Literary Review

I have divided texts related to the study of chopines into the following ten categories. Please see the Annotated Bibliography section of this project for more information on works mentioned below.

1. Works on Chopines

Anderson, Kiernan, and Butazzi have focused articles on Early Modern European chopines. Anderson treats Spanish models while Kiernan and Butazzi emphasize Venetian examples. Kiernan's article is an analysis of the largest chopine collection (fourteen pairs) held at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Kiernan states that chopines originated in Spain and makes other erroneous statements throughout, after having included information from Anderson’s article, and other unlisted sources. No other works on this bibliography claim a Spanish origin for the style--all clearly understand the chopine to have developed in fifteenth-century Venice as a possible Western interpretation of Turkish women's bathhouse clogs.

2. Works on Shoes in General

Nine books fall into this category of works on shoe styles in general, i.e. throughout history and on all continents. These works include the Bata Museum text as well as works by Blutstein, Grew and Neergaard, Heyraud, Ledger, McDowell, Trasko, Wilcox and Wilson. Most of the books here are folio size glossy texts with pictorial information relating to the history of shoes. All include some information on chopines (possibly due to their visual distinctiveness in relation to other shoes throughout time). In this category, authors have approached the study on various levels, from sweeping generalizations based on opinions of the origin of styles and forms, to academic, quantitative analyses. McDowell states that the chopine is one of the earliest examples of a fad in the European fashion world. All of these texts make one wonder about the relation of wearable objects as a reflection of culture.

3. Works on Venetian Guilds

Unfortunately only one book can be placed in this category at this time, being the work of Pizzati entitled I Mestieri della Moda. This text describes the artisans and guilds of the fashion world in early modern Venice, including a major chapter on the shoe craft and the artisans involved in shoe production and repair. Excellent information abounds and can be interpreted as factual since this text was published by the city of Venice and researched by Venetian experts referring to Venetian artifacts.

4. Works on Women who Probably Wore Chopines

Several texts on Venetian courtesans explain their life-styles and why they wore chopines as a reflection of their superior status in the trade. Ruggiero, Zorzi, Alfieri, Aretino, Lawner, Rosenthal, Barzaghi, and Tassini discuss the careers of these wealthy women. Many demonstrate as well that Italian Courtesan fashion paralleled that of aristocratic women. Texts which give information on aristocratic women include works by Yriate, Lane, and J.C. Davis. Chambers' and Pullan's text reproduces primary source materials while works on the social climate and Renaissance sexuality include Ruggiero's three works and Yalom's history of breasts.

5. Works on Italian Renaissance Fashion

Excellent folio sized and heavily illustrated texts by Bentivenga, Birbari and Herald fall into this category. Illustrations are reproductions of Renaissance Italian oil paintings, frescoes, and other fine arts in which important clothes are represented. Vecellio’s famous sixteenth century costume book is included in this category. Vecellio's illustrations represent popular fashions worn by men and women before 1590.

6. Works on Costume and Fashion in General

Cunnington, F. Davis, D.E. Allen, Breward, and Laver's texts make up this category of fashion history throughout the ages. These authors make one question the meaning of symbols, designs, fabrics, ornamentation (and undercodes) present in clothing (and on the body itself) which have the effect of immediately categorizing people into groups, including: rank, class, occupation, sex, ideology, country of origin, and many more. Laver interestingly adds that clothing was first worn by Adam and Eve for reasons of modesty. Later, clothing became a reason in itself for display throughout time.

7 Works on Contemporary Italian Fashion

Several works included in this category relate to twentieth-century fashion (written by Bottero, Ferretti, Giacomoni, Mulassano and Villa). These writers speak about the technical aspects of design and the current masters of the craft. Additionally, they give us insight into the meaning of fashion for Italians. One notes that after World War II, the exploration of the aesthetic realm was reinterpreted (after decades of more simple, utilitarian design as a reflection of earlier poverty).

8. Works on the Meaning of Costume

Severa and Horswill’s article entitled, "Costume as Material Culture" is relevant to this project and to our course which both grapple with finding satisfactory methodologies for the analysis of artifacts. These two authors devise an excellent methodology for the study of costume and later applies it to three dresses. Their methodology is a combination of those proposed by experts in the study of material culture.

9. Works on Shoes as Forms/Designs in themselves

Blutstein’s text notes that in the distant past people have designed objects in the form of shoes such as flasks, perfume bottles, sculptures and other small household items. Mazza’s Scarperentola is proof that the form of the foot is aesthetically interesting and appealing to artists as his text is a collection of recently designed sculptures based on the form of the shoe which is aesthetically appealing in itself, independent of utilitarian foot covering. Additionally, Trasko states that some of the most creative artists and designers have worked in the shoe industry.

10. Works on China, Women's Footbinding and the Meaning of Feet in Chinese Culture

Fan Hong, Beverly Jackson, Howard Levy, Tonglin Lu and William A. Rossi, while using different methodologies, all explore the feet and shoes of Chinese women and how their bound feet manifested their restricted position in society. From these books, one can learn much about the practice of footbinding itself, and start to understand the erotic connotations involved with such a practice, leading one to question the ideal of beauty in the East and West.

In the end, I hope this project will influence the need for greater precision in the methodological study of artifacts, including footwear examples, which are often miscatalogued in museums and described inaccurately in texts. I hope through this project to contribute to the accurate analysis and classification of Venetian Renaissance chopines.