Archive for February, 2010

A shoe without sex appeal is as barren as a tree without leaves”….. Rita de Acosta Lydig

by admin on Feb.28, 2010, under Craftsmanship

The Players


Rita De Acosta Lydig




She was flamboyant , She was Classic , She was Art .

Born into society, her life began with  legendary beauty and continued  with intrigue and opulence!  Married and Divorced  and  then Married again  she  launched herself into a life of  Art, Fashion and Culture.   She “belonged,” in the words of Vanity Fair editor Frank Crowninshield, “To the days and to the novels of Balzac, to the pages of Turgenev, the stories of Maupassant.”


rita lydig

 Pietro Yantourny


Master Shoe Maker


Born in Calabria Italy , Yantory’s Journey was one of Luck and Perseverance .  Pietro  undertook shoemakeing  between the ages of 12 and 13 working as an apprentice to a Boot-maker in Naples . During his apprenticeship Pietro retained all the knowledge the  Master Boot-maker could give while dreaming of a career in Paris.  From that point to achieve his goal he traveled from Genoa to Nice, to Marseilles, and then to Paris, where he was employed by some of the best shoe firms of that time.   We  also know that  Pietro was a curator at the Musee Cluny where he  studied historical  textile, which would be a major influence in his  later creations.  Literally with no financing,  he worked  tireless eighteen hour days,  at his goal of owning a shop in Paris.  Yantourny  cultivated a handcrafted, mysterious  and eccentric an image as complex and exotic  as his shoes.



A sign on the door of his  shop on the  Place de Vendome  ,  boasted that he was the  most expensive shoemaker in the wolrd .  It is claimed that Yantorny crafted a  perfect individualised fit which emulated the essence of the wearer though use of  vintage and  luxurious new materials . Yantorny was now catering  to the wealthiest Clientele from  France, Russia and the United States 



The Infamous Rules  


Newspaper photos courtesy of the New York Times


Before Yantorny would even agree to add a woman to his client list, he would demand a deposit of $1,000, from which he would subtract the price of each pair of  shoe or boot supplied.  He is notorious for

  • Watching women walk to study their gait and movement
  • A  plaster model of each foot, to create a mahogany shoe last on which he would then work and mold his materials until they were as flexible as the finest of silk stocking .
  • The client  had  no  say in the outcome what materials would be used , or when they would get the shoes.
  •  Yantourny was illiterate, but was fluent in Spanish , French and Itallian  . This perhaps explains  his 3 names Pietro , Paolo and Pierre .
  •  Creating his signature feather-light, unique shoes often took two or three years
  •  Bata Shoe Museum Yantorny P06-0006

    Copyright © 2010 Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto 

Top Left Photo: Court shoes with red silk velvet uppers, embroidered with gold machine embroidery overall, handcrafted by Yantorny. Throat at centre front is decorated with an exceptionally long and pointed tongue and an oval paste buckle. Heel is covered in same red silk velvet. Lining and sock are natural colour kid leather. Circa 1920-1936.
Top Right Photo : Court shoes with metallic gold and cream silk brocade uppers, handcrafted by Yantorny.Throat at centre front is decorated with an oval paste buckle. Throat is finished with a very fine (hand) button-hole stitch. Heel is covered in same silk brocade as the upper. Lining is natural colour kid leather. Circa 1920-1936.
 Middle  Left and Right Photos:  Court shoes with metallic silver and ivory silk brocade uppers, handcrafted by Yantorny. Throat at centre front is decorated with an exceptionally long and pointed tongue and an oval paste buckle. Throat is finished with a very fine (hand) button-hole stitch. Heel is covered in same silk brocade as the upper. The brocade is quite worn on the toe and quarters of both shoes. Lining and sock are in ivory kid leather.
  Bottom Left Photo : Black silk satin shoes with black embroidery on vamp, tongue and quarters. Small rectangular buckle is attached to the cross strap. Wooden stretchers composed of 3 pieces are intact. Made by Master Shoemaker Pietro Yantorny, circa 1900-1910.
Bottom Right Photo : Pair of women’s bar shoes with tan suede doe skin uppers, handcrafted by Yantorny. Four bars run over the instep of the shoe and secure with covered buttons on the outer side of the shoe. Button holes are hand-sewn. Heel is covered in same tan suede doe skin. Lining and sock are natural colour kid leather. Circa 1920-1936.

The Team


One can only speculate when they first met…  But what we do  know is that not a  better match existed, except one made in heaven!  For Rita , shoes were her first passion , more important than clothes and art .  True to form as a lady of society , Rita only walked short distances, yet she owned at least three hundred pairs of shoes.  Each pair of shoes was hand-crafted by  Pietro Yantorny.   The shoes Pietro  designed for Rita,  were fashioned from costly 11th and 12th century velvets, the  style  varying between long and pointed toes , or square with square heels.  Evening and boudoir slippers utilized brocades of gold- and silver-metal tissue, some covered with lace appliqué and leather spats that fit like a silk sock.    To house these delicate, exclusive  shoes… “ Legends claim ”  Rita  would use  shoe trees crafted  from the bodies of old Stradivarius violins,  housed in Russian leather  trunks  lined with a rich cream velvet, and closed with heavy locks.


yantorny pierre2[1]

Photos of  the Shoe Chest  Metropolitan Museum of Art
Photos of staged shoes An Aestheste’s Lament  via the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Detail Photos taken by Walker Sinclair Visuals @ the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute


A Few Of Yantorny’s Masterpieces

 YANTORNY FEATHER Artist’s Materpiece A Shoe made from feathers of the Japanese Hummingbird,  Newspaper photo courtesy of the New York Times 


Some Say this shoe was assembled by meticulously attaching each Japanese Hummingbird Feather ( 1.5mm long) to the upper .  Some Debate impossible to attach the feathers one by one  and the shoes must be constructed by attaching  the hide to the upper.  In a New York Times article dated March 3 1912, states,  ” the feathers are each only a tenth of a inch long and  one bird contributes very  few ,   500 skins were required to produce this pair of shoes”


 Yantorney heelshoe

Created by Yantorny as an Art Object , photo courtesy of Lust for Shoes


 Not into mass production, and never sacrificing his craft to make a buck  , Yantorny had a prescription for the world’s ills in his last interview with the New York Times  3 years before is death  :


” One must have work which interests and tires one  and quiet for thought.   The  quiet of the early morning out in the fields when thought is not an active process but the absorption of the wisdom with the accompaniment of a blackbird whistle . ”


  ” Most people need to stop and look at something outside of their lives. ”


“There was not ever any crisis in the value of what was worthwhile.  All that is wrong is that the world has lost its sense of values when it gets back , there will be no more crisis .”


Toward the end of his career Yantorny The  Seer , Philosopher, and Le Bottier Le Plus Cher  Du Monde , concentrated on  his  shoe creations as Art objects to be housed in Museums to be admired in years to come .   In fact  the  last entry in Yantourny’s Journal which  is held in the collection at the Musée de la Chaussure , referring  to  the  pair of exclusive  Feathered ( Japanese hummingbird)  shoes which he claimed  took 6 months to make:


    “I did not make with intention of selling it ,only as a art object and just how far i can push the envelope,  and  my only aim is to leave something to museum of the shoe which future genrations can admire . .”



Copyright © 2010 Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto



The Shoe Queen by Anna Davis                    Bata Shoe Museum

New York Times                                         The Honorable Cordwainers Co

Musée de la Chaussure                               Lust For Shoes

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