Worn by the Gods
Shoes say a lot about the person who wears them. The shape, colour, the material with which they are made and the decorations that adorn them reveal the gender of their owner, as well as his or her job, economic status and aesthetic taste.These considerations, valid for any era, are particularly true for the Greek and Roman world, which produced a variety of types and styles that has remained unrivalled until the present day.In fact, the art of shoe-making was fruit of a sophisticated technological savoir-faire, the products of which went far beyond the need to simply protect the foot, also becoming the conveyors of complicated, intricate symbolic values.
These assumptions are particularly useful when we also use them to obtain a better understanding of classical art. The styles of the footwear worn by Greek and Roman statues reveal details to us that are often missed by even the most careful academics, providing us with important data that enable us to date the work (or its original) with greater precision, or to identify the social, economic, or ethnic status of the owner of those shoes more accurately. It might seem like a paradox, but it is perfectly feasible to affirm that even just a single fragment of a sculpture’s foot, wearing footwear, can provide us with a considerably accurate idea of the subject’s identity, the date of the work and the cultural environment in which it was crafted.
These are the considerations that form the basis of this Hypervision, which aims to analyse some of the most famous statues of the Uffizi Gallery from a completely new perspective: that of their feet!
This natural progression of this virtual exhibition is the on-site exhibition “Worn by the Gods”, which can be visited in the rooms of the Museum of Costume and Fashion until 27 September.There, visitors will have the opportunity to really get to grips with the history, social role and symbolic value of footwear first hand, from the classical world until the present day.The exhibition, with its unprecedented, extremely fascinating theme, aims to relate the countless roles that the shoe has played in the western world from ancient times to our own, through an exceptional selection of over 80 works that will accompany the visitor in an unusual stroll through the myths and history of the classical age.
- 2/45Demeter of the Uffizi
Mid-2nd century A.D.
Greek fine grain marble
Uffizi, Inv. 1914 no. 231
The statue, identified in the 18th century as the goddess Juno, is today identified as an iconographic type that depicts the goddess of fertility Demeter and takes the name “Demeter-Uffizi”. This type was created in the Roman period, probably around the mid-2nd century A.D:, redeveloping a Greek model from the classical age (5th century B.C.) inspired by the Korai of the Erechtheion.
The head and arm were restored during an 18th century intervention by sculptor and architect Giovan Battista Foggini, who worked in the court of Cosimo III de’ Medici.
The goddess is portrayed standing up, with her weight on her right leg, and her left leg bent and slightly further back, in a pose that rotated the body slightly towards the right, meaning that her head and neck were also slightly inclined.
The figure is dressed in a soft peplos, gathered in the shape of an arch at the waist, from which swirling folds drape down. A short cloak rests on her shoulders, and flows down her back. Since the back of the sculpture is less carefully crafted, it is reasonable to assume that the work was originally located inside a niche. The left hand, restored by Foggini, is believed to have originally held an attribute, probably a patera, the dish used for the sacrificial rituals in Roman times.
- 3/45Demeter of the Uffizi
The hem of the dress leaves the toes of the figure’s right foot bare, and the entire front part of the left foot, leaving part of the elegant footwear worn by the goddess visible to be admired. This consists in a pair of solea or sandalia, sandals similar to the modern-day thong, and commonly used in the classical world. The sandalia were composed of a sole in wood or skin, of various heights, attached to the foot with laces that passed between the big toe and the second toe. It is interesting to note the lack of finish on the laces of the shoe, which were probably painted on. This style of sandal, which consisted of a high, multi-layered sole, was exclusively worn by women. Indeed, ancient sources relate that this type of sole was particularly favoured by short women.
- 4/45Demeter of the Uffizi
Right foot on the sole of a sandal
1st Century A.D.
Some examples of solea or sandalia similar to those worn by the Florentine Demeter can be seen in the exhibition “Worn by the Gods”. One of these is represented by the right foot on the sole of a sandal belonging to the Uffizi Gallery collection, the shape of which shows that it belonged to a mule-driver. In this case too, the lack of detail on the laces is presumably a sign that these were painted on.
- 5/45Demeter of the Uffizi
Fragment of foot with sandal
4th-3rd Century B.C.
