 16.00; concession € 2.00 for EU citizens aged 18 to 25;

Admission free: for children of any nationality under the age of 18, disabled visitors and one carer, journalists members of the Italian journalist order, academic staff and students of architecture, cultural heritage conservation and the educational sciences, or pursuing the archaeology or art history pathway in a degree course in the humanities and philosophy, or a degree or equivalent course in any European Union member country, and for Italian full-time or part-time teachers in state schools or the equivalent.

Educational services for schools

Guided tours for school groups by appointment only. € 3.00 per student.

information and reservations: Firenze Musei (+39) 055.294883