Reexamining the Red Shoes: Imported Luxury, Disability, Wealth, and Akropolis Kore 683 (20 min)


Erin Lawrence-Roseman, University of California, Berkeley; and Debby Sneed, California State University, Long Beach


Akropolis Kore 683, known as the “Red Shoes Kore,” is unusual, to say the least. The proportions of this kore point to her being modeled on a woman with dwarfism, which has usually led to her being dismissed as poor quality, or viewed as some kind of clownish joke, inappropriate to the holy setting of the Athenian Acropolis. However, a reexamination of the Red Shoes Kore reveals that the seeming idiosyncrasies of her appearance were deliberate choices made by the artist or, perhaps more likely, the patrons, who dedicated this statue to celebrate their family’s wealth and success. The quality of the sculpting is similar to other, more renowned Acropolis korai, while traces of paint reveal that the detail work was particularly fine. Her unique proportions are also idealized in their own way and hint that she may have been modeled after a living person with dwarfism, likely a member of the dedicating family. The pointed red shoes for which she is best known, combined with her atypical chiton, suggest an Etruscan origin for her costume, with these luxurious imports further emphasizing the wealth of the family she represents. Ultimately, this often-overlooked and maligned kore encourages us to reimagine the definition of the “ideal body” in archaic Greece and to consider her role in relation to foreign connections, luxury, disability, and devotion among the elite members of sixth century B.C.E. Athens.