How to Sell Your Old Shoes for $57,000: Be Marie-Antoinette
All this has happened before...
This past holiday season I was traipsing around the Egyptian wing of the Metropolitan Art Museum and wondering, idly, when, exactly, a person’s life or death becomes so spectacular that thousands of years later we regard their physical remains not as a former human being but as a work of art. And, uh, what might be the easiest and cheapest way to do it today.
But history is giving us hints about this all the time, since a pair of Marie-Antoinette’s shoes have sold at auction for more than fifty thousand dollars.
Mules, Wikipedia tells me, first became popular in the 1700s, then were associated with prostitutes for a while, until Marilyn Monroe brought them back into acceptable society in the ’50s.
Marie-Antoinette also became popular in the 1700s when the Austrian born Archduchess wed Louis XVI of France, and became legendary for sparking the French Revolution with her characteristic excess and indifference to the plight of the poor. Whether or not she was actually as bad as pop culture would have us believe is a matter of dispute. “Let them eat cake,” theoretically her most famous utterance, is attributed to her without much evidence, for example.
Organizers of the French auction in which the shoes were sold say the size of them corresponds to her shoe size, and, though faded, the pleated ribbons were originally the tricolor hues of the French flag, and that was clearly enough to convince bidders. They were expected to bring in only about 3-5k euroes, but actually went for €43,225, about $57,000.
You know what’s not on auction? This dulcimer-playing automaton crafted for Marie-Antoinette in her image that still works today. I wonder how much its shoes would go for.