Catanzaro, Museo Archeologico Provinciale (MARCH)
Another example is the fragment of foot with sandal in bronze, dated to between the 4th and 3rd centuries B.C., preserved in the museum of Catanzaro. Here, the sandal features zigzag laces, fastened by way of an intricate knot, to the cord that separated the big toe and second toe.
- 6/45Wounded warrior
Uffizi Gallery, Inv. 1914, no. 232
The statue of the wounded warrior - part of the Grand Ducal collection since as early as 1676 - is a Greek original dated to the middle of the 5th century B.C. It stands out for its composite appearance, indubitably due to the union of a classical torso, dressed in a Greek military uniform (armour and short chiton) and a Barbarian’s head from the Hellenistic age. The position of the head is in line with the iconography of the wounded warrior and in particular the subject appears to express resistance, having been shot in the thigh with an arrow, of which few traces remain. The arms have undergone two separate restoration interventions, but their position is more or less faithful to that of the original arms. Regarding the head too, which is ancient but not original, the restorer has managed to reconstruct its original position, facing towards the left.
- 7/45Wounded warrior
On his feet, the warrior is wearing krepídes, a very common type of sandal that was particularly suitable for long walks and therefore often won by soldiers. In this sculpture, only the portion of the ankle and the right heel is original, but the restorer successfully recognised and completed the style. The laces are located at the ankle where, moreover, we also catch a glimpse of a sock under the interwoven straps. However, this detail was not reproduced in the portion added by the post-ancient restoration intervention. Known as a pellytron, this sock served as a protective lining to stop the leather laces from rubbing against the skin and could completely cover the toes or leave the tips uncovered.
- 8/45Wounded warrior
Relief with seated shepherd
Late 1st century AD - early 2nd century AD
We can see other proof of its use in the Relief with seated shepherd of the Uffizi and in the bronze foot of Bologna, on display in the exhibition “Worn by the Gods”. In these cases, the krepídes feature an upper made of strips that also cover the toes.
- 9/45Wounded warrior
Foot of statue with military shoe and spur
I-II century AD
Bologna, Museo Civico Archeologico
- 10/45Asclepius Giustini
1st century AD
Uffizi Gallery, Inv. 1914, no. 247
The statue depicts the god Asclepius standing up, robed and accompanied by his characteristic stick, with a serpent coiled round it. It is a Roman replica of a Greek original from the end of the 5th century B.C. The work has been extraordinarily well preserved, and has therefore required little in the way of restoration. The almost metallic finish of some of the facial features, such as the lips and the eyebrows, combined with the style of the robes, lead us to suppose that the late-Classical original from which the copier took his inspiration was in bronze; the Roman replica, on the other hand, appears more likely to date to before the end of the 1st century A.D.
- 11/45Asclepius Giustini
On Asclepius’ feet, we recognise a pair of krepídes, sandals that originated in Greek times, known of since the 6th century B.C. and subsequently adopted in Rome, where they were known ascrepidae. This style was particularly suitable for long walks, and we have evidence that it was used both by civilians and in military scenarios; it featured strips of materially interwoven in various patterns on the foot, giving the upper [top part of footwear, usually made of leather, ed.] a characteristic lattice-like look. Although the number, thickness and pattern of the strips varied over time, the lattice covering the heel remained a constant feature of this kind of footwear. Here, the sandal is fastened at the ankle and the weave of the strips encloses the side of the foot, leaving the top of the toes in clear view. A tongue-like element, the lingula, is also visible, descending from the laces to cover part of the back of the foot, a style detail mainly favoured in the Roman age.
- 12/45Asclepius Giustini
Shod foot of colossal male statue
First half of the 2nd century AD.
Brindisi, Museo Archeologico Francesco Ribezzo
The large opening over the toes and the presence of the lingula on the back make this footwear resemble the crepida on the enormous bronze foot of Brindisi, displayed in the “Worn by the Gods” exhibition.
- 13/45Bacchus and Satyr
First half of the 2nd century AD
Pentelic marble, 185 cm
Uffizi Gallery, Inv. 1914, no. 246
The group of statues portrays a young Bacchus, nude and drunk, depicted leaning on a small satyr for support. The work was purchased by the Grand Duke Ferdinand I de’ Medici and the first mention of its presence in the Gallery dates back to 1704.
