Alfieri, Bruno, editor. Il Gioco dell’Amore: Le Cortigiane di Venezia dal Trecento al Settecento. Milano: Berenice, 1990.
Alfieri’s text is a compilation of articles on Venetian courtesans from ca. 1300-1700. Chapters treat their luxurious life-styles, courtesans and gambling, courtesans and venereal diseases, courtesans and their image in Renaissance literature, courtesans and foreign travelers, courtesans and their musical talents, and (most importantly!) courtesans and fashion. Text includes many color reproductions of courtesans in art.
Allen, D.E. “Fashion as a Social Process” in Textile History 22, no. 2 (1991): 347-58.
This brief article based on a number of sources provides an excellent introduction to terms and concepts used in describing fashion, fashion cycles, and the phenomenon of fashion in general.
Anderson, Ruth Matilda. “The Chopine and Related Shoes” in Cuardernos de la Alhambra. Vol. 5, 1969: 33-50.
This article is specifically on Spanish chopines as a footwear fashion in early modern Europe. The article states that the ’chapin’ was worn by important women and that early examples of men’s chopines exist as well. The construction of the Spanish version of the shoe is described, as it is usually made of two vamp sections, an insole, and a side part, all mounted on a cork platform. Anderson’s article is interesting since it refutes the common idea that chopines originated in Venice. Instead the author maintains the style was originally from the Iberian peninsula, where cork abounded and served as the base of all chopines. Possibly the first European example of chopines came from Alhambra. Spanish chopines were heavily decorated with designs of animals, scrolls, flowers, illustrations of the Pope, etc. (whereas Venetian models were simpler, often having only punched leather abstract designs). Anderson understands that these shoes are difficult to date yet refers to guild documents from several Spanish cities—proving that chopines were in existence in Spain in the fifteenth century, apparently before the first Venetian chopines existed. An interesting reference to a chopine-related expression is mentioned, “ponerse en chapines” meaning to raise one’s self above one’s condition.
’Escolta de una gran senora en Barcelona’ by Christoph Weiditz, Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg, Germany.
Bata Limited. All About Shoes: Footwear Through the Ages. Toronto: Bata Limited, 1994.
This book is a predominantly pictorial account of exceptional kinds of footwear worn by humans throughout the ages, and on all continents. All of the photographed examples included are part of Toronto’s Bata Shoe Museum collection. The compilation makes one ask what can be learned about beliefs and culture through shoes.
Bata Shoe Museum Folders: each are compilations of articles, index cards, reviews, etc. relating to footwear in the following areas::
“Fetishism, Footwear and Foot”
Bentivenga, Ferruccia Cappi. Abbigliamento e Costume nella Pittura Italiana nel Rinascimento. Roma: Carlo Bestetti Edizioni d’Arte, 1962.
This massive volume is a comprehensive guide to Renaissance Italian fashion as portrayed in surviving paintings, frescoes and other fine arts. Pisanello’s depicted style of dress, French influence on Italian fashion, hairstyles, poor and artisan-class fashion, veils, laces, children’s clothing, Venetian styles, German-inspired styles, sleeve styles, fashion based on fantasy, ecclesiastical fashion and accessories, are included to name but a few topics included in this excellent reference-type work.
Birbari, Elizabeth. Dress in Italian Painting 1460-1500. London: John Murray, 1975.
This book is about Italian fashion in the Renaissance focusing on shirts, doublets, dresses, sleeves, fastenings, and head veils. It does not include a formal chapter on footwear, but one can come to one’s own conclusions about styles and designs since color paintings are reproduced throughout the text in which shoes are ubiquitous.
Blutstein, Elisabeth, editor. 4000 Ans d’Histoire de la Chaussure. Blois: Chateau de Blois, 1984.
Although this book describes 4000 years of human footwear, it concentrates on the period from the Renaissance to the twentieth century. The book is includes a chapter on objects in the shape of shoes (but never used as shoes) including flasks, porcelain sculptures and wooden shoe forms. The history of shoe production in the city of Blois is highlighted since this publication is a catalog of an exhibition held at the Chateau de Blois in 1984.
Bottero, Amelia. Nostra Signora la Moda. Milano: Mursia, 1979.
