Small Talk / Miniature

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.

Miniature Master: Johannes Landman

johannes landman miniatures

You just never know where your career will take you. Johannes Landman previously worked for a firm issuing driver’s licenses before turning to his passion of fine-scale miniatures. Born in Holland, the self-taught artist drew inspiration from his grandmother, also a painter, and from work of the 17th Century Dutch masters when he began creating art. Now living in Canada, Landman makes his living transforming veneered wood, copper, and silk into masterful miniature oil paintings that can be found in museums and private collections worldwide. Landman also teaches at the International Guild of Miniatures Artisans.

He is said to believe that anyone can be a miniature artist as long as he or she has the passion to do so and doesn’t make earning money the end goal. Unafraid of challenges, Landman stretched his talent a little to create the ornate miniature harpsichord, now part of T/m’s permanent collection. The small piece actually plays when its keys are pressed, and its designs reflect the artistic flare and attention to detail exhibited in the artist’s framed paintings.

Going Further Beyond

maria jose santos

Artist Maria Jose Santos began creating ornate porcelain miniature figurines almost two decades ago in mountainous Asturias, Spain. Since then, she has captured the light and whimsical moves of dancing ballerinas as well as the intricacies of ethnic and period dress.  In addition to T/m, her work can be seen in the Kentucky Gateway Museum Center, Switzerland’s Puppenhausmuseum, in Spain’s El Mundo de las Muñecas.

Santos was inspired by a historical painting by Julius Victor Berger when she created the 1:12 scale figures Emperor Charles V of Spain, and Queen Isabella of Portugal and her maid. Queen Isabella even holds two miniature documents; one of which was handwritten by Santos indicating that the miniature work was “put in the care of” The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures.

The title of the miniature trio incorporates Emperor Charles V’s motto, “Further Beyond,” which stems from the Pillars of Hercules – structures the Ancient Greeks once believed marked where the physical world ended. By the time the Emperor gained power, however, sailors knew you didn’t just drop off the edge of the earth at the horizon, so the leader leveraged the phrase as motivation to push boundaries and explore. That’s something we can support as we head towards the our reopening next year!

An Artful Tradition

lee ann chellis wessel egg tempera

Like last year, we’re going to take a look at a work by Lee-Ann Chellis Wessel that commemorates the holiday season. Although her miniature version of The Virgin and Child by Italian painter Lippo Memmi was created nearly 700 years after his, Chellis Wessel has stayed true to the original media: egg tempera with gold leaf on a panel. Memmi’s trademark lacy halos and flattened gold patterns and trim within Mary’s robe all carry an intricate amount of tiny detail. We wonder how Chellis Wessel must have felt replicating those details in fine-scale miniature!

As a special treat this year, Chellis Wessel’s version is on display at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art next to the original work that served as her inspiration. Visitors can view it as well as others scattered throughout the Nelson-Atkins’ galleries as part of the exhibit, Highlights from the Collection of The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures on view now through February 22, 2015.

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