Its incredible state of conservation has meant that it has required few restoration interventions, limited only to the integration of parts of Bacchus’ legs and the satyr’s right arm. Although the technique of execution enables us to date this Roman copy to the first half of the 2nd century A.D., instead the identification of the Greek archetype is debatable.
- 14/45Bacchus and Satyr
The type of footwear worn by Bacchus is interesting: the mullei. This is a kind of Roman footwear only documented in sculptures and generally associated with characters portrayed in military or hunting attire, or in Dionysian scenes; the term derives from mullus, a type of fish, the mullet, from which it took its red colour. It is shaped like a tall boot, and features a strong upper [top part of footwear, usually made of leather, ed.] and a lacing system at the front that could cover the foot or leave it visible. The most unique element of this style was undoubtedly the feline-shaped leather lining hanging over the top of the footwear. This aspect is presumably the more sophisticated and “parade-worthy” version of the cuffed Greek boot known as the embás. The detail that makes the style worn by Bacchus stand out undoubtedly lies in the side decorations which, rather than having the usual cat’s foot shape, feature a phallic silhouette, in keeping with its Dionysian context.
An unusual ring with a scaly finish closes the footwear mid-calf: the front fastening is composed of a circular element, held tight between the jaws of two facing dog heads.
I-II secolo AD
Uffizi, Inv. 1914, no. 147
The statue depicts Mercury at rest, naked and in a standing position, wearing his characteristic winged headgear and a cloak that covers his left shoulder and arm. In his left hand he is holding the caduceus, which has been restored, yet remains in line with the iconography of the god. The right arm is modern and the position chosen for its addition does not correspond with the original one: in fact, the right side of the helmet bears traces of an ancient attachment, which suggest that the arm had previously been raised, but that the right hand had been placed on its head.
Traditionally, Mercury’s best-known attributes are winged sandals, but in this case the detail of the wings is applied directly onto the figure’s ankles. Three of the four wings present are modern, applied over ancient attachments, while only the one on the inside of the right leg is original. The work, which came to Florence at the end of the 18th century, is a Roman replica - dated to the Antonine dynasty, based on the technique uses to render the drapes of the robe - of a Greek original from the 4th century B.C.
L'Etrusco (Fernando Baldi)
Advertising poster for Salvatore Ferragamo
Acrylic and tempera on canvas
Firenze, Museo Salvatore Ferragamo
Despite its very ancient origin, the image of the winged foot - or footwear - is still fascinating today as a symbol of speed and freedom: in fact it even became the subject of the famous Advertising manifesto for Salvatore Ferragamo as well as a real sandal. Both the manifesto and the real sandal are on display in the “Fashion” section of the “Worn by the Gods” exhibition.
Firenze, Museo Salvatore Ferragamo
- 19/45Female statue with ideal portrait
Mid-2nd century A.D.
Uffizi, Inv. 1914 no. 30
The sculpture, previously located in the garden of the Medici Villa in Pratolino as a decorative element, joined the Uffizi Gallery during the second half of the 18th century, when it was placed in the West Corridor (also known as the Third Corridor).
The work depicts a life-sized female figure in a standing position.The statue’s face, an ideal portrait, is oval and full, revealing a timeless beauty. Her hair is separated by a central parting and a few wavy wisps fall down at the sides of her face, just covering her ears. The weight of her body is on the right leg, while the left leg is bent and slightly further back. The young woman is clad in a heavy chiton almost entirely covered by a long cloak that drapes over the head and completely wraps itself round the bust and the right arm. Only the thumb of the left hand remains bare. The result of modern restoration interventions, it is holding a patera, an object related to the sphere of holy rituals.
This type of iconography is quite rare and the Florentine work is a copy from the Roman age, dated to the mid-2nd century A.D., the original of which is thought to be an element of the Greek funeral statues of the 4th century B.C. The head and bust covered by the cloak express castitas (chastity) and pudicitia (modesty), the exemplary qualities embodied by Roman matrons as images of moral uprightness and pietas, or holiness.
