The Annunciation with Saint Emidius by Carlo Crivelli 1485 (National Gallery)
If there's a bird that's been more frequently reflected in the visual and decorative arts I don't know what it is. Taking on the Peacock and attempting to interpret it in a new way is therefore...daunting. And yet it seemed to me that in order to interpret the style, elegance and beauty of 18th century shoes in the form of a bird there was no other bird which would do. For images of shoes of this style, my favourite from history (though I can't quite imagine walking in them without severe discomfort) please see: http://stephaniesmart.wixsite.com/stephaniesmart/single-post/2018/10/25/Shoes-across-300-years
So began my research into impressions of Peacocks in art.
Lang Shining (Giuseppe Castiglione, 1688-1766), Qing dynasty
1733 – 1795 Maruyama Masataka
I think we've arguably become over used to visual images of the Peacock in full (show-off) splendour, with it's tail fanned up and out. As an attempt at a sightly more understated sophistification, and arguably to better reflect the shape of the shoe I decided my peacock would have its tail feathers folded, draped behind it like fabric.
Blue Peacock by Pieter Pietersz-Barbiers - 1759-1842
Peacock by Tani Buncho (attb.) (1763-1841). Edo period, 19th C. Japanese hanging scroll painting
1872 Daniel Giraud Elliot Pavomuticus the Green Peafowl
During my research Radio 4 broadcast a programme hosted by the interior designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen about the extent to which peacocks have been portrayed on every type of surface that it's possibly to imagine decorating, including of course garments. It was he who introduced me to the 'Peacock Skirt' an Art Nouveau image illustrated in 1893 by Aubrey Beardsley
Some working pictures - showing the different stages of development as I tried out different heads etc
I began with the idea that my peacock would have a flat head, in the end I made many tiny beads from coils of quilled paper and threaded them together.
Here then is my interpretation of a shoe from 1720, No.1 in The Glittering Wings Collection
Following the exhibition at The Regency Town House in May 2020 more images, titles dimensions etc of all the pieces in The Regency Collection will be visible on stephaniesmart.net
Photo of final shoe by Ray Sullivan
This project is being supported by:
Arts Council England, The Textile Society and Great Art