Small Talk / Miniature

Details in the Miniature Madame

Johannes Landman

As mentioned previously on SmallTalk, artist Johannes Landman’s painting of Madame de Pompadour replicates the 1756 portrait by François Boucher in stunning 1:12 scale. The original work was commissioned by King Louis XV of France to commemorate his mistress, Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, being named as the queen’s lady-in-waiting. Boucher’s portrait depicts the lounging Marquise wearing a teal dress dotted with pink roses. Known as one of the best-read women of her time, she is surrounded by numerous books and writing tools.

While much of Landman’s work, including this painting, emulate masterworks down to the fabric folds and flower petals, he always leaves his own unique mark on a painting. See if you can play “Spot the Difference” between the original work and the miniature. We can spot at least three!

Painting the Miniature Madame

johannes Landmann

T/m’s miniature painting of Madame de Pompadour glows like the oil paintings of the Old Masters. The artist, Johannes Landman, has been known to label himself a perfectionist and his own “worst critic” when it comes to his art. He pays attention to every detail within his paintings to masterfully achieve the subtle color changes found in works such as Madame de Pompadour.

Although strikingly similar, the original full-scale painting by François Boucher was painted on canvas, whereas the miniature is painted on a wooden panel. Landman exclusively uses wood because he feels the texture of canvas would be too bold for 1:12 scale work. To prep the wood surface, Landman applied several layers of a white paint mixture called gesso as a primer, sanding each layer after it dried. Then, using ultra-fine 000 size brushes he layers on the oil paints until he is satisfied with the final product. Stay tuned as we explore more of the mini madame’s lovely qualities.

Down to the Nitty-Gritty Details

noel and pat thomas

One of the “largest” architectural works in our miniature collection is a grand three-story Victorian house known as Port Townsend. This stately house is the work of husband and wife artists Noel and Pat Thomas. Commissioned by T/m co-founder Barbara Marshall, the house was built with only one request: that it have a greenhouse.

One of the biggest construction challenges—finding curved glass for the greenhouse—was remedied by cutting pickle jars. Another challenge—creating a functional split chimney flue—was a trial-and-error process involving burning incense in the home’s tiny fireplace. While we at the museum aim to keep all of our objects in pristine condition, the Thomases’ design their miniatures to appear realistic, worn, and lived-in. To create this illusion, a full-sized ashtray with a lit cigarette was placed in the parlor to simulate fireplace soot, tiny spiders were set free in the basement and attic to create cobwebs (don’t worry, they’re not there anymore!) and much of the house was coated with their “Famous Thomas Bug Juice,” a graying solution developed from a gunsmith’s formula.

The gods are in the Details

johannes landman miniature paintings

What do John Hancock, Jan Van Eyck, and Johannes Landman have in common? Other than names that start with J, each of these fellows have a signature signature. In true, miniature tradition, however, it would take a trained eye to spot Landman’s tiny signature within the gold-plated brass rosette on T/m’s miniature harpsichord.

Tiny playful carvings of a mermaid and satyr flank the piece’s tiny keys. The mermaid between the posts is actually carved from a single piece. Landman paid special attention to this portion of the harpsichord, carving her head in such a way that it appears to tilt. Her tiny crown was skillfully turned on a small lathe and attached later.

Landman modeled the painting under the lid after one on a full-sized Flemish harpsichord and it is entitled Musical Contest Between Apollo and Marsyas, Judged by King Midas. The painting depicts the Greek goddess of wisdom, Athena, rejecting her flute because of the ugly face she made when playing it. A nearby satyr, Marsyas, makes her jealous by mastering the instrument and a duel between him and Apollo, the god of music, ensues. Things don’t end up well for the loser, Marsyas, who then gets turned into a wine flask—ouch.

Sweet, Sweet Miniature Sounds

johannes landman miniatures

Many know the unique and beautiful sounds of the harpsichord from the concerts of Johann Sebastian Bach. Yet, few know that our miniature version of the musical instrument is capable of playing the same iconic melodies. While the tiniest of fingers might be able to follow Bach’s arrangement, melodies played on our miniature version won’t sound the same as a full-scale harpsichord because you cannot miniaturize sound.

Created in 1:12 scale by Johannes Landman in 2004, the miniature’s small keys were individually fashioned out of ivory and weighted in place to prevent shifting as the piece ages. Under the harpsichord’s lid lies a series of brass strings, each approximately .0035 of an inch thick. When each key is pressed, it plucks the note, instead of hammering it like a piano. What’s more, Landman precisely drilled each pin so the tiny instrument can actually be tuned! Finally, a sound hole smaller than a pea under the harpsichord’s wooden body allows the music to escape.

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