Chopines, ca. 1600
Leather, silk, and wood; L. 8 3/4 in. (22.2 cm)
Purchase, Irene Lewisohn Bequest, 1973 (1973.114.4a,b)
The high platform shoes known as chopines came into fashion in Venice in the sixteenth century. Awkward yet practical, they served to keep the wearer's precariously perched feet from getting wet or soiled in the city's perpetually damp byways and also to signal her elevated social status. It was once thought that very high chopinesas much as twenty incheswere worn by courtesans to establish a highly visible public profile. Like expensive jewels and silk gowns, chopines were favored both by patrician women and the successful courtesans who contrived to emulate their appearance by donning expensive finery. Such fancy footwear does not unequivocally signal that its owner was a courtesan, but the chopines-shod woman in Pietro Bertelli’s erotic flap print (89.15.19) undoubtedly represents that niche of society.