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Gallery Text

Made at a time when Van Gogh was deeply engaged with still life, this composition is painted over another image of a large bouquet of flowers in a vase. It is one of a series of five paintings of shoes by the artist. Their arrangement in a diagonal line lends the scene a sense of balance, while the playful individuality of each boot adds rhythmic movement to the composition. Placed on a white cloth, the shoes operate within the still life tradition, but the distinctive character of each one, and their recognizable identity as part of the attire of Parisian laborers, evokes comparisons to portraiture. The figural aspects of the shoes are enhanced by Van Gogh’s singular application of paint, notably the sculptural impasto, which gives vitality to details such as the nail heads in the heel of the central shoe.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Vincent van Gogh, Dutch (Groot Zundert (Zundert), The Netherlands 1853 - 1890 Auvers-sur-Oise, France)
Three Pairs of Shoes
Work Type
Creation Place: Europe, Netherlands
Persistent Link
Level 1, Room 1220, European Art, 19th–20th century, Collection of Maurice Wertheim, Class of 1906
View this object's location on our interactive map
Physical Descriptions
Oil on canvas
49.8 x 72.5 cm (19 5/8 x 28 9/16 in.)
framed: 72.2 x 95.5 x 6.5 cm (28 7/16 x 37 5/8 x 2 9/16 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: incised at l.c.: Vincent
  • inscription: u.r., on canvas, incised: VINCENT
  • inscription: On stretcher, in white chalk: (Wildenstein)
  • inscription: On stretcher, in white chalk: 7-10
  • inscription: On stretcher, in white chalk: LABELS
  • inscription: On stretcher, in blue pencil: 30G
Vincent van Gogh; ? to his nephew Vincent Willem van Gogh; ? to his mother Mme. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, sold; [through Drouot, Paris, 1920, no. 62]; [to Joseph Hessel Art Gallery, Paris] (1920-1925) sold; to Marcel Kapferer, 1925-1943, sold; [through Wildenstein, New York]; to Maurice Wertheim, New York (1943-1951) bequest; to Fogg Art Museum 1951.

According to his daughter, in about 1939 Kapferer gave this painting and three others to Wildenstein to be sent to their New York offices,(inventory KR 10.) He later consigned them for sale.

Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest from the Collection of Maurice Wertheim, Class of 1906
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art
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Publication History

Vincent van Gogh, exh. cat., Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 1905), no. 72

Vincent van Gogh, exh. cat., Paul Cassirer Gallery (Berlin, Germany, 1914), no. 40

Vincent van Gogh, Exposition retrospective de son oeuvre, exh. cat., Galerie Marcel Bernheim (Paris, France, 1925), no. 5

[Unidentified article], L'Amour de l'Art (March 1926), vol. 7, repr. p. 9?

Vincent van Gogh: L'époque française, exh. cat., Galerie Bernheim Jeune (Paris, France, 1927)

Victor Doiteau and Edgard Leroy, La Folie de Vincent van Gogh, Editions Aesculape (Paris, France, 1928), repr. p. 17

Vincent van Gogh en zijn Tijdgenooten, exh. cat., Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 1930), no. 20

[Unidentified article], L'Amour de l'Art (April1937), vol. 8, repr. no. 132

Exposition Internationale: van Gogh, exh. cat. (Paris, France, 1937), no. 132, repr. p. 32?

Vincent van Gogh, sa vie et son oeuvre, Nouveaux Musées (Paris, France, 1937), no. 132

J. B. de la Faille, Vincent van Gogh, French and European Publications Inc. (New York, NY, 1939), repr. p. 197

"The Art & Life of Vincent van Gogh", Art Digest (October 1, 1943), vol. XVIII, repr. p. 16

John Alford, "Van Gogh and Life: A New View", Art News (October 15, 1943 - October 31, 1943), vol. XLII, no. 2, pp. 8-17, repr. p. 10

The Art and Life of Vincent van Gogh, exh. cat., Wildenstein Galleries (New York, NY, 1943), no. 7

Alfred M. Frankfurter, "Today's Collectors: Modern Milestones", Art News (June 1946), vol. XLV, no. 4, p. 64, repr. in b/w p. 31

French Painting since 1870, lent by Maurice Wertheim, Class of 1906, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1946), pp. 26-29, repr.

21 Masterpieces of Great Masters, auct. cat., Rosenberg Gallery (New York, NY, 1948), repr. p. 39

Six Masters of Post-Impressionism, exh. cat., Wildenstein & Company (New York, NY, 1948), no. 65

La Peinture Française Depuis 1870: Collection Maurice Wertheim, exh. cat., Tom Taylor (Québec, Canada, 1949), no. 13, pp. 35-37

Martha Simpson, Art is for Everyone, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY, 1951), repr.

"19th and 20th Century Art", Think (September 1952), pp. 18-19, 32, repr.

Howard Devree, "By French Masters: The Metropolitan Shows Wertheim Collection", The New York Times (New York, NY, July 6 1952), p. 6, p. 6

Frederick S. Wight, Van Gogh, Beechhurst Press (New York, NY, 1953), repr.?

