What are Nike sneakers doing in a painting from 1652?

Is it a blatant hoax or is it another time traveler? This painting, painted in 1652, depicts a young aristocrat wearing what appears to be Nike shoes. The find took art analysts by surprise when, in August 2022, the National Gallery in London shared a tweet related to one of the paintings in its collection.


Nike sneakers in a painting from 1652

Created in 1652 by Dutch artist Ferdinand Bol, the work sparked all sorts of conspiracy theories among netizens. Coincidentally, the social media post was made on the day they commemorated another anniversary of the artist’s death. “Ferdinand Bol died on this day in 1680. Currently on loan to us, is his charming ‘Portrait of Frederick Sluysken‘, featuring the son of a wine merchant. If you look closely at his footwear, you will be able to appreciate a seemingly ‘modern’ detail. Can you see it?” the museum wrote in the tweet.

Portrait of Frederick Sluysken.

At the time the painting was made, Frederick Sluysken was 8 years old. In addition, it is known that this blonde-haired young man was a direct relative of Bol. Frederick was the second-degree nephew of Elisabeth Dell, a woman who was married to Ferdinand Bol at the time. But, the peculiar kinship between the Dutch painter and the young man portrayed took a back seat when Twitter users noticed the detail in the clothing.

Let’s remember that photography would still take almost two centuries to invent. So, having a painter immortalize you in a portrait was a very special occasion. Therefore, it stands to reason that the young man would wear his best clothes, such as Nikes from 1652. The detail is that it is practically impossible for these modern sneakers to be part of the wardrobe of a young man of the seventeenth century. But, on the left shoe, you can see the iconic logo of the sports brand.

Nike sneakers in a painting from 1652.

The presence of a contemporary object in a nearly 400-year-old painting led netizens to start speculating. It didn’t take long for those to suggest that Frederick Sluysken was a time traveler who took the opportunity of the portrait to play a joke on the people of the future. Although, there is a much more logical explanation for the existence of these Nike sneakers in 1652.

Ferdinand Bol Self-Portrait
Ferdinand Bol

The footwear that became popular 350 years ago is a far cry from what humans wear today. In fact, the Nike logo on Frederick Sluysken’s shoes is nothing more than an optical illusion of the design itself. In the 17th century, it was common for shoes to include a kind of strap that connected the heel to the rest of the heel. The goal was to keep the piece fixed to the user’s foot.

So what appears to be the “Nike logo” is actually a small opening between the strap and the rest of the shoe. Through that slit we were able to visualize the white stockings that the young man was wearing in a format that accidentally evokes the “pigeon” or “swoosh” associated with physical activities and expensive footwear. In addition, the shape of the footwear worn by little Frederick differs greatly from that of a modern sneaker, particularly because of its size and pointed end.



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