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The 300 Years of Shoes collection - research & making - 1900- Columbidae


Columbidae - 1900

Collection: 300 years of Shoes

Garment: The lost left shoe of a Victorian woman

Materials: FSC accredited paper tablecloth, tissue paper, cartridge paper, Japanese rice paper Mizuhiki rice paper chord, embroidery thread, card, aqua bronze powder, pencil

The imagery on this shoe was inspired by the collective nature of doves in a cote and an illustration of a pair of doves, by the artist Martinet, François Nicolas, 1731-1800 published in 'Histoire des oiseaux peints dans tous leurs aspects apparents et sensibles‘.

This piece is inspired by the perceived beauty and purity of the appearance of the dove but it is interesting to note that the pigeon, perceived of so differently in Britain, is also part of the Columbidae family; the differentiation in their names attributed by the English languages does not exist in French and most other languages.

The shape and style of this shoe is inspired by a collection of embroidered shoes created for New York socialite Rita de Acosta Lydig (1880-1929) by Pietro Yantorny (Italian, 1874–1936) in silk satin, silk velvet, Venetian gros-point lace, metallic sequins and glass beads.

preliminary sketch of Columbidae


This post details another shoe I've added to the timeline of the 300 Years of Shoes collection, this time inspired by:

i. this drawing of Doves, which I came across as part of my research into illustrations of birds by early 19th century artists.

Martinet, François Nicolas, 1731-1800 from 'Histoire des oiseaux peints dans tous leurs aspects apparents et sensibles'

ii. a collection of embroidered shoes created for New York socialite Rita de Acosta Lydig (1880-1929) by Pietro Yantorny (Italian, 1874–1936).

"Silk satin, silk velvet, cream Venetian gros-point lace, metallic sequins, glass beads. Gift to MOMA from Capezio Inc. in 1953...This collection of shoes, along with their custom-made shoe trees and trunk, originally belonged to Rita de Acosta Lydig (1880–1929), a prominent New York socialite...Lydig commissioned several hundred pairs of shoes from Pietro Yantorny, who was a gifted shoemaker with an exclusive clientele. Lydig’s extensive wardrobe included numerous garments trimmed with antique lace and her shoes were no exception".

While he eventually created her a box that her shoes might flock together in, in the nature of doves in a cote, I imagine mine an early example, perhaps the first he proposed to her.

As an aside: The name of this shoe comes from how interesting I found it to note that though

this piece is inspired by the dove, which is perceived of as beautiful, as a heavenly messenger

and attributed notions of purity, the pigeon, perceived of so differently in Britain

(as a scavenger and dirty) is also part of the Columbidae family. The differentiation

in their names attributed by the English languages does not exist in French and

most other languages.

iii. A lady called Ada who would have been 49 and living at number 13 Brunswick square, Hove in 1900. Today this is the address of The Regency Town House, where I began my research for The Regency Wardrobe collection. This shoe is dedicated (as if it might have been worn) by Ada.

The following is compiled by Jill Vigus, researcher at The Regency Town House.

Ada Furner (nee Skipper) born 1851 (sometimes spelt Ferner)

In the Census of 1851 Ada was 3 months old and living at 28 Russell Square London with her father and mother Charles (1799-1884) and Elizabeth (1809-1871) Skipper. Charles was a Wholesale Stationers who amongst other products supplied the Bank of England with the paper and inks for UK bank notes. He was extremely successful which was unusual for the son of a barber.

Charles Skippers entry in the 1829 Post Office Directory

On 9th February 1833 he married Elizabeth Rippon East at Tooting Graveney Surrey. Later Charles was in partnership with William East, his wife’s father, .Together they published an important social document criticising the government called Hints on the Mal Administration of the Poor Laws: with a plan for bringing the collection and appropriation of the Poor Rates (1834) He died in 1883 at 3 Eastern Terrace Brighton, a large house with 10 bedrooms. He left £191,000 in his will and was buried in Essex.

Ada married Dr Willoughby Furner (1848- 1920 ) in 1887 at St Mary Abbot’s Kensington she was 36. Once married she moved to Brighton living initially at 2 Brunswick Place and then from 1895 at 13 Brunswick Square. Ada and Willoughby were part of Brighton society and there are several mentions of them attending a number of events in Sussex. Including in 1903 a “Brilliant Gathering at the Royal Pavilion”. The Brighton Gazette published on 15th January 1903 describes the event and that there were over 500 guests attending.

Published in the Brighton Gazette 5th March 1904 here is a piece describing how Dr Willoughby Furner attended Elizabeth Gore of 26 Brunswick Square when she was dying aged 95 years (for more on the Gore family please view the research for the dress titled Wallflower here).

Entry in W T Pikes book Sussex in the Twentieth Century published in 1910

Ada died in 1912 and Willoughby in 1920. They lived at 13 Brunswick Square from 1895 and Willoughby was living there when he died in 1920

Obituary from British Medical Journal 13th November 1920

Making Columbidae

I started by drawing doves.

I then shaped the paper of the shoe itself over a shoe I own and wear.

I tend to start this way, by searching through my own collection of shoes for one that's close to the shape of the shoe I'm looking to make. I then tweak the shape of the paper further later on, when the base I've made using papier mache/paper tape has dried.

Having a sole that's cut to the correct shape is important, as I then shape the paper skeleton I've created, in order to make the toe more pointed etc...

Keeping on looking at the sketch of the planned piece is vital as indeed is looking regularly back at the image(s) of the original shoe(s) that served as inspiration (for example please see the shoe from the 1890's on:

However, every piece changes in the making and flexibility is equally vital.

For example, I began imagining the background would be apricot and then gold. But in the end the impact of a dark background (as is the case regarding the shoe I was inspired by) contrasted against and behind the white birds proved much more effective.

The end result is something other but, I believe better, than that which I'd planned. It's also closer and yet further away from it's inspiring parent shoe.

Please click the arrows to see more images

The shoe certainly had to be displayed with a stem of paper blossom

Blossom credit to Gilly Burton

The label inside the shoe is inspired by a label from Hannington's department store Brighton from 1808, see:


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