In Venetians' shoes

By Museo della Calzatura di Villa Foscarini Rossi

Venice, Italy

Venice is a city in the northeastern Italy and the capital of the Veneto region. It is situated across a group of 117 small islands that are separated by canals and linked by bridges.

Ancient Venetian footwear (From the beginning of the 13th century to the end of the 19th century)Museo della Calzatura di Villa Foscarini Rossi

Shoemaking in Venice, an ancient story

Venetian shoemaking craft praises an ancient and prestigious tradition, linked to the Venetian Calegheri's School. The existence of this confraternity, ruled by a specific regulation (Capitulary) and legitimated by its own seal, is proved since 1268. The Shoe Museum of Villa Foscarini Rossi holds a small but precious collection of Venetian footwear, spanning from the 18th to the 19th century.

Seal of the Calegheri's confraternity (1268/1268)Museo della Calzatura di Villa Foscarini Rossi

Seal of the Calegheri's confraternity
1268

The Calegheri's School was born in Venice, probably around the second half of the 13th century. This name comes from Latin for "Caligarii", that is to say people who made soldiers' shoes, "caligae". Members of this noble Art used to manufacture very refined shoes for Venetian patricians, bringing great prestige to the Republic of San Marco with their work.

Campo San Tomà and the Calegheri School

Initially, the headquarters of the Calegheri School was located in Santa Maria della Carità Church in Venice. Later, during the 15th century, since the craft organization acquired higher economic power and importance, it moved its headquarters in Campo San Tomà.

LIFE Photo Collection

In the Venetian Calegheri's Capitulary (dated 1268) the different types of shoes crafted are reported, such as wooden clogs, called "patitos", and footwear "stivallo". Interesting to know that Calegheri could not produce shoes using new uppers and old soles, and that they were forbidden to patch their own shoes or their family's ones: therefore, Calegheri could only produce new shoes.

The Brenta Riviera district

After Napoleon put an end to the glorious Venetian Republic (1797), the difficult situation and the lack of work forced Venetian shoemakers to move along the Brenta Riviera: this fact resulted to be fundamental for the growth of the craft in this area. Nowadays, several important shoe factories, including Rossimoda, are still located in the Brenta Riviera district.

Shoe with overshoe, Venetian footwear (Between the end of 17th and the 18th century)Museo della Calzatura di Villa Foscarini Rossi

Running around Venice

Court shoe, Venetian footwear (17th century)Museo della Calzatura di Villa Foscarini Rossi

The poulaine 

Leather poulaine

This style of men's shoes, called poulaine possibly because of their native country, was fashionable from the XIII century to the end of the XV century.

The long toe was the main feature of poulaine: it is reported that, in the most extreme cases, they could reach 20-25 cm of length. The toes were usually stuffened with moss or wool to help them mantain their shape.

Shoe with overshoe, Venetian footwear (Between the end of 17th and the 18th century)Museo della Calzatura di Villa Foscarini Rossi

Footwear with overshoe

Delicate footwear

The peculiarity of this 18th century item is the overshoe knotted on the front side of the upper. The overshoe was made in wood or leather and it was in vogue among noblewomen mainly during the first half of the 18th century. They were used to protect precious and delicate women’s footwear from the dirty streets.

Fashion history reflects the marked social difference between men and women: while men needed resistant shoes to work outside, women did not as they usually stayed at home. Therefore, upper-class women’s footwear were usually in precious and fragile materials.

Ballet court shoe, Venetian footwear (18th century)Museo della Calzatura di Villa Foscarini Rossi

Court shoe

This court shoe was a typical item of the 18th century Venitian fashion.

This type of footwear was richly decorated with glass beads and metal threads.

Open slipper shoe, Venetian footwear (18th century)Museo della Calzatura di Villa Foscarini Rossi

Slipper shoe

Slipper shoe

During the 18th century Venetian women's footwear were inspired by Middle-East slippers.

Mule, Venetian footwear (19th century)Museo della Calzatura di Villa Foscarini Rossi

Metal threads can be observed in all these 18th century Venetian shoes. Precious metals have been used for textiles decoration since ancient times. The threads were obtained through wounding metal strips, creating a spiral, around a fibrous core.

Mule, Venetian footwear (18th century)Museo della Calzatura di Villa Foscarini Rossi

Boot, Venetian footwear (18th century)Museo della Calzatura di Villa Foscarini Rossi

Coachman's boot

Coachman's boot

Practical and resistant boots, such as the one in photo, were used in the 18th century by coachmen. These footwear can be considered as the first prototype of safety shoes: they were thought to protect legs from accidents and, at the same time, to make drivers maintain the correct position on the carriage. On the knee, there is a horsehairs stuffing as protection.

Ankle boot, Venetian footwear (Beginnig of the 19th century)Museo della Calzatura di Villa Foscarini Rossi

Ankle boot

This type of ankle boots was on fashion during the 19th century. They were made in silk or leather and sometimes lined with fur for wintertime. Initially the boots had no heels but then moderate ones were added.

The most elegant boots were made in silk and the colour was coordinated with the dress.

Court shoe, Venetian footwear (17th century)Museo della Calzatura di Villa Foscarini Rossi

Ballet shoe

18th century lady's shoe, made in beige silk with bows and embroidery in beads of the same colour. It is considered that it might be a ballet shoe.

Court shoe, Venetian footwear (17th century)Museo della Calzatura di Villa Foscarini Rossi

Footwear might be finely decorated and embellished to be a luxury item for all practical purposes. This satin court shoe, dated back to the 18th century and probably used for dancing, is adorned with gros grain bows.

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