- 20/45Female statue with ideal portrait
The figure is wearing a pair of sandalia or solea, footwear similar to the modern-day thong sandal, which were only worn at home, in keeping with good Roman custom. The style worn by the woman is characterised by a high sole with a contoured edge that separates the big toe from the rest of the foot.It is a plain design, enhanced by a single small detail: anapplique in the shape of an ivy leaf, which would be made of either leather or various precious and less precious metals.
- 21/45Female statue with ideal portrait
Fragment of a marble foot with sandal
I - II secolo d.C.
Rome, Museo Nazionale Romano, Terme di Diocleziano
A similar example can be identified in the fragment of a marble foot with sandal belonging to the collection of the Baths of Diocletian and today on display at the exhibition “Worn by the Gods”. Here too, the footwear is decorated with a small fig leaf-shaped applique. This work, probably belonging to a female figure, still bears the traces of the red pigment that was applied to colour the sole of the sandal.
- 22/45Female statue with ideal portrait
Plastic vase in the shape of a foot with sandal
III century BC
Florence, Museo Archeologico Nazionale
Another example of the variety of styles of sandalia in use in ancient times is provided by the small foot-shaped vase attributed to the 3rd century B.C., characterised by two decorative elements that end in a spiral. The container, probably made in Magna Graecia or by a Siceliot workshop, was designed to hold liquids, and probably used during ritual and religious ceremonies.
- 23/45Chained putto
Mid-2nd century A.D.
Palazzo Pitti, Treasury of the Grand Dukes
Inv. 1914 no. 1059
The small statue depicts a crying boy, chained at the waist and by one foot. The work, already listed in the 1588 inventory of Villa Medici in Rome where it is remembered as a “weeping slave”, had been transferred by 1625 into the hall on the ground floor of Villa del Poggio Imperiale in Florence, where it remained until the middle of the 19th century, when it entered Palazzo Pitti.
The boy is completely nude; only his left arm is wrapped in a cloak, the hems of which are draping onto a small pillar, decorated by a garland, a pair of ears and a bucranium.
This unique image is acknowledged as identifying the complex allegory of Cupid who, chained and without wings, is drying his tears with his right hand. We know of the punishment to which the little god was subjected from some fragments of the Palatine Anthology, a collection of Greek letters from the 10th century A.D., which relate that the goddess of revenge, Nemesis, punished Cupid for tormenting his many lovers. The episode is also known from other ancient works that depict Cupid with his hands tied behind his back or even being flogged, an iconographic theme that subsequently became successful in the Renaissance.
The sculptural work depicts a Roman replica of a Greek original from the Hellenistic age (1st century B.C.) and can be dated to the mid-2nd century A.D. There has been some debate as to where the statue of Cupid had been displayed in ancient times. Although, on one hand, the presence of the garland and the bucranium on the stand would suggest that the work had been placed in a holy location, the leather ties holding the child’s wavy hair in place - in the same way as the caps worn by the Greek athletes - would appear to indicate that at least the original prototype was displayed in a gymnasium.
The figure is wearing a pair of krepides or crepidae, a sandal worn in Greek and Roman times, characterised by a series of leather laces which, interwoven in different ways, held the foot onto the sole.Sometimes, as in the case of the statue in Palazzo Pitti, the krepides featured a tongue of leather that would run along the instep and had the dual function of decorating the footwear and of protecting the laces from rubbing against the foot. In the late Republican age, Cicero bitterly criticised the use of the krepides a fashion that had been introduced to Rome as the imitation of Greek costumes, and had therefore come to symbolise a wanton lifestyle.Artwork detailsChained PuttoArchitettura | Gli Uffizi
- 24/45Chained putto
Feet crossed with krepídes
Mid 2nd century BC
Arezzo, Museo Archeologico Nazionale " Gaio Clinio Mecenate"
We can see an example of krepides in an elegant terracotta work discovered in the Catona holy area of Arezzo and today on display in the exhibition “Worn by the Gods”. It features two feet, belonging to a male figure sitting down with his legs crossed, and is thought to have been part of the front of a temple from the mid-2nd century B.C.
