Manolo Blahnik: Getting Medieval On Your Feet?

In an interview with Ireland’s Independent, the designer of Carrie Bradshaw’s favorite togs had this to say about his new line:

“I’ve gone mad for warrior images this season,” said Mr Blahnik, pointing out the Samurai masks on the boots, and armoured metal discs.

“I’ve used shapes for a modern, powerful woman — a kind of medieval Amazon.”

What kind of shoes does Blahnik think a medieval Amazon might wear?  Well, this is the picture that accompanied the article:

So, there you go.  No metal discs here, but that’s one helluva heel.

Strictly speaking, of course, Amazons are the province of the classicist and the Xena fanfic writer, not the medievalist.   But the medievals did have ideas about what amazons ought to look like, so I plan to keep this blog post going on that technicality.  I did a quick search through the Bodleian’s archives today and came up with two illuminations of Amazon queens.  

The first comes from a mid-fifteenth century manuscript of Le Miroir du Monde, a universal history, and shows Alexander the Great meeting with the Amazon queen:

The second manuscript is a few years later, a copy of Christine de Pisan’s Épître d’Othéa, showing the Amazon queen Tomyris overseeing the execution of the Persian emperor Cyrus:*

Sadly, in neither of the images can we see the feet of the lady in question–their long flowing fifteenth-century dresses get in the way.  This is because if a fifteenth-century illuminator is going to draw an Amazon, he draws a fifteenth-century woman and gives her a sword or a helmet.  This is pretty much the case throughout the Middle Ages; medievals simply didn’t worry about anachronism.  If you put King David, King Arthur, and King Henry I in a medieval lineup, you’d not be able to pick out the one who slept with your wife by looking for clothes or weapons appropriate for an ancient Hebrew, a fifth-century Briton, or a twelfth-century Englishman, respectively.**

So, taking my cue from the medievals, I’d be forced to conclude that Blahnik is spot on.  Of course medieval Amazon queens wore red open-toed stilleto pumps with wide ankle straps.  Haven’t women always?

*Tomyris is famous for hollowing out Cyrus’s skull and using it as her favorite novelty drinking cup.
**A trick question, of course, as all three got up to more than their fair share of naughty business between the sheets.

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  • hokuton-punch


  • Got Medieval

    It’s only been 2500 years; it’s probably still too soon for the classicists to have put Cyrus past them.

  • tenthmedieval

    Rejected lines from Blackadder Goes Forth:

    Darling: I’m as English as Henry I!
    Blackadder: So your father was a Norman, your mother’s half-Flemish and half-French, you speak French and you were born in… Yorkshire… Look, Richard, Ben, I’m sorry I think we need to rewrite this one, how about Queen Victoria? Might be snappier.

    And thus is great television made. Honest.

  • ShoeShopper

    We’re at blogging parallels:

    funny you should mention the armored heels.

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