Small Talk / Miniature

Inside a Cabinet of Curiosity

Cabinet of Curiosity

Pierre Mourey’s 1:12 scale Antwerp Cabinet is as beautifully decorated on the inside as on the outside. Its two exterior doors unlock to reveal fourteen dovetail-jointed drawers with brass pulls. The front of each of the drawers contains a miniature pastoral scene. The hinged top of the cabinet reveals a secret compartment with two more painted scenes and the letter “M” for Mourey.

Although they came in many different forms, full-scale curiosity cabinets were meant to store objects of fascination and entertainment such as coral, antique coins, and rare gems. Cabinets like these are considered the forerunners of modern museums. The miniature Antwerp Cabinet is on display in the museum’s Masterpiece Gallery, which is kind of like our own cabinet of curiosity.

A Cabinet of Curiosity

Antwerp Cabinet

The bold and ornate details on the outside of the 1:12 scale Antwerp cabinet really make a statement. Created by artist Pierre Mourey in 1999, the leggy cabinet was inspired by 17th-century Dutch cabinets of curiosities. Traditionally, these cabinets were adorned with exotic materials like tortoise shell, ebony, and mother of pearl.

Mourey, however, had to figure out a way to emulate in miniature not only the style of the cabinet, but also the fine embellishments. Reverse-painted red acetate (the kind of material eyeglass frames are made of) was used to resemble tortoise shell. Although it’s made of walnut, the cabinet has been ebonized, or treated with a special chemical mixture to give it the look of dark ebony wood. Stay tuned; we’ll reveal the cabinet’s equally stunning interior soon!

Details Wright to Scale

William Martin Breakfast Room

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s belief in gesamtkunstwerk or “total work of art” meant that all the components of his designs matched each other, as seen in the art glass cabinetry, windows, and furniture in the William Martin Breakfast Room. In order to get the sharp geometric details just right in miniature, artists Allison Ashby and Steve Jedd had to rely on some pretty clever techniques to emulate the look of leaded glass. First, Jedd fabricated the art glass panes out of strip styrene glued to 1/8 inch glass. Ashby then applied several layers of acrylic paint, bronzing powder, and gel medium to emulate the texture of leading.

Prairie Style accessories in the room include works by a variety of other artists. Ceramics by Jane Mellick and Carol Mann sit on a matching table in the window. Delicate glassware by Jacqueline Kerr Dieber is kept in the built-in cabinets. And of course you can’t get much more “prairie style” than the floral arrangement of grasses and black-eyed Susans on the table by Nancy Van DeLoo.

Furniture Wright to Scale

Martin House

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed his buildings and homes in their entirety, often right down to the furniture. Wright believed that architecture should be suited to its environment, and similarly the components of a home should match the architecture. As a result, the art glass windows, built-in cabinetry, and dining set in the William E. Martin House all tie in with the home’s Prairie style aesthetic.

Taking Wright’s principles into account, artists Allison Ashby and Steve Jedd built the Martin House dining table and chairs to match the original design. Just like in the room’s trim, they substituted quarter sawn oak for cherry for its small grain and workability. The top of the chairs also contain mother of pearl inlay to mirror the art glass design in the window. Other handcrafted, Prairie style accessories in the room include works by a variety of artists, which we’ll look at next time!

Wright to Scale

William E. Martin House

With their dramatic horizontal lines, open floor plans, and cantilevered roofs, architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s homes are some of the most iconic in American history. Wright’s famous Prairie Style of domestic architecture took inspiration from the Midwestern landscape. The William E. Martin House is a beautiful example of one of these homes, coincidentally only a few blocks away from Wright’s own home and studio in Oak Park, Illinois. Today, the home is still a private residence, so your best chance to see it up close is here at T/m!

Built in 1902, the William E. Martin House was the inspiration for Allison Ashby and Steve Jedd’s 1:12 scale breakfast room. All of the room’s architectural details are accounted for in miniature. As with other works, Ashby and Jedd have substituted woods in order to mimic the full-size solid oak grain in miniature. The individually laid floor boards are made of basswood and the trim is made of cherry. In order to give the appearance of stucco, the miniature room’s walls were covered with muslin and faux-finished using layers of transparent acrylic glazes.

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