Did families really do this in rural Holland?


Is there anyone out there, particularly Dutch, who could tell me whether this is real or not?

I’ve had this photo for a long while because it’s really inspiring! But I’ve lost touch with where it came from .. all I remember is the info that families in the rural Netherlands would imprint their feet into the last coat of new floorboard varnish before it dried. That’s all I know! Nothing like it comes up with a Google image search and I’ve never found any reference to the custom. If you think about what sort of imprint a real foot would make .. it doesn’t really convince. If anyone can say anything definite, maybe I can finally lay this one to rest!

A day later! Many thanks for all the responses!

These reflected very much what I thought myself .. the footprints didn’t look real; too flat and clean .. not to mention the question whether covering feet in floor lacquer could ever have been a popular one! So at first it seemed to confirm that this was some stylist’s invention, with no basis in historical fact .. because the Dutch people who replied (or those some of you consulted, including a couple of historians) had never seen nor heard of this practice before! But following up the lead provided by Jeroen De Vries about the discovery in a 19th century house in Leiden ..


.. it became clear that there was some factual basis, that it was actually done, though presumably not very often. A further example is this piece of floor which was recently uncovered during renovations to the Town Hall of Grootschermer, Alkmaar.



As far as I can understand, having struggled with some very dodgy Dutch/English online translation, it was a method of floor decoration practiced by house painters from the 17th century onwards .. inviting children to walk around in the wet topcoat of a prepared floor surface creating a varied marble-like pattern. Hence it is known in Holland ( maybe only to a few though) either as blotevoetjesmarmer ‘barefoot marble’ or kindervoetjes vloer ‘childrensfeet floor’! If you Google either of these terms in Dutch you will see some other examples, including some being done nowadays





23 thoughts on “Did families really do this in rural Holland?

  1. Funny item, I am Dutch as well but never heard of this before.
    Have been searching on Google but no hits.
    And now reading your post again, see the answer in the updated post.
    Cool, thanks for sharing!!!

  2. As I speak Dutch I have done a swift research around the key word “voetafdruk” (footprint) also landelijke gebruiken ( rural customs and no coincidences appeared with your footprints nor a tradition around it .

  3. It is not common to do so in the Netherlands. Who wants to get varnish on their feet?
    The picture shows only the outline of feets so it is not a real foot.
    Does this help?

  4. The prints look too fake to me. Too perfect around the edges. I’d imagine that if they were real prints there would be more smudging around the edges and the the arches would not be so precise either. Just opinion.

  5. I’m no help here, but it does sound interesting – and the photo above is marvelous, for whatever that may or may not be worth.

    My worry: can it really be good for your long-term health to coat the soles of your feet in floor varnish?

  6. I would ask that question of a folk artist who specializes in traditional painted finishes from the old days in the Netherlands or one of the types of museums that feature a collection of authentic old rural dwellings in a rural setting.

  7. Dutch article of a building in the city of Leiden where they discovered a floor woth childrens feet imprints. They made the kids walk in dark paint/ varnis to create this bizarr effect.


  8. I really like it, but I asked my dutch friends and they have never heard of it. One of them is a professional historian and she said she could find no trace in her research materials.

  9. It is not common to do so in the Netherlands. Would you like to varnish your feet?
    I have never seen this before on any
    floor .
    I think a stamp is used to produce this

  10. If this is deliberate it is the strangest decorative finish I’ve seen. I tried google and best i found was ‘ghosting’ where invisible footprints/bootprints become visible over time due to chemical reaction. If it is legit then it could be result of using feet to make graining effect . Fascinating and now you’ll have all your subscribers investigating this…

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