- 25/45Bacchante, identified as Ariadne
1st century AD
Uffizi, Inv. 1914, no. 122
The statue of the Bacchante, originally identified as the daughter of Minos, Ariadne, is a Roman replica from the first century A.D. of an original Greek bronze from the Hellenistic period; it portrays a female figure dressed in a long chiton, pulled tight under the breast and fastened on the shoulders. The head - ancient but non original - bears a crown consisting of bunches of grapes, a detail perfectly in line with the subject’s identity. The arms have been restored but are well integrated with the Dionysian interpretation of the figure, as shown by the stalk she clenches in her right hand. However, the left arm was originally supposed to be reaching downwards, holding the edge of the robe.
- 26/45Bacchante, identified as Ariadne
Beneath the realistic, chiaroscuro folds of the robe, we catch a glimpse of the footwear known as soleae or sandalia, a style that resembles the modern-day thong from close at hand and was popular in the Greek, Etruscan and then Roman ages. Worn by both men and women, there were many versions of this style, which differed in terms of the arrangement and number of straps used, and the shape and thickness of the sole. The ones worn by the Bacchante feature two simple thin cords that join between the big and second toes, in a diamond-shaped decorative applique.
- 27/45Bacchante, identified as Ariadne
Fragment of left foot with sandal
IV-III century BC
Catanzaro, Museo Archeologico Nazionale Provinciale (MARCH)
The sole is thick and its shape clearly separates the big toe from the rest of the toes, a characteristic that first appeared in the Hellenistic age. The two specimens which can be attributed to this style, displayed in the exhibition “Worn by the Gods”, both belong to female figures and offer us an opportunity to admire the intricate detail of the straps and the knots that hold the sandal together.
- 28/45Bacchante, identified as Ariadne
Fragment of foot with sandal
1st-2nd century AD
Rome, Museo Nazionale Romano, Terme di Diocleziano
- 29/45Statues of Dacian prisoners
First half of 2nd century A.D.
Red porphyry (body) white marble (head, forearms and hands)
Boboli Gardens, Inv. Boboli no. 8
Probably unearthed during the excavations commissioned in Rome by Cardinal Andrea Della Valle, this pair of statues of Dacian prisoners was purchased by Ferdinand de’ Medici in 1584 to decorate the facade of his villa on the Pincian Hill. At the end of the 18th century, Leopold II, Holy Roman Emperor, had the two sculptures transferred to Florence, where Francesco Carradori restored them. They were originally part of a project - never completed - that planned to display them in the Loggia dei Lanzi as allegories of the triumph of the Habsburg Monarchy and of Christianity. From 1819 onwards they were positioned on tall, non original ancient bases, to decorate the entrance to the Boboli Gardens.
- 30/45Statues of Dacian prisoners
The figures of the two Dacians, sculpted in fine red porphyry, are standing up and their bodies are weighted so that their positions contrast with one another. The heads looking downwards, the clenched features of their face and their crossed hands, all express pain and submission, but at the same time pride and dignity. One Dacian, with a long beard and deep wrinkles that show his age, is wearing the pileus, a cap with a drooping peak, folded towards the front, usually worn by those of high social ranking. The other one, whose beard is shorter and thicker, wears his hair long. It falls onto his forehead and down his neck.
Both figures are wearing a long-sleeved tunic, gathered at the waist and covered by a heavy cloak fastened onto the right-hand shoulder, leaving the right arm bare. The cloak wraps around the torso and the left arm then drapes down the back until it reaches the floor.
- 31/45Statues of Dacian prisoners
Under the tunic, we can see a pair of long “brache”, a style of trousers peculiar to Barbarian attire, tied at the ankle by the laces of the footwear, here depicted as elegant, closed, lace-up shoes. These, like the rest of the garments worn by the statues, are thought to be part of a luxury style of clothing only worn by high ranking Barbarian characters and therefore they cannot be identified with any of the footwear worn by the Roman citizens.
- 32/45Statues of Dacian prisoners
'Allendale' military “hiking” boot
Bardon Mill, Roman Vindolanda Fort and Museum
The shape alone might resemble, albeit from afar, the low military “hiking” boot found in the Roman fort of Vindolanda. After the caliga, this style, closed and suitable for the damp, cold climate, was the most common kind of boots worn by Roman soldiers on duty in the north western provinces.
