‘The best ideas do not come from reason but from a lucid visionary madness’ Erasmus of Rotterdam.
In 1837, at age 38, the greatest Italian poet of the time Dante Giacomo Leopardi died due to an asthma attack in a small apartment in Napoli. Close friends to the poet managed to prevent his body from being thrown into a collective grave (this was common at the time to prevent the spread of cholera.) Dante’s body was placed in the church of San Vitale in Fuorigrotta where the tomb of the national poet became a monument.
In 1900, Dante’s body was exhumed for tests, however, the grave revealed some very shocking contents. His remains were in chaos. None of his bones were in the correct position, the coffin was broken and Dante Giacomo’s skul was not in it.
Legend has it that the only item that helped clarify and identify that the body was indeed Dante Giacomo Leopardi, was a pair of ankle boots found inside the coffin. They were the same size and style as those usually worn in all the poets’ portraits. The boots survived 63 years after burial, they were a bit ragged but all in all, perfectly preserved.
Inspired by these historical pair of boots, Silvano Lattanzi, a shoe maker known for his unconventional materials and concepts, go the idea to bury different pairs of shoes in a garden for a period of four years in order for them to achieve the same kind of preservation and the ultimate antique feel.
Lattanzi incorporates a method called ‘L’infossamento’ (burring in pits) originally used for conserving and ageing grains and cheese until the end of winter. When recovered, the cheese was noted to have a unique flavour, slightly spicy with a rich odour.
The buried shoes are created following exactly the same procedure for them to age naturally below the earth. In this case, burying the shoes affects the leather, it assumes a natural nuance of tones and shades so unique and remarkable, it is impossible to reproduce in any laboratory or using traditional ageing processes by hand.
The aging process:
The footwear is placed on a carpet of straw to protect them from any water that may filter in, and covered with laurel, dried flowers and other perfumed herbage. These are secret ingredients of the special nuances that characterise the ageing of the shoes. The pits are then covered with a heavy sheet of tempered glass, which was used to periodically check the ageing process and also allow the sunlight to reach the shoes and give them exceptional nuances. The glass is 3cm thick meaning that even during the hottest season, there is no excessive damage to the leather.
The treatment process:
Years pass, winter turns into summer and the extraction process begins. In order to make the shoes wearable and demonstrate the true uniqueness of the colours achieved, the sole is immediately replaced. The upper layer of the shoes are cleaned, moisturised and reassembled on a wooden last where it will remain to dry naturally for at least two weeks.
The last process enhances the variations in colours and stains, nothing is done except clean the upper completely from residues with polish. The antique finish has already been provided by Mother Nature.
In the first ‘buried shoe’ opening in 2009, 10 pairs of shoes were recovered and distributed throughout the Lattanzi boutiques worldwide, where they could be seen and ordered. It takes a minimum of 7 months for a pair of shoes to stay in the pit, the shoes are there after taken to the client where they can decide whether to terminate or continue the aging process.
The nuances that the upper assumes while in contact with the earth and its elements are unpredictable, having your feet in a unique piece that cannot be duplicated is part of the beauty and the secret of the buried shoes, making Silvano Lattanzi one of the world’s last remaining shoemakers.
Silvano Lattanzi is now available in South Africa. For more information please contact 011 880 0548
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