Miniature rooms were popular from the late 1800’s. Miniature rooms were conceived by Narcissa Niblack Thorne (1882 – 1966) and were executed by her craftsmen in an Oak Street studio including Eugene Kupjack (1912-1991) between 1932 and 1940. She is responsible for the 68 miniature rooms on display at the Art Institute of Chicago.
The miniatures have often been called a vignette. Actually, a vignette is more often a small box used as a repository for memorabilia such as dried flowers. One of the ways in which this form distinguishes itself from the vignette is that it is in perfect scale of 1 inch to 1 foot. From replicas of furniture to fruit to silver flatware, the craftmanship of these miniatures are often time consuming, with much planning and patience needed by a skilled artist. Each piece is a precise and delicate portal to an era or memory. It has often been said that with the miniatures you “crawl into it and go into another world.”
These miniature rooms come from the tradition of the dollhouse. The tradition of the dollhouse is a toy home made in miniature. For the last century dollhouses have primarily been the domain of children, but their collecting and crafting is also a hobby for many adults.
The miniature home, furnished with domestic articles and resident inhabitants, both people and animals, has been made since the Old Kingdom in Egypt. The earliest known European dollhouses were the baby houses from the 16th Century which consisted of cabinet display cases made up of individual rooms. Dollhouses of this period showed idealized interiors complete with furnishings and accessories and were solely intended for adults. They were owned by the wealthy matron living in the cities of Holland, England and Germany primarily. With the Industrial Revolution, factories began mass producing miniatures for dollhouses. By the end of the 19th Century American dollhouses were being made in the U.S. by The Bliss Manufacturing Company. Germany was the manufacturer of the most notable houses and furnishings until WWI when the war seriously impeded both production and export. Production started up in other countries including America. After WWII dollhouses were mass produced in factories on a much larger scale with less detailed craftsmanship than before.
If you are in London, go see Queen Mary’s doll house on display at Windsor Castle. It was designed for her in 1924 by the famous architect Sir Edwin Lutyens (1869 - 1944). It is five feet tall and contains 16 fully outfitted rooms. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Rudyard Kipling contributed special books which were written and bound in scale size. When first put on display, it was visited by 1.6 million people in seven months!
Are you yourself the owner of miniatures? We have the experience and knowledge to appraise such unique items. Please get in touch with us at 312-372-9216 to set up an appointment.