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ENGRAVED SHOE HORN BY ROBART MINDUM
English, 1612

An object of utilitarian function, a shoe horn is a tool that allows the foot to slip into a shoe more effortlessly and without crushing the back. The earliest known English reference to a shoe horn dates to the fifteenth century, and by the following century shoe horns were commonly used and called by various names such as “shoelift” or “chaspy,” an Anglicized version of the French chausse-pied. True to their practical origins, most were plain—occasionally, a date and name were recorded on the horn to reflect ownership. Scholars have identified a singularly important and rare group of decorated and inscribed late-sixteenth- and early-seventeenth-century shoe horns by an elusive English craftsman named Robart Mindum. This fine early Jacobean “shooing horn” belongs to this significant body of work.

An object of utilitarian function, a shoe horn is a tool that allows the foot to slip into a shoe more effortlessly and without crushing the back. The earliest known English reference to a shoe horn dates to the fifteenth century, and by the following century shoe horns were commonly used and called by various names such as “”shoelift” or “chaspy,” an Anglicized version of the French chausse-pied. True to their practical origins, most were plain—occasionally, a date and name were recorded on the horn to reflect ownership. Scholars have identified a singularly important and rare group of decorated and inscribed late-sixteenth- and early-seventeenth-century shoe horns by an elusive English craftsman named Robart Mindum. This fine early Jacobean “shooing horn” belongs to this significant body of work.

Including this example, as few as fifteen engraved shoe horns signed and dated by Mindum between 1593 and 1613 survive. Very little is known about Mindum's life. His name does not appear in the Horner's Company records, though it is likely that he lived and worked in London. His surname possibly represents an English place-name, such as Mindham in Sussex or Mendham in Suffolk; it may also indicate Low Countries origins. Mindum's shoe horns have certain features in common: all have inscriptions set within thin hatched or geometric borders around the upper contour of the horn, and the decorative motifs are recurrent in variant combinations. Stylized trees, checkerboard patterns, twisted ropes, and rosettes appear consistently. Here, the dedication, carved in capital letters with tiny serif flourishes, reads: Robart Mindum Made This Shooing Horne For Mistris Blake Anno Domini 1612. This inscription delineates a tongue-shaped field containing a large rosette supported by scrolls and a pylon, an impressive Tudor rose surmounted by a crown with cross-tipped points, small figure-eight scrolls, and quatrefoil motifs. Three bands of patterning—diminutive flowerheads, imbricated scales and guilloche, all hallmarks ofMindum's decorative vocabulary—appear in registers below. Mastic or some similarly dark pigment heightens the delicately hatched and stippled engraving, contrasting with the creamy, patinated horn. In an age of highly embellished clothing and accessories, the level of ornamentation seen on this remarkable shoe horn is not surprising, nor is it coincidental that the carving has the appearance of blackwork embroidery. Mindum's repertoire bears striking resemblance to some of the designs found in Thomas Trevelyon's Miscellany of 1608, an invaluable resource for needleworkers and other artisans alike.

Provenance: Rushbrooke Hall, Suffolk, home to the Jermyn family since the sixteenth century. Prior to its destruction in 1961, RushbrookeHallwas Suffolk's largest andmost splendidmoated Tudormansion. This shoe horn was noted in an inventory of furniture in the Rushbrook [sic] Parish Registers 1567 to 1850 (1903), p. 416.

9” H

 
pages 4-5 pages 8-9  
Engraved Shoe Horn by Robert Mindum

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