This book is similar to that written by Silvia Giacomoni—both focus on the Italian Look and its origin in post-World War II Europe. Bottero explains technical aspects of fashion design and production and focuses on the masters of the craft since the Fifties.
Cunnington, Phillis. Costume in Pictures. London: Studio Vista, 1964.
Cunnington traces the history of mostly British (and later American) clothing styles from the Middle Ages to the twentieth century. “In the art of costume, the nature of the materials, their form and colour, combine to indicate, mostly by symbols, certain ideas: costume is far more revealing than nudity” is the basic thesis of this heavily illustrated guide to fashion. Cunnington demonstrates that clothes denote social rank, occupation, sex, and ideas.
Ferretti, Massimo, editor. Roberto Capucci: I Percorsi della Creativita. Roma: Fabbri Editori, 1994.
This is another glossy-paged Italian fashion text reproducing designs made by Roberto Capucci which were on display in Rome in 1994. Although not based on shoes, the Capucci collection makes one think of the meaning of fashion in general, demonstrating the twentieth century’s capacity to interpret design in a variety of ways by hundreds of artists in contrast to the Renaissance period, when fashion seems to have been more homogenous due to long ’fashion cycles,’ and when the importance of the individual designer seems to have counted less.
Giacomoni, Silvia. L’Italia della Moda. Milano: Gabriele Mazzotta editore, 1984.
This books reports on the current state of events (as of 1984) in the fashion world in Milan, Italy, focusing on brilliant designers: Versace, Armani, Cerruti, Fendi and Ferre. Giacomoni recounts public information on the world of Italian fashion while attempting to explain why the Italian look has been so successful worldwide. Giacomoni hypothesizes that the look was born in a traditionally poor country which finally liberated itself from elementary needs after the second world war, thus beginning to re-explore aesthetic realms.
Grew, Francis and Margarethe de Neergaard. Shoes and Patterns: Medieval Finds from Excavations in London. London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1988.
This academic text relates information on archaeological finds from ten separate excavations where footwear was discovered, mainly in thick anaerobic organic deposits, especially along the Thames. The author includes technical information on poulaines, additionally noting that the toes were stuffed with moss and that could be stitched in 4 or 5 different manners. Grew also dedicates chapters to wooden pattens, and shoes as represented in art and literature.
Herald, Jacqueline. Renaissance Dress in Italy 1400-1500. ed. Aileen Ribeiro. London: Bell and Hyman, 1981.
This is a comprehensive volume of fashion in Renaissance Italy which includes hundreds of reproductions of clothing-filled paintings. The author treats such subjects as: the importance of fashion and beauty in the Renaissance, dress as a narrative, extravagance at court, jewelry, and embroidery. An important glossary of Renaissance dress and textile terms follows and chopines here are interchangeably termed “pianelle,” which, however, seem to denote both slippers, as well as slippers mounted on platforms as part of chopine. Further, Carpaccio’s famous painting of two presumed courtesans is refuted to be just that—Herald upholds it to be a depiction of two Venetian ladies wearing typically Venetian styles. If one interprets contextual clues present in Carpaccio’s painting, including a peacock (representing vanity), doves (representing love; or birds as a sexual pun in Italian), and dogs (representing fidelity), removed chopines (representing availability), and a dwarf (representing sexuality), it is clear that the women are courtesans. Herald also lists the seven types of Renaissance Italian shoes, being: calcetto, calza, pedule, pianella, scarpe, stivale, and zoccolo. See Vocabulary section of this site for additional words and their meanings
Heyraud, Bertrand. 5000 Ans de Chaussures. England: Parkstone Press, 1994
This folio size glossy text illustrates and explains the general origins of shoes from the beginning of human history to the present, but is especially focused on twentieth century examples and developments.
Jackson, Beverly. Splendid Slippers: One Thousand Years of an Erotic Tradition. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 1997.
This book explains why tiny feet were so highly valued in Chinese culture for a period spanning roughly one thousand years. Although Jackson is particularly interested in lotus slippers as textile artifacts, she explains how footbinding was accomplished, why it was popular, and why small feet were regarded as erotic. Parallels between bound feet and chopines can easily be made from information present in this book.
