Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Cooper Hewitt

Every now and then I find something interesting about miniatures to post like this "Cooper Hewitt Object of the Day."

I am pleased that so many people visit this site even though I do not update regularly. There are, however, many wonderful stories and photos to see, so enjoy!

 Big on Miniature
By Cynthia Trope on Feb 17, 2015 10:05 am

Miniature of a store made with solid back and two sidewalls, front panels showing two painted windows and central opening for doorway with "Grocery Stores" above it. Against the back wall, a cabinet with shelves and partitions and 16 drawers (-2b - -2l) each with a gold painted knob and handwritten paper label. One each for: almonds, annis seed, cacao, cinnamon, cloves, fenel, mace, millet, pepper, pimento, raisins, rice, saffron, sape, vermicelle (one drawer not labelled); two free-standing barrels (-2l and -2m), and two tables (-2n and -2o), each with a post (-2p and -2q) supporting one end of an arch (-2r) from which hangs a pair of scales (-2x - -2z). Pencil scribblings over outside of structure.Possibly English. In 1820's style, possibly early 19th century.
Seventeenth-century Dutch socialites Petronella de la Court and Petronella Oortman, the dauphin of France, Queen Victoria, and Queen Mary had them: dollhouses and miniature replicas of masterworks of furniture and decorative arts, through which they could recreate their larger-than-life existence.  The popularity of these Lilliputian marvels extended well into the twentieth century, when doll-sized houses, shops, farms – and even Noah’s ark, filled the pages of toy catalogs. These were usually made of carved and painted wood, and decorated with brass, steel, porcelain, amongst other materials. Often exact replicas of their life-sized counterparts, they provide unique insight into the social and material culture of the period: what did a typical nursery contain? How did a family live and interact together in the home?  More than mere toys, dollhouses were used to teach little girls about household management. This nineteenth-century miniature “Grocery Stores” (in the nineteenth century the word “stores” referred to goods that were stored) is made of painted and carved wood; the sides of the model rotate open to provide complete access to the interior, which tells us that the object was likely intended to be manipulated during play.  Complete with sixteen functional drawers labelled for almonds, cacao, cinnamon, cloves, and other exotic spices and ingredients, this toy shop would likely have served as an introduction into the world of commerce for a young boy.

Catherine Powell is a graduate student in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies program at the Cooper Hewitt, and is a Fellow in the Product Design and Decorative Arts Department.