Discover the ties between Salvatore Ferragamo’s research and the fields of science, art, architecture, archaeology, circus and dance.
Ferragamo's in the exhibition
84 historic shoes created by Salvatore Ferragamo from the 1930s to the end of the 1950s
27 of Salvatore Ferragamo’s patents
100 wooden lasts for the feet of some of his clients from the Twenties to today: Bingham, Buitoni, Priyanka Chopra, Bette Davis, Marlene Dietrich, the Duchess of Aosta, the Duchess of Windsor, Kang Dong-won, Greta Garbo, Ava Gardner, George Alexander Louis di Cambridge, Rita Hayworth, Audrey Hepburn, Katharine Hepburn, Kim Hye-soo, Mr. and Mrs. Horenstein, Patty Hou, Angelina Jolie, Michael Jordan, Carina Lau Kar-ling, Wong Kar-Wai, Sonam Kapoor, Ayako Kawahara, Nicole Kidman, Mr. and Mrs. Kierman, Ang Lee, Tony Leung, Chi Ling Lin, Sofia Loren, Madonna, Anna Magnani, Riho Makise, Lee Mi Yeon, Carmen Miranda, Karen Mok, Marilyn Monroe, Margherita Pasquini, Dev Patel, Mary Pickford, Soraya of Persia, Claretta Petacci, Freida Pinto, Kim So Yeon, Gloria Swanson, Yoo Ji-tae, Takahashi, Lana Turner, Ken Watanabe, Kim Yunjin and Zhang Ziyi
Sequence of a women’s shoe fit in five sizes and a men’s fit in four
Development of a shoe from the last to completion in 11 heel heights
Plasters of soles, studies and a last meter from the 1950s from Jerry Ferragamo’s archives
One of the original plumb lines used by Salvatore Ferragamo in his studies, 1950-1960
Scales from the 1930s, originally from the pharmacy in via Porta Rossa, Florence, used by Salvatore Ferragamo to test the lightness of his shoes
Installation with the Viatica shoe in red patent leather, a 2012-2013 recreation of the original pump created in the Fifties for Marilyn Monroe
Human history begins with the feet
According to respected palaeontologist André Leroi-Gourhan, human history begins with feet. And the arch of the foot has played a crucial role in the development of man: supporting the human body when it is both still and in motion, standing and walking. In this way, the foot is the keystone of the human story, more than the club or promethean fire, long before the wheel or plough.
Since man first placed his foot on the ground to walk upright, the arch of the foot has never stopped supporting the weight of the body in balance, making all motion possible, from the simplest movement to the most complex, from the lightest to the most difficult, from the slowest to the quickest: standing, walking, marching, dancing, advancing like an acrobat or tightrope walker.
Discover the history of the magnificent exhibition Equilibrium with curator Stefania Ricci
Salvatore Ferragamo’s greatest concern was the arch of the foot
Of the plantar arch, he wrote:
“Nature, the supreme architect from whom Man has borrowed and adapted so many of his ideas, has created the human foot in that shape and not allowed it to develop without an arch because, as any architect will tell you an arch can carry more weight than a flat surface. This arch, however, has to do more than carry a stationary weight, like the arch of a church door; it has to carry our moving weight as we walk. Therefore Nature has provided the foot with joints and swivels to allow us to walk in comfort. […] This simple mechanism moves and stretches as you walk barefoot: the joints and the toes perform their duties freely, falling back into their natural positions at the end of each step, ready for the next. You feel comfortable and free, as indeed you should. These are natural movements”.
“[…] many feet are injured by shoes. Does the answer lie, then, in the fact that when the foot is inside the shoe it is no longer allowed to perform its natural functions? Is it imprisoned like a bird in a cage, unable to work properly? If that is so does this imprisonment affect the arch? Again, if this is so does this mean that the arch not only should but must be supported?”
The plumb line
In his autobiography, Salvatore Ferragamo writes how his primary concern was to find a way to help feet rest securely on the ground, to support them and allow the entire weight of the body to be released correctly on the ground. In order to do this, Ferragamo devoted countless hours to studying the mechanics of the foot, its anatomy and the scientific laws that regulate walking, the architecture of the skeletal system and the way muscles function, in order to understand how the arch of the foot works, the importance of the golden ratio and the distribution of weight between the centre of the plantar arch and its extremities (heel and toes).
Ferragamo gave great importance to the plumb line, a fundamental concept in classical and contemporary dance. Indeed, he personally gauged the golden point of his shoes using the appropriate instruments: like architects and the builders of cathedrals and triumphal arches, Ferragamo used the plumb line to confirm that the weight of the body fell on the right point, to keep the body aligned. Salvatore Ferragamo found the median line that can be drawn from the top of the body (the head) to the horizontal plane (the ground) where the bottom of the foot touches down. This vertical line between earth and sky is the axis of equilibrium that leads to the centre of the arch of the foot and vice versa.
This reveals how Ferragamo the shoemaker followed methods similar to those of Medieval and Renaissance artists and architects, meaning, his knowledge of anatomy and the laws of physics, in relation to those of music and the cosmos, was indispensable to the achievement of formal perfection. Therefore, Ferragamo was interested in the mechanics of the foot, as he sensed that this was the basis for his clients’ wellbeing and physical - as well as mental - health.
Inside the exhibition: Ms. Wanda Miletti Ferragamo gives an exclusive testimony of the history of Equilibrium across the generations.
Inside the atelier with James Ferragamo
My grandfather was a genius, not just because of the creativity of his models, the selection of the materials and the ability to make a product that was lightweight, but also because he paid close attention to the fit.
Inside the exhibition: Cecil Balmond on the dynamics of Equilibrium
"You could think that the foot is an arch, which it actually is. But it's the most complex body part in my opinion."
Inside the exhibition: Artist Cecil Balmond on Equilibrium
"Equilibrium is a basis for life, it’s a balance in the way we perceive space as we move through. So we feel secure but a little at risk: when we move through a forest, or a mountain, or listen to music, or make a piece of architecture, we feel safe at the end of it but we know we have experienced a degree of risk. Equilibrium it’s for me a massive orchestration of parts being held together by a composition, be it static or dynamic."
Inside the exhibition: Eleonora Abbagnato on Tiptoe
"For a ballet dancer, the relationship with one's foot is of crucial importance. I still remember the first time I put on pointe shoes..."
Inside the exhibition: Reinhold Messner on instinctive equilibrium
When I speak of equilibrium, I'm speaking of inner equilibrium, which matures when a person is capable of knowing himself..."
Inside the exhibition: Philippe Petit on the mind and body in equilibrium of the wire
"The first step for me, as a wire-walker, is a point of no return."
The private view of Equilibrium at Museo Salvatore Ferragamo