Kiernan, Matthew. “Stepping Out: Footwear in the Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston” in Dress, 1981: 9-29.
This article includes photographs and explanations of shoes (including fourteen pairs of Venetian chopines) held at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. Several dates and places of origin of shoes mentioned in this article have been disputed by June K. Swann, an authority of footwear history. Although this article is not always factually reliable, it speculates (among other things) about the origin of chopines, which, according to Kiernan, came from Spain and were there known as “cow’s feet” due to their hoof-like base.
Lawner, Lynne. Lives of the Courtesans: Portraits of the Renaissance. New York: Rizzoli, 1987.
This folio sized text contains reproductions of nearly all surviving images of courtesans, prostitutes, and paintings of Venus, the goddess of love. Lawner reproduces primary sources on courtesans including examples of their poetry, sumptuary legislation aimed at their class, and foreigner’s impressions of them upon visiting Venice. These primary sources are interpreted throughout the book between chapter-length discussions on the courtesan in Rome and Venice, the courtesan in literature, the courtesan’s image in art, and the courtesan in Venetian, French, and Northern European painting.
Laver, James. Costume and Fashion. London: Thames and Hudson, 1969.
Laver’s book is a concentration on the forms and materials used to make clothing throughout the ages. Laver divides his discussion of costume into categories which include male and female, fitted and draped, and tropical and arctic. He notes that clothes were first worn in Genesis by Adam and Eve for reasons of modesty, but with time became reasons in themselves for display. He states as well that ancient Greek courtesans wore extravagant, gilded footwear, the soles of which were often studded with nails leaving a footprint which literally read, “FOLLOW ME.”
Ledger, Florence E. Put Your Foot Down. Wiltshire, U.K.: C. Venton, 1985.
This general text covers the story of shoes from Ancient Egypt to the present, while focusing heavily on English sources. In relation to chopines, they are said to have reached Europe via the Orient by way of Venice. However, similar platform shoes are said to have been worn by tragic actors in ancient Greek drama. Ledger hypothesizes that the style could have been adopted in France by Anne of Brittany (1477-1514) to hide her limp. Generally, they were worn under long gowns and went unseen. The author also notes the difficulty encountered by Venetian ladies wearing the style since they had to climb into and out of gondolas with their stilt-like platforms.
Mazza, Samuele. Scarperentola. Milano: Idea Books, 1993.
This small-sized book is a collection of color photographs of sculpture based on the form of the shoe. The Italian artists who designed the photographed objects demonstrate much flexibility with regard to their various interpretations of the foot as an object aesthetically appealing in itself, independent of the idea of a shoe as an utilitarian foot covering.
McDowell, Colin. Shoes: Fashion and Fantasy. London: Thames and Hudson, 1989.
McDowell talks about fads in fashion, and lists the chopine as one of the earliest examples of such. McDowell claims that the chopine originated in the East, was subsequently worn by Greek actors (whose shoes were called ’cothurni,’) and later became the Venetian ’chopine.’
Mulassano, Adriana. The Who’s Who of the Italian Fashion. Firenze: Edizioni G. Spineli & C., 1979.
This text describes Italian high fashion, which supposedly came into existence in Florence in 1951, because of an extraordinary designer named Giorgini. The text then explores the image and careers, in alphabetical order, of forty protagonists of the ’Italian look’ which caught hold in America after 1956. Seeing many famous designers in photos reproduced here dating from the 1970s is amusing, as well as reading outdated information about their goals, ambitions, and the future of the fashion world.
Origo, Iris. The Merchant of Prato. London: Penguin Books, 1957.
This is a kind of ’case-study’ of the crafty merchant, Francesco Datini, of Prato. Information on the Tuscan merchant class, and on goods which circulated in and around Prato can be found here.
Pellizzari, Piero. Multilingual Footwear Dictionary.
Pellizzari’s dictionary includes hundreds of Western shoe-related terms, and is cross-referenced between five modern European languages.
Pizzati, Gino, editor. I Mestieri della Moda a Venezia. Venice: Stamperia di Venezia, 1988.
