The Shoes of the Master

An enchanting exhibition of Salvatore Ferragamo's creations reveals how these most pedestrian yet glamorous of objects can embody the sole of an age

David Lees / CORBIS

Italian shoe designer Salvatore Ferragamo with a selection of his shoes, Florence, 1953.

MAGICAL THINGS, SHOES. Myths and fairy tales are cluttered with them. There is the old woman who lived in a shoe and the young woman, in Hans Christian Andersen's The Red Shoes, who died for one. Cinderella's glass slippers and Dorothy's ruby pumps still tiptoe around the imagination. In the ancient Indian epic the Ramayana, the exiled king leaves behind a single memorable token: a pair of gold-encrusted shoes. Newlyweds once routinely tied a pair of old brogues behind their coach or car for good luck. In the Middle Ages the well-to-do wore poulaines, shoes with pointy, turned-up toes that were...