Sunday 28 April 2013

Shoehorns by Robert Mindum (active 1593-1612)

Shoehorn by Robert Mindum in the Museum of Design in Plastics
Shoehorns are something I had never really thought about until I went to the Painted Pomp exhibition at the Holburne Museum, Bath and saw a 1598 engraved shoehorn, isn’t it nice when makers put dates on things.

So how old are shoehorns? According to collector Sue Brandon (1998) a 'schoying horne' was first mentioned in the fifteenth century. Fitzherbert’s Book of Husbandry 1523–34 speaks of “Shoyng horne, boget, and shoes”, a boget is a pouch, bag or wallet usually of leather. (Oxford English Dictionary, n.d.) Elizabeth I purchased eighteen shoehorns from her shoemaker Garrett Johnson six in1563, six in 1564 and a further six in 1566. , She also ordered steel shoehorns from the blacksmiths Gilbert Polson and Richard Jeffrey in 1567. She did not order any further shoehorns until 1586. (Arnold, 1988)

The shoehorn in the Painted Pomp exhibition is absolutely the same shape as most modern shoehorns, and was made by a man named Robert Mindum who, according to the details given by the museum caption, made eighteen surviving shoehorns and was active between 1593 and 1613. A short notice about Mindum’s shoehorns by Joan Evans appeared in a 1944 edition of the Burlington Magazine and is available online here.

The example in the exhibition has an inscription around the outer edge which reads: - THIS IS AMBRES BVCKELS SHOING HORN MADE BY ROBERT MINDVM ANNO DOMINI 1598. The shoehorn has feathers engraved at the top, a crown and rose in the middle and a shell pattern at the bottom. In this it is very similar to other designs by him.

I’m sure there are others but, apart from the horn in the exhibition, the following horns survive by Mindum and have images on the internet:

A 1593 example in the Salisbury Museum, made for Jane Ayers

A 1597 example that was sold at Christie’s in 2005, no details are given except for the price it fetched.

A 1598 example in a Sotheby’s catalogue from 2007, made for Rose Fales

A 1600 one on loan to the V&A from the Museum of London which says ‘THIS IS MATHEW WESTFELDES SHOOING HORNE MAD BY TH...ES OF ROBART MINDVM ANNO DOMINI 1600’ The V&A site does not have a photograph, and I can’t find it on the MoL site.

A 1604 example in the Smithsonian, the top is broken so the first name of the person it was made for is missing, it says it is for ...s Gamlet.

A 1612example from the Worshipful Companyof Horners collection, now in the Museum of Design In Plastics in Bournemouth, made for Ricard Gibon. This is a brilliant set of photographs showing the shoehorn from all angles, including the underside.

Another 1612 example, the details here are from a Cora Ginsburg catalogue, it was made for Mistris Blake. This was sold by Rowley’s Auctions in 2010 for £8,800.

Arnold, J. ed., 1988. Queen Elizabeth's wardrobe unlock'd. Leeds: Maney.

 Brandon, S., 1998. Buttonhooks and shoehorns. Princes Risborough: Shire.

Oxford English Dictionary, O., n.d.. [Online] Available at:[Accessed 28 April 2013].

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