Pizzati’s is an excellent text describing the artisan and guild world relating to fashion production in Renaissance and early modern Venice. An entire section is dedicated to shoe production and repair carried out by the ’Calegheri’ and the ’Zavateri’ respectively. Numerous photographs of extraordinary chopines, zoccole, and other Venetian shoes made by masters of the craft fill these pages. Information about the guild structure, a glossary of shoe terms used in the Venetian past, sumptuary legislation relating to shoe styles, tools used by the guild, and all other relevant surviving documentation is included.
Rosenthal, Margaret F. The Honest Courtesan: Veronica Franco, Citizen and Writer in Sixteenth-Century Venice. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.
Rosenthal writes about the social and sexual climate in Venice before focusing her theme on the life and works of the talented courtesan, Veronica Franco. Rosenthal explains why Franco had enemies (and what they wrote about her), as well as interpreting what Franco herself wrote and published in sixteenth-century Venice.
Ruggiero, Guido. Binding Passions: Tales of Magic, Marriage and Power at the End of the Renaissance. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.
This book is a collection of five tales dedicated to the kinds of people which usually go unmentioned in standard history books of the Renaissance period including: fortune tellers, courtesans and prostitutes, and practitioners of black magic.
Ruggiero, Guido. The Boundaries of Eros: Sex Crime and Sexuality in Renaissance Venice. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985.
This text is a helpful guide to understanding human relationships in fifteenth-century Venice by highlighting the line drawn between normal and abnormal sexuality (as determined by the ruling class).
Ruggiero, Guido, editor. La Storia della Prostituzione. Firenze: Giunti, 1988.
This colorful booklet gives a brief history of prostitution as well as illustrates Italian courtesan fashion. Text includes reproductions of a painting by Carpaccio, and of Vecellio’s etchings in which chopines and courtesans are present.
Severa, Joan and Merrill Horswill. “Costume as Material Culture” in Dress: The Annual Journal of the Costume Society of America. Earlsville, MD: . Vol. 15, 1989: 51-64.
This article is relevant to the creation of a methodology for studies pertaining to clothing as an example of material culture. The article starts by mentioning some familiar names in the field: Prown, Ames, Ferguson, Kubler, Fleming, and others. The authors note how costumes reveal information about a person’s attitudes, beliefs, and assumptions about their culture. The authors state that scholars in the field agree on the following ideas: 1) a formal study may be made of either verbal or non-verbal documents; 2) the study of objects is pursued by setting up a series of questions which can be asked of and answered by the objects themselves; 3) methodology for study must vary according to the subject matter studied, the object type, and the information one desires to extract from the material culture. Next, a detailed methodology for the study of costume is proposed, and then applied to three similar dresses from ca. 1840. For a methodology designed specifically for the study of Renaissance footwear, please see the section of this site entitled Artifact Analysis and Methodology.
Thornton, J.H. “A Glossary of Shoe Terms” in Costume: The Journal of the Costume Society. London: Published for the Society. Vol. 11, 1977: 29-32.
A brief yet helpful glossary for novices entering the world of shoe making and design where technical terms abound.
Trasko, Mary. Heavenly Shoes: Extraordinary Twentieth Century Shoes. New York: Abbeyville Press, 1989.
This text attempts at explaining the meaning of shoes on different levels. It includes numerous color pictures of shoes, especially those created by contemporary designers such as Yantourney, Ferragamo, Vivier, Perugia, Chanel, Prada, etc. Roger Vivier is quoted on footwear, which he considers to be “a sculptural problem in which the center is always void.” Another designersee them as our “spiritual contact with the earth.” Trasko herself calls shoes “capable of inspiring imaginative caprice and private longing on an extravagant and exultant scale.” Her basic thesis is that some of the greatest, most creative and inspiring designs can be found throughout history in shoe form. She also notes that for centuries women’s feet and their coverings have held an “oddly exalted position” and that psychologists maintain “a fascination with feet and shoes is the most common form of sexual fetishism in Western society.”
Vecellio, Cesare. Vecellio’s Renaissance Costume Book: All 500 Woodcut Illustrations from the Famous Sixteenth Century Compendium of World Costume. New York: Dover Publications, 1977. (originally: Habiti Antichi et Moderni. Venice: Damian Zenaro, 1590.)
