Pierre Yantorny (Italian, 1874–1936) was one of the most exclusive and expensive shoemakers in Paris during the early twentieth century. Working at 26 Place Vendôme from a private atelier, which he opened in 1908, he crafted handmade custom-fitted shoes for an elite clientele, whose ranks were limited by his exorbitant prices.
While Yantorny's clientele came from all over the world, the majority were Americans, where the country's size and prosperity provided for an unparalleled number of the elegantly dressed customers he required.
Because Yantorny did not advertise and his production was strictly limited, his work is now best known through surviving shoes he created for Rita de Acosta Lydig (1880–1929), a noted beauty and style icon of the early twentieth century. More than two dozen pairs of Lydig's Yantorny shoes are extant, but she is thought to have owned several hundred.
Lydig was an avid collector of antique lace and textiles, and most likely supplied the lace covering these shoes. Yantorny applied identical motifs to each shoe in precisely the same pattern, which would have required cutting out the pieces from a significantly larger piece of lace.
An interpretation of the babouche, the traditional heel-less Turkish slipper associated with the harem, this style was especially appropriate for the Western boudoir. It was custom made for Rita de Acosta Lydig, whose idiosyncratic taste in fashion embraced an Orientalist aesthetic. Similar to that on Turkish examples, the embroidered fabric is probably authentic.
As a compliment to his knowledge of shoemaking, Yantorny studied the art of making shoe trees in London for two years, returned to Paris in 1900 to study last making, and opened his own last making shop in about 1904 followed by his shoemaking business in 1908. Yantorny's trees are as meticulously crafted as his shoes, with featherweight hollow construction, proprietary luminous varnish finish, and gilded hardware.
Mercedes de Acosta, the sister of voracious client Rita de Acosta Lydig, recounted that the trees were made from old violins that Rita purchased for the purpose. While this claim is apocryphal, it is evocative of the exquisite craftsmanship and lightness of Yantorny shoe trees.
This collection of shoes, along with their custom-made shoe trees and trunk, originally belonged to Rita de Acosta Lydig. Lydig's extensive wardrobe included numerous garments trimmed with antique lace and her shoes were no exception. These examples, made of antique velvet, lace, damask, and embroidery, with their exaggerated Louis XV–style heels and pointed toes, rest in a bespoke trunk, lined with cream-colored velvet.