Florence (Italy) (AFP)

Since Antiquity it has been an object of fashion, of social recognition but also of fantasy, even of fetishism. In Italy, an exhibition recounts the adventure of the shoe and shows that when it comes to shoes, too, all roads lead to Rome ...

Dozens of models are presented at the Pitti Palace in Florence, such as caligae, the laced sandals worn by Roman legionaries, models worn by peplum stars (from "Ben-Hur" to "Gladiator") to contemporary creations signed Saint-Laurent, Emilio Pucci or Salvatore Ferragamo.

"We wanted the shoe to be the main character because, and this was already clear to the ancients, it is not just an accessory", explains AFP Fabrizio Paolucci, one of the curators of the exhibition "Aux feet of the gods: the art of footwear in ancient Rome, epic cinema and contemporary fashion "(until April 19).

"Plato, for example, did not hesitate to define the art of shoemaking as a true science. By its shape or its colors, this garment was the identity card of a person and all of the one who wore: gender, profession or social condition, "he said.

The visitor's journey goes back to its origins, with the modest sandal whose prehistoric ancestor dates back 10,000 years, and which flourished in ancient Greece.

Protecting the heel but leaving the front of the foot uncovered, the one then called "crepid" has crossed the millennia on marble or bronze feet, vestiges of statues of gods, some of which are gathered for the exhibition.

These delicate shoes, skillfully laced, are also visible on pottery from the 5th century BC. On a vase, Eros, Greek god of Love, helps a young virgin to put on the sandals that she will wear for her wedding .

On a Etruscan urn, a naked courtesan lace her sandals, the studded soles of which leave imprints on the carpets writing "Follow me".

Greek shoes paved the way for the "caliga" worn by Roman soldiers, some authentic models of which, with intact leather, are also on display.

- From peplums to podiums -

These low sandals, reinforced with studs and sometimes worn with socks, were ideal shoes for the Roman legions, who could walk up to 35 kilometers per day.

They were a source of inspiration for the costumers of Hollywood charged to dress the thousands of extras of peplums like "Ben Hur" (1959), "Cleopatra" (1963) and more recently "Gladiator" of Ridley Scott (2000) .

The exhibition reserves a special place for the golden boots worn by Charlton Heston in "Ben Hur", the imposing high-heeled platform shoes of "Cleopatra", aka Elizabeth Taylor, or the tired sandals of Russell Crowe (Gladiator).

"Some cinema shoes allow very precise historical comparisons, based on a detailed study of how the antique models were made," Lorenza Camin, another curator of the exhibition, told AFP.

The archaeologist explains that the big screen is sometimes less picky in the reconstruction as in "Alexandre" (2004) with Colin Farrell, film devoted to the famous general of Macedonia, whose actors wear Roman shoes.

Difficult on the other hand to make the connection with the powerful gladiators by discovering the delicate boots intertwined with straps of the Italian brand Genny (1994) or the sexy sandals with stilettos signed Emilio Pucci, whose 26 leather bands go up to the thigh .

The creations of Roman inspiration by Yves Saint Laurent, Ferragamo and Richard Tyler follow one another with, finally, a ruby ​​red René Caovilla sandal whose thin strap set with Swarovski crystals winds on an imaginary ankle.

The exhibition also thought of antique painful feet with a therapeutic ceramic foot warmer dating from the 2nd century, in which a poured liquid brought its benefits to the fighters of the arena.

© 2020 AFP