Howard Devree, "By French Masters: Memorable Loan Show in Philadelphia", The New York Times (New York, NY, July 7 1957), p. 70, p. 70

John Canaday, Mainstreams of Modern Art, Henry Holt and Co. (New York, NY, 1959), p. 367, repr. p. 368

The Maurice Wertheim Catalogue: Modern French Art-- Monet to Picasso, exh. cat., North Carolina Museum of Art (Raleigh, NC, 1960), p. 16, repr. p. 17

The Maurice Wertheim Collection: Manet to Picasso, exh. cat., The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (Houston, TX, 1962), p. 20, pl. 5

Meyer Schapiro, "The Still Life as a Personal Object - A Note on Heidegger and van Gogh", The Reach of Mind: Essays in Memory of Kurt Goldstein, ed. M. L. Simmel (New York, NY, 1968), p. 205

A. Kitzhaber, Oregon Curriculum: Literature, Holt, Rinehart & Winston (New York, NY, 1968), repr.

Jacob Baart de la Faille, The Works of Vincent Van Gogh, His Paintings and Drawings, Reynal (New York, NY, 1970), no. 332

Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann, [Unidentified article], Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 1971 or later), repr., with x-ray

Paolo Lecaldano, L'Opera pittorica completa di Van Gogh, Rizzoli (Milan, Italy, 1971), repr. in vol. I, p. 112, no. 324

The Maurice Wertheim Collection, exh. cat., Maine State Museum (Augusta, ME, 1972), no. 38

Brian Petrie, Van Gogh: paintings, drawings and prints, Phaidon Press (London, England, 1974), repr. in color p. 44

Bogomila Welsh-Ovcharov, Vincent van Gogh, his Paris Period, 1886-1888, Editions Victorine (Utrecht, The Netherlands, 1976), p. 139

Jacques Derrida, "Restitutions de la verité en peinture", Macula, 3/4 (1978), p. 25, repr.

John A. Walker, "Art History versus Philosophy: The Enigma of the 'Old Shoes' ", Block (1980), no. 2, p. 16

Jan Hulsker, The Complete van Gogh: Paintings, Drawings, Sketches (New York, NY, 1980), no. 1234

Diane Kelder, The Great Book of French Impressionism, Abbeville Press (New York, NY, 1980), repr. in b/w p. 338

John A. Walker, Van Gogh Studies: Five Critical Essays, JAW Publications (London, England, 1981), repr. in b/w fig. 80, p. 62

Ronald Pickvance, Van Gogh in Arles, exh. cat., Metropolitan Museum of Art / Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (New York, NY, 1984), p. 36

Bruce Bernard, ed., Vincent by Himself: A Selection of van Gogh's Paintings and Drawings together with Extracts from his Letters, Little, Brown & Company (Boston, MA, 1985), repr. in color p. 162

John O'Brian, Degas to Matisse: the Maurice Wertheim Collection, Harry N. Abrams, Inc. and Fogg Art Museum (New York, NY and Cambridge, MA, 1988), no. 18, pp. 88-90, repr. in color p. 89

Van Gogh a Paris, exh. cat., Editions de la Réunion des Musées Nationaux (Paris, France, 1988), no. 13, pp. 64-65, repr. in color p. 65

David Freedberg, The Power of Images, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL and London, England, 1989), repr. in b/w p. 441

Edgar Peters Bowron, European Paintings Before 1900 in the Fogg Art Museum: A Summary Catalogue including Paintings in the Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1990), p. 110; repr. as no. 385

The Maurice Wertheim Collection and Selected Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Paintings and Drawings in the Fogg Art Museum, exh. cat., Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (New York, NY, 1990), repr. in color no. 27, p. 85

James A. Ganz, "Jules Jacquemart: Forgotten Printmaker of the Nineteenth Century", Bulletin of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art (Philadelphia, PA, Spring 1991), vol. LXXXVII, no. 370, repr. in b/w fig. 21, p. 15; text p. 14

Jan Hulsker, The New Complete Van Gogh: Paintings, Drawings, Sketches: Revised and enlarged, J. M. Meulenhoff (Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 1996), p. 272, no. 1234, repr.

Eliza E. Rathbone and George T.M. Shackelford, Impressionist Still Life, exh. cat., The Phillips Collection (Washington, DC, 2001), pp. 154, 156, 218-219; repr. in color p. 157 as pl. 69

Babette Babich, "From Van Gogh's Museum to the Temple at Bassae: Heidegger's Truth of Art and Schapiro's Art History", Culture, Theory and Critique (2003), 44, no. 2, pp. 151-169, repr. p. 157 as fig. 2

Michael Kelly, Iconoclasm in Aesthetics, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, U.K., 2003), pp. 51-52; repr. in b/w p. 45 as fig. 2

Bob Raczka, More than Meets the Eye: Seeing Art with All Five Senses, Millbrook Press (Brookfield, CT, 2003), repr. in color, p. 18

Martin Bailey, "A Friend of Van Gogh: Dodge Macknight and the Post-Impressionists", Apollo (July - August 2007), CLXVI no. 545, pp. 28-34, p. 31, note 9

