Small Talk Archive: March 2016

Allegory of a Lullaby: The Dreamy Details

Johannes landman

Johannes Landman’s miniature Dutch cradle is entitled Allegory of a Lullaby. What exactly is an allegory? We’re glad you asked! In visual art, an allegory uses figures or characters as symbols to illustrate an overall theme, value, or moral. The allegory of Landman’s cradle illustrates themes of childhood.

All four painted panels feature cherubs in a variety of actions: happily dancing, sheltering an infant, and even recoiling in loneliness. The cradle’s headboard panel depicts a muse playing a lullaby that “rocks” the cradle.

Landman is not only a master of painting, but also of miniature woodworking. For this work, he used dogwood from his home province, British Columbia, and added 22 karat gold accents.

Annie Horatia’s Dollhouse Details

Annie Horatia Jones

While toy furniture could be purchased, little girls like Annie Horatia Jones also enjoyed adding some DIY charm to their dollhouses with a touch of imagination and a pinch of sewing skills. Annie’s finesse with a needle is undeniable in the geometric rugs she made for her rooms. And we love the decoupage paper on the red nursery walls!

Although there are no doors from the hallway to the rooms, that didn’t stop Annie from getting a baby walker, a bed (affectionately coined the “broken heart bed” by T/m staff), a sewing basket, and a water cistern into her house’s rooms.

Cartoons Turned into Paper Dolls

Jackie Ormes

T/m’s newest exhibit, Stereotypes to Civil Rights: Black Paper Dolls in America, features work from the first African American female cartoonist: Jackie Ormes. Ormes created playful, often politically charged strips for readers of 15 African American newspapers across the country, including the Chicago Defender and Pittsburgh Courier, from the 1930s to the 1950s. There would not be another nationally syndicated black female cartoonist until the 1990s

Smart, classy, glamorous, bold, and rebellious, Torchy Brown was one of Ormes’ most beloved characters. Torchy first appeared as a Mississippi teen finding fame and fortune as a Cotton Club singer and dancer in the 1937-1938 comic strip Torchy Brown in “Dixie to Harlem.” Torchy reappeared in 1950’s Torchy in Heartbeats as a beautiful, independent woman encountering adventure in a pursuit for her true love.

In addition to creating the first upscale black doll to have a whole line of clothes, Patty Jo from her comic Patty-Jo ‘n’ Ginger, Ormes turned Torchy into a paper doll (bet you can’t guess where you might see it now through August 21, 2016?!). Torchy was so curvaceous that it was rumored servicemen used the paper dolls as pin-ups!
Photo: Torchy Brown Heartbeats, February 3, 1951, Comic Section, Pittsburgh Courier. Courtesy of Nancy Goldstein, www.jackieormes.com.

Nintendo Nostalgia

Nintendo Exhibit

When you hear the name Nintendo, you probably think of the iconic, gray video game console, a pair of mustached plumbers, and maybe even that snickering dog from Duck Hunt (what a jerk!). Surprisingly, Nintendo’s games go much further back: 125 years back with a deck of playing cards! Nintendo’s products included an electronic “Love Tester” and arcade games before they made it big with their home game console, the Nintendo Entertainment System, in 1985.

Nintendo’s games, characters, and even the consoles themselves continue to resonate with new generations of players. The Strong’s International Center for the History of Electronic Games and Ritsumeikan University in Japan have produced an exhibit celebrating the Nintendo Entertainment System’s 30 year anniversary. Visitors can view some of the early NES design plans, watch an interview with a Nintendo hardware designer, and play several games like Super Mario Bros. 1, 2, and 3, and Mario Kart Arcade GP. The best part? You won’t have to blow on any of the cartridges in order to play the games!
Photo: Courtesy of The Strong®, Rochester, New York.

A Gilded Palace Comes to America

Catherine Palace

It’s hard not to be amazed by Russia’s eighteenth century Catherine Palace. With its sky blue and gold gilded façade, the building is three stories of “whipped cream” Rococo architecture. The interior is equally stunning: grand halls with marquetry floors, ornately-painted ceilings, and, of course, wall-to-wall flowery molding dripping with gold leaf.

Private collector Carole Kaye commissioned Robert Dawson of The Modelroom to miniaturize the fairy tale magic of the Catherine Palace. Nearly a decade later, the finished product has been gifted to the Kathleen Savage Browning Miniatures Collection at the Kentucky Gateway Museum (on view through April 30, 2016). One of the most stunning rooms in the miniature palace is a 1:12 scale interpretation of the Amber Room, in which Dawson hand painted and engraved hundreds of pieces of veneer to emulate amber. The full-scale Amber Room was once considered the “eighth wonder of the world.” Maybe the miniature Catherine Palace could be considered for the ninth!
Photo: KSB Miniatures Collection.

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