- 33/45Sarcophagus with scenes from the life of a Roman general
Uffizi Gallery, Niobe Room, Inv. 1914 no. 82
The elegant sarcophagus, which previously belonged to the collection of Cardinal Della Valle, was used to decorate the garden of Villa Medici on the Pincian Hill at least since the end of the 16th century. Having been restored by Francesco Carradori, between 1780 and 1783 it was transported to Florence before finally being placed in the Niobe Room in 1784.
The large sarcophagus was sculpted from a single block of marble by a studio operating in Rome between 165 and 185 A.D. The front and short sides are decorated with scenes depicting highlights of the life of the deceased, a Roman general, from his childhood until old age.
One of the short sides hosts scenes of his bathing ceremony and his literary education. When just nine days old, the baby had been immersed in a basin full of water, confirming his entrance into the community of citizens. As soon as he entered his teenage years, the child had been guided towards studying literature and theatre by a tutor. The opposite side features a scene set in a camp, featuring the general, now of adult age, being armed by two assistants in preparation for the imminent battle. This is followed by the boar hunting scene, symbolising the bravery and physical strength that distinguished the deceased when alive, and scenes linked to his moral virtues, such as his clemency towards the defeated and his piety towards the gods, to whom he offers sacrifices of atonement. The wedding scene is depicted on the main side. The bride, her head veiled, is being gently nudged by her handmaiden, and joins her right hand with the general’s, in the gesture of dextrarum iunctio inter coniuges.
- 34/45Sarcophagus with scenes from the life of a Roman general
The Romans paid particular attention to their clothing, which had to be appropriate for each situation and context. This aspect is also clear in the sarcophagus of the Roman general, where the clothes change depending on the scene, as does the footwear. Indeed, in the wedding scene, the groom is wearing calcei, the ultimate footwear of Roman citizens. This was a kind of closed boot, which came in different styles depending on the wearer’s social class. In particular, the deceased is wearing a pair of calcei senatorii characterised by two laces tied in a single knot at the ankle.
Instead, in the military camp, he wears a pair of mid-calf boots, closed, with laces, which were bound to be perfect for the long walks, tough terrain and adverse weather he faced as a soldier.
- 35/45Sarcophagus with scenes from the life of a Roman general
Bardon Mill Roman, Vindolanda Fort and Museum
An example of military footwear is the so-called “Allendale” lace-up boot, composed of a thick treaded sole and an upper featuring large inlay decorations, through which the wearer’s colourful socks could be admired!
- 36/45Togatus with portrait head
Late 2nd century A.D.
Medium grain Italian marble. Height: 226 cm
Uffizi Gallery, Inv. 1914 no. 64
Having joined the collection of the Uffizi Gallery in 1788, the work was moved shortly afterwards and relocated in the Boboli Gardens. Following damage caused by adverse weather condition, in 1815 the sculpture was restored, and placed in the Ricetto Lorense of the Gallery. These restoration interventions were probably responsible for changing the head, which is not the original one attached to the body, identified by some 19th century authors as a portrait of the emperor Hadrian. Instead, the portrait appears to date to a later age of the emperor’s reign and has been attributed to the end of the 2nd century A.D.
- 37/45Togatus with portrait head
The opera depicts a male figure standing up, leaning on his left leg, with his right leg bent and slightly further back. The man is wearing a tunic and toga. In his left hand he is holding a volumen, a rolled-up scroll, attribute of magistrates. His high social status is confirmed by his footwear: the calcei senatorii. The calceus was a closed boot made of soft leather, the shape of which varied depending on the status of the Roman citizen. This is exemplified by an expression used by Cicero to indicate the change of social status of a character who had become a senator: mutavit calceos (he changed into calcei).
In fact, there were three types of calcei: calcei equestres, smooth ankle boots with no laces, calcei senatorii, with laces tied together in a single knot and calcei patricii, red-coloured and featuring four laces tied together in two knots.
- 38/45Togatus with portrait head
Fragment of shod right foot
2nd century AD
Florence, Opificio delle Pietre Dure
The footwear worn by a male statue of the 2nd century A.D. in porphyry, a precious, purple-coloured marble, can be identified as calcei patricii or senatorii. All that remains of the work, which was originally a considerable size, is a fragment of the front of the foot. However, the two laces, which started from the sole and crossed in a knot at the ankle, remain clearly visible.
