CARS HOMES JOBS

Albany Institute’s shoe collection includes high-buttons, high heels, slingbacks

Sunday, November 7, 2010
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A pair of brown leather boots was made (possibly in Albany) for a child and bear a metal toe plate inscribed with “Nov 29, 1852.”
A pair of brown leather boots was made (possibly in Albany) for a child and bear a metal toe plate inscribed with “Nov 29, 1852.”

Under the skylight, in the grand Lansing Gallery at the Albany Institute of History & Art, a 6-foot-tall, head-to-toe image of a dark-haired Dutch woman stands out in the dense salon of paintings depicting 18th- and 19th-century America.

In 1723, the 51-year-old Arianntje Coeymans, wearing a serious expression and a string of corn kernels around her neck, held still for the artist's brush after she married 28-year-old David VerPlanck.

Her portrait is one of the museum’s treasures, the first life-size likeness of a woman in Colonial America.

But did you check out her shoes?

Peeking out from under her somber, dark gray gown, Arianntje was quite stylish in her chunky black high heels trimmed with brocade fabric.

‘The Perfect Fit’ & ‘Old Soles’

WHERE: Albany Institute of History & Art, 125 Washington Ave., Albany

WHEN: Through Jan. 2. Museum hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday

HOW MUCH: $10 for adults, $8 for students and seniors, $6 for children age 6 to 12, children under 6 are free. Admission is free on Albany’s 1st Friday (5 to 8 p.m. Dec. 3)

MORE INFO: www.albanyinstitute.org or 463-4478

GUIDED TOURS: 2 p.m. Nov. 13, Dec. 4, Dec. 11; 3 p.m. today, Nov. 14, Dec. 5, Dec. 12

RELATED EVENTS: Gallery talk, 6:30 p.m. Dec. 3, two artists from “The Perfect Fit” and curator Wendy Tarlow Kaplan

Now, can you find a real pair of shoes that look like hers?

“Old Soles: Three Centuries of Shoes from the Albany Institute's Collection,” an accessory to “A Perfect Fit,” features 60 pairs of shoes that step across time, from the buckle boots of Colonial Days to designer high-heels and platforms from the 1970s.

And the show was located in the Lansing Gallery for a reason.

“It really adds to the exhibition to see them [the shoes] with the paintings. If you go around to all the paintings, you can just look at the feet,” said Tammis Groft, deputy director for collections and exhibitions.

The museum cobbled the shoe show from the 150 pairs in its collection, and the footwear once worn by women, men and children is somewhat chronologically arranged in four exhibit cases, with detailed information on each pair.

“We know who made them, who wore them or who sold them,” said Groft.

Most of them were donated by area residents, and some were even made in Albany.

“These are very typical mid-18th century shoe . . . Spitalfields silk,” said Groft, pointing to a small, delicate pair of women’s shoes in one of the first two cases.

Related story

Click here to read about the exhibit of fantastical footwear at AIHA, ‘The Perfect Fit.’

Her favorite shoe, leather with a wooden sole, has no mate and was worn by a man who was a farmer or laborer in the early 1800s. “The fact that this has survived is really extraordinary,” she said.

Over 300 years, fashions were always changing. Toes were square or pointed, heels high or low and they were fastened with buckles, buttons and ties.

Two of the cases are devoted to the 20th century, where we see high-button ladies’ boots and Navy dress pumps donated by a World War II WAVE.

After World War II, slingbacks and peep toes show up, and designers create high heels in plastic, imitation snakeskin and alligator.

“Exotics became very popular,” said Groft.

 
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