This book is a reprint of Vecellio’s late sixteenth century fashion guide composed of ca. 500 woodcuts relating to world costume, with particular focus on the author’s native land. Being a cousin of the great painter Tiziano, Vecellio accessed the art world by creating woodcuts, which have become one of our most reliable guides to fashion of his day. Vecellio’s guide represents the century’s greatest achievement in costume anthologies and does include numerous Venetian ladies wearing chopines. Both aristocratic women as well as courtesans don the shoe style, as well as near identical hairstyles, dresses, and fans. The modern-day publisher states in the introduction, “The sixteenth century was the golden age of the costume book. The great wealth of the mercantile classes was reflected not only in conspicuous consumption, clothes being a principle article [shoes as a part of clothing can fairly be interpreted here], but also in a great wave of travel and exploration in search of markets and raw materials, with the concomitant discovery of exotic modes of dress” (p.iii) which applies wholeheartedly to the presence of the extravagantly luxurious chopines in merchant-class Venice whose journeymen returned home with an Eastern prototype.
Villa, Nora. Le Regine della Moda. Milano: Rizzoli Editore, 1985.
This is a general book on contemporary Italian fashion and its place in Italian life. Villa examines four dominant names of the 1980s: Laura Biagiotti, Fendi, Missoni and Krizia and discusses their ability and capacity to find the best forms for fashion design.
Wedeck, Harry E. Pictorial History of Morals. New York: Philosophical Library, 1963.
This is a book of moral/immoral behavior as depicted in paintings in early modern Europe. Examples include a naked woman standing next to a pair of chopines by Jacob Jordaens (1593-1678) and a newlywed bride approaching her reclining husband while delicately stepping toward him in a pair of moderately-tall, exquisite chopines, painted by Giovanni da San Giovanni.
Wilcox, Ruth Turner. The Mode in Footwear. New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1948.
This is a general book on footwear fashions from the beginning of history to the present. Although some scholars do not interpret the information in this text as factual, Wilcox’s speculation is valuable and makes one question a more narrow kind of academic research, based on often scant textual documentation. Wilcox notes anecdotes and freely gives her opinions throughout, such as, “The Greeks felt more dignified to walk barefooted in order to freely enjoy the rhythmic movement of one’s body when walking.”
Wilson, Eunice: A History of Shoe Fashions. London: Pitman, 1969.
This academic text on shoes is based on information taken from books, paintings, sculpture, statuary, written evidence, and focuses mainly on the Anglophone world, tracing shoe history from pre-Roman Britain to English-speaking North America. One full chapter is dedicated to chopines, and illustrations represent the different kinds of uppers and soles designed. Wilson states that chopines “restricted a woman in her walking...and this itself served as a status symbol [since servants had to accompany these women; and since these women could not do any manual labor while wearing platform shoes]; they rendered her stance unstable and therefore added to the men’s feeling of superiority.” Wilson definitely believes that chopines originated in Venice (in contradiction to Anderson’s belief that they definitely developed in Spain). Chopines were the first European heeled shoe.
Yalom, Marilyn. A History of the Breast. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997.
This book helps one understand the importance of breasts in relation to ideas about feminine beauty in Renaissance culture (and how these ideas evolved from the concept of the breast as a sacred, life-giving organ to an erotic one). The importance of the breast in Western culture can be seen in contrast to an Eastern symbol of beauty and eroticism, the foot.
Yriarte, Charles. La Vie d’un Patricien de Venise au XVIe siecle. Paris: J. Rothschild Editeur, 1874.
This nineteenth-century book is dedicated to presenting the noble Barbaro clan and their estates located throughout the Veneto. While describing the family, the author sidesteps by illuminating Venetian women of the sixteenth century, the Venetian government (including the Grand Council, the Senate, the Doge), and the Ponte Rialto which served as the commercial center of the city.
Zorzi, Alvise. Cortigiana Veneziana: Veronica Franco e i Suoi Poeti. Milano: Camunia, 1986.
I read this book hoping to find references to what Veronica Franco (one of the most famous Venetian courtesans of sixteenth-century Venice) wore on her feet. Unfortunately, I found no such reference, but, the text helped me understand (along with Margaret F. Rosenthal’s The Honest Courtesan and Pietro Aretino’s Sei Giornate) what the life of the courtesan was like, and how it compared to that of the Venetian patrician.