This cheeky blog celebrates the third day of Christmas, with extraordinary French objects recently found in our collections.
These beautiful slippers belonged to Princess Pauline Borghese, sister of Napoleon Bonaparte. This pair of tiny silk and leather slippers was hidden in the vast University of Aberdeen collections for 140 years, until it was discovered in 2012 by curatorial assistant Louise Wilkie, whose research work led her to link the slippers with Napoleon’s sister. The tiny slippers, equivalent to a UK child’s size two and incredibly narrow, measuring just 40mm across the toes, were found in the collection belonging to the Banff-born medical graduate and extensive traveller Robert Wilson (1787 – 1871).
Pauline was a colourful character – the youngest sister of Napoleon, who became Princess Pauline when she married Prince Camillo Borghese in 1803. This marriage was not a happy one due to Pauline’s infidelity, and much of her life was riddled with scandal. She met Wilson, who graduated in Medicine from Marischal College and served as a ship’s surgeon with the East India Company, in the 1820s. Letters from him to Pauline show a close friendship, and in his diary he describes how she travelled with him in Italy and gave him many gifts, including these slippers which are inscribed with her name on the bottom of the soles.
For an account of the discovery of the slippers see here.