We were recently invited by Walpole to visit the new Manolo Blahník exhibition, An Enquiring Mind, at The Wallace Collection. Built during the 18th and 19th Centuries by the Marquesses of Hertford and Sir Richard Wallace, the museum is steeped in artistic excellence which spans over 800 years.
The collection begins at the historic balustrade and ruby-carpeted staircase, where a selection of Blahník’s sketches are displayed. Designing each and every shoe since initial conception, Blahník creates 100 shoes per collection; an incredible 400 designs each year. “There are times where Blahník will be alone in his townhouse in Bath, and create around 80 sketches in a day!” said the Manolo Blahník representative that took us through the collection.
Leading us into the first of ten rooms, each one follows a clear theme predominantly centring around 18th Century artworks—a long time source of creative inspiration for Blahník. From an archive going into the hundreds of thousands, around 400 shoes were initially selected by Blahník, who along with the Wallace Collection's Curator of Decorative Arts, refined it down to just over 100 for this exhibition. In every room, a handful of shoes are elegantly displayed amongst the artwork, and interestingly, every shoe is a size 4, with only the right shoe of each pair on display. The notable exception to this is in the Oval Drawing Room; a theme of Love and Passion, it was important to celebrate this love by having the shoes paired with their rightful counterparts. These shoes featured in Sofia Coppola’s award-winning film, Marie Antoinette, and they differ in size compared to the rest of the collection as they were worn by Kirsten Dunst—who is a size 5.
From Avant-garde Fashion to Boudoir Opulence, the themes get stronger as you stroll through each room. In addition to his love for 18th Century France and the art that came during that period, is his fondness for Great Britain. This is no more apparent than in The West Room. Themed ‘A British Interpretation’, the room features portraits by the British masters Reynolds, Gainsborough and Landseer, highlighting pastimes such as outdoor sports, country walks and the hunt. The shoes, therefore, are made using fabrics sourced directly from the UK, in styles commonly associated with British style and heritage.
With such a wide selection of breathtaking art and furniture on display—including the famed Lady with a Fan as well as Marie Antoinette’s actual dressing table—the collection is inspired by a wide range of artists including Boucher, Vigée Le Brun, Greuze, Gainsborough and Hals. When asked how long it would take one of the curators to take us through each and every piece of art in the museum, he simply replied, “at least seven years.”
A short walk from our Davies Street store, be sure to visit Manolo Blahník’s An Enquiring Mind at The Wallace Collection. For more information, click here.