Small Talk Tag: Furniture

To Build a Better Mousetrap

Mousetrap

One of the earlier works of miniature artist William R. Robertson in T/m’s collection is his simple and beautiful Hepplewhite Mousetrap, created in 1979. Fashioned after a Georgian-era design, the work is comprised of wood and brass. Although it is on display in a separate case in our miniature gallery, it would fit right in to Robertson’s stately miniature Twin Manors.

The mousetrap is slightly smaller than an inch long and consists of 77 individual pieces. Of course, like many of Robertson’s other works, the mousetrap is fully functional. If an extra-tiny mouse (or maybe a small cricket!) were to crawl inside, the arm would unlatch to lower the front gate, trapping an unlucky critter. Since time began, inventers have always sought a way to “invent a better mousetrap.” We think this one really takes the cake, or the cheese as it were.

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!

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!

Have a Seat

Cadwalader side chair

These three chairs might look like they’re auditioning for a part in Goldilocks and the Three Bears; however, they’re actually miniature replicas of historical full-scale chairs. With green silk upholstery and an urn motif splat, the New York Sheraton side chair on the left was inspired by a c.1800 chair from the Kaufman Collection at the National Gallery of Art. The Shield Back Hepplewhite side chair on the right also takes its full-scale inspiration from that same collection. The claw-footed Cadwalader side chair in the center is based off a 1770 design by Thomas Affleck and features a canary yellow jacquard cushion.

Artist Linda LaRoche received a commission from T/m co-founder Barbara Marshall to create a series of works showcasing her skills. Specializing in hand-carved wooden furniture, LaRoche researched measurements documented in the Kaufman Collection catalog. For the Cadwalader chair, she was granted special access by the Metropolitan Museum of Art to photograph and measure the full-scale chair. Using that research, LaRoche was able to precisely scale down the designs and determine the best approach to carving the delicate details. Unlike Goldilocks, we think all three of these chairs are “just right!”

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