- 39/45Togatus with portrait head
Fragmentary relief of Septimia Stratonice
2nd century AD
Ostia, Parco Archeologico di Ostia antica
We see another type of calceus depicted on the fragmentary relief of Septimia Stratonice, where a seated female figure sports a pair of boots with upturned toe, the calcei repandi.
- 40/45Sarcophagus with the myth of Meleager
Uffizi, Inv. 1914, no. 135
The sarcophagus, of Roman origin, and already present in the villa of Pratolino (FI) from the mid 18th century, was transferred to and exhibited in the Uffizi at the beginning of the 19th century. The monolithic box features a decoration in relief that occupies the front and the short sides. The scene depicted on the front is of the hunt for the legendary wild boar sent by the goddess Artemis to devastate the fields of Calydon; the protagonists are the heroes of the myth, among whom we recognise Meleager in the centre, depicted in the act of killing the boar.
- 41/45Sarcophagus with the myth of Meleager
If we observe the footwear of the protagonists of the scene, it is worthwhile focusing on the boots worn by the goddess Artemis, the third figure from the left. She is wearing mullei, a style generally associated with male figures and used in military, hunting or Dionysian contexts, (the term comes from the mullus, a type of fish, the mullet, from which it took its red colour). Here, the fact that a female deity is wearing mullei, is certainly not a mistake. On the contrary, it is one of the rare exceptions to the rule: Artemis, in her role as hunting goddess endowed with typically male attributes - bow and arrows - wears these particular boots. Closed, sturdy, complete with a leather lining in the shape of a feline hanging over the top of the footwear, they were generally worn by gods, heroes or figures of imperial ranking.
- 42/45Sarcophagus with the myth of Meleager
Footwear inspired by mullei
Leather, metal plate
Formello (RM), Pompei 2000 srl
Movie: Quo vadis? (1951)
During the twentieth century, thanks to the popular peplum or sword and sandal film genre, the style again became popular, as the footwear of high ranking characters. One example are the mullei of Consul Marcus Vinicius in Quo Vadis, which can be admired in the exhibition “Worn by the Gods” and in which, the designer opted for a metallic applique as the finish on the lion’s head.
- 43/45Atticianus’ Muse
4th century AD
Docimaean marble, 187 cm
Uffizi, Inv. 1914, no. 269
Definitely part of the Uffizi collection since the 18th century, the statue dates back to the 4th century A.D. and is the work of the famous sculptural workshop in Aphrodisias (Turkey).
The figure depicted is Terpsichore, the Muse of dance, portrayed standing up alongside a cithara. She is wearing a long robe and a cloak which, gathered at the waist, is almost trapping her right arm. The head was restored in modern times and proof of this is visible in the remains of strands of hair falling on to the shoulders, which do not combine seamlessly with those on the head. Undoubtedly, the element of this work that has made it famous is the signature of its sculptor, Atticianus, inscribed on the base.
- 44/45Atticianus’ Muse
On her feet, the Muse is wearing a pair of closed shoes: the sole is low flat and the upper [top part of footwear, usually made of leather, ed.] appears quite soft and clings to the foot. The style is very simple, enriched only by an elongated element that extends to the back of the foot and presumably served a decorative purpose, since the shoes has no laces. Even if the name of this late Ancient style of footwear is unknown, when viewed close-up it can be compared to the persikai, a Greek shoe without laces and generally without a sole which was used on monuments from the archaic age until the Classical period to underline the eastern origin of the subject.
- 45/45Atticianus’ Muse
Florence, Uffizi Galleries, Pitti Palace Museum of Fashion and Costume
Donated by the Ferragamo family
In the exhibition “Worn by the Gods”, the Ferragamo chopine, with its closed, soft style, is the exhibit that most resembles the footwear of the Muse. The upturned toe, undoubtedly a detail of oriental inspiration, is also reminiscent of another ancient style, the akation.
Worn by the Gods
Project by Lorenza Camin and Fabrizio Paolucci
Review: Patrizia Naldini
Translations: Eurotrad Snc.
Graphics: Andrea Biotti
Photos: Francesco del Vecchio, Roberto Palermo, Sillabe
The Catalogue of the Exhibition "Worn by the Gods" is published by Sillabe
Please note: each image of this virtual exhibition may be enlarged for more detailed viewing.