Alec Mishory, Still Life: From Represented Objects to Real Objects, Open University of Israel (Israel, 2008), p. 252, fig. 220

Susan Alyson Stein and Asher Miller, ed., Masterpieces of Impressionism and Post Impressionism: The Annenberg Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art / Yale University Press (New York, 2009), p. 194, repr. in b/w p. 194 as fig. 143

Bettina Gockel, "'...und zuletzt nahm sie einen Schuh vom Vatter zum ihn abmalen, weil ihr nicht einfiel was sonst malen.' Schuhe als Ursprungsmythos der modernen Kunst", Zurich Studies in the History of Art (2010/2011), 17/18, pp. 665-688, p. 673, repr. p. 670 as fig. 6b

Elizabeth M. Rudy, "Researching the Wertheim Collection at the Harvard Art Museums", Collections: A Journal for Museum and Archives Professionals (Summer 2014), Vol. 10, No. 3, pp. 301-6

Jan Zachariáš, "Vincent van Gogh's 'A Pair of Shoes': An Attempt at an Interpretation", Umení (Prague, 2014), vol. LXII, no. 4, pp. 354-70, pp. 356, 358, fig. 2

Gian Casper Bott, "Die Opfer der Arbeit. Vincenzo Velas Meisterwerk und die leidende Menschheit", Casa d'artisti: Die Opfer der Arbeit von Vincenzo Vela, 1882: Entstehung und Rezeptiongeschichte eines Meisterwerks, Museo Vincenzo Vela (2016), No. 7, pp. 45-83, pp. 55-56, repr. p. 55 as Abb. 7

Gian Casper Bott, Le vittime del lavoro. L'umanità sofferente nel capolavoro di Vnenco Vela, Confederazione Svizzera (Bern, 2016), pp. 50-51, repr. p. 51, fig. 7

Wayne Tunnicliffe, John Russell: Australia's French Impressionist, exh. cat., Art Gallery of New South Wales and Thames & Hudson (Sydney, 2018), p. 113, repr. p. 114

Exhibition History

Unidentified Exhibition, Stedelijk Museum, 1905, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 07/01/1905 - 08/31/1905

Retrospective, Marcel Bernheim Art Gallery, Paris, 01/01/1925 - 01/31/1925

Unidentified Exhibition, Galerie Bernhaim, 1927, Galerie Bernheim Jeune, Paris, 06/01/1927 - 07/31/1927

Van Gogh en zijn tijdgenooten, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 01/01/1930 - 12/31/1930

Unidentified Exhibition, Exposition Internationale van Gogh, 1937, Exposition Internationale: van Gogh, Paris, 01/01/1937 - 12/31/1937

The Art and Life of Vincent van Gogh, Wildenstein Gallery, New York, New York, 10/06/1943 - 11/07/1943

French Painting since 1870 lent by Maurice Wertheim, Class of 1906, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 06/01/1946 - 09/07/1946; National Gallery of Art, Washington, 07/01/1953 - 09/13/1953

Six Masters of Post-Impressionism, Wildenstein Gallery, New York, New York, 04/08/1948 - 05/08/1948

Twenty-One Masterpieces of Great Masters, Rosenberg Gallery, New York, 11/01/1948 - 11/30/1948

La Peinture Française depuis 1870, Musée de la Province de Quebec, 07/12/1949 - 08/07/1949

The Maurice Wertheim Collection, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 07/01/1952 - 09/14/1952

French Paintings Since 1870 from the Maurice Wertheim Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 06/01/1953 - 09/30/1953

The Maurice Wertheim Collection, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, 06/15/1957 - 09/15/1957

The Maurice Wertheim Collection, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, 06/10/1958 - 08/31/1958

The Maurice Wertheim Collection: Modern French Art--Monet to Picasso, North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, 06/17/1960 - 09/04/1960

The Maurice Wertheim Collection: Manet to Picasso, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Houston, 06/13/1962 - 09/02/1962

The Maurice Wertheim Collection, Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, 06/20/1963 - 09/01/1963

The Maurice Wertheim Collection, Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, 06/24/1965 - 09/07/1965

The Maurice Wertheim Collection, Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Providence, 09/03/1968 - 09/22/1968

The Maurice Wertheim Collection, Montgomery Museum of Art, Montgomery, 06/01/1971 - 09/30/1971

The Maurice Wertheim Collection, Maine State Museum, Augusta, 06/01/1972 - 09/01/1972

Manet to Matisse: The Maurice Wertheim Collection, IBM Gallery of Science and Art, New York, 04/09/1985 - 05/25/1985

Van Gogh à Paris, Musée d'Orsay, Paris, 02/02/1988 - 05/15/1988

The Maurice Wertheim Collection and Selected Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Paintings and Drawings in the Fogg Art Museum, Isetan Department Store, Tokyo, 03/01/1990 - 04/10/1990; Yamaguchi Prefectural Museum of Art, 04/14/1990 - 05/13/1990

Impressionist Still Life, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, 02/17/2002 - 06/09/2002

Re-View: S427 Impressionist & Postimpressionist Art, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 08/02/2008 - 06/18/2011

32Q: 1220 Wertheim, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

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