Small Talk / Miniature

Seeing Double: Furnishings Fit for a Georgian Colonial

Bill Robertson miniature woodworking

William R. Robertson furnished Twin Manors with historically accurate, 1:12 scale period furniture, accessories, and textiles produced by over 100 craftspeople, including some of his miniature artist friends and even his mother! At less than a foot tall, the master bedroom contains every eighteenth-century luxury (or at least what they considered luxury) imaginable: an embroidered bed canopy and spread, a brass bed warmer, and hand-worked rugs. All the textiles are either original designs by contemporary American artists inspired by historical pieces, or copies of objects in museum collections.

The center hallway combines elements from Tulip Hill (c. 1756 in Maryland) and The Lindens (c. 1754 in Danvers, Massachusetts). The stairway is composed of more than 1,000 pieces and the railing cap alone took 50 hours to make. The hand-painted wallpaper depicts 18th century houses. Heather Stewart Diaz spent more than a year on the watercolor scenes. The landing holds a tall case clock and the corner cupboard in the entryway holds a matched set of Imari bowls made especially for the house. No corner was left untouched!

Seeing Double: Two Georgian Colonial Manors

William R. Robertson Miniatures

Self-described as a fanatic for function, authenticity, and detail, it comes as no surprise that William R. Robertson spent five years of full-time work building Twin Manors, two identical houses based on his research of 18th century historical homes from Virginia to Maine. Robertson envisioned the Georgian Colonial structure in 1979 and built a 1:87 scale mock-up to help him design the two, identical 1:12 scale versions. One manor is in the T/m collection and one is in Robertson’s private collection.

Robertson incorporated “the best features” into each of the thirteen rooms in the circa-1760 mansion. For example, the master bedroom’s fireplace mantel was adapted from the library of Gunston Hall (c. 1750, Lorton, Virginia). The Newburyport Room (first floor on the left) was named for its back wall stylized after a wall in the mid-eighteenth-century Dalton Club (Newburyport, Massachusetts). The drawing room combines the designs of Pennsylvania’s Graeme Park (c. 1722 in Horsham) and Woodford Mansion (c. 1756 in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia). And the front doors, with more than 216 pieces each, are replicas of those adorning the Wentworth-Gardner House (Portsmouth, New Hampshire).

As you can imagine, there is a lot more to discover in this miniature manor. Stay tuned!

Amazing Glazing

Miniature Talavera pottery

Whether you pronouce it “veys” or “vahz,” you’ve got to admin these 1:12 scale vases are really something. Inspired by the traditional Talavera pottery of Puebla, Mexico, these porcelain works were created by Le Chateau Interiors, a company comprised of miniature artists and painters Frank Hanley and Jeffrey Guéno. Although nearly identical, the two vases were actually made several years apart from each other.

The tradition of making Talavera pottery in Puebla dates back to the 16th century when it was introduced by immigrants from Spain. After being molded and fired in a kiln, these ceramic jars, or tibores, received a white layer of tin oxide glaze called estaño, and then the intricate blue design painted on top. During the final kiln firing, both layers of glaze became fused, giving the vases their smooth finish.

Framing the Miniature Madame

Johannes Landman

When we’re visiting another museum or gallery, we’ll admit it’s easy to miss what’s around the works of art: the frames. Which is a shame, because they are often works of art themselves! The same might be true of framed fine-scale miniature paintings. Upon closer inspection however, these gilded borders really shine. As we’ve discussed previously on SmallTalk, Johannes Landman is a miniaturist in a range of media. Once Landman had completed the miniature painting Madame de Pompadour, he mounted it in a custom-made frame.

To achieve fine-scale miniature accuracy, Landman used western ewe wood for its fine grain. He was able to shape the curves and tiny details of the frame using a Flexcut carving tool. Lastly, Landman gilded the wood using 24 karat gold imported from Italy. The finished product is a beautiful and classically designed frame fit for a queen … or in this case, a royal mistress!

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!

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