Small Talk Tag: Furniture

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!”

Making Mathematical Miniatures

Emily Good

According to Newton’s First Law of Motion… OK, we’ll admit we don’t exactly remember everything from physics class! Physicist-turned-miniaturist Emily Good, however, was on top of her game when she created the grouping seen here, which includes a daybed, bureau, bowl, candlestick, and an urn. It’s incredible to see Good’s mastery of a wide variety of materials, especially since she received no artistic training until discovering miniature making.

Just how did she manage to do it? T/m is fortunate to have a seven-volume catalog of Good’s work along with her personal notes and correspondences. Included in her records is a description outlining her very mathematical approach to making miniatures. For example, with the precision of, well, a mathematician, she was able to calculate the shrinkage rate for casting ceramics.

Good’s lifelong love of antiques is also evident in her notes. She meticulously documented the full-scale decorative arts objects that served as inspiration for her works, even citing what issue of Antiques magazine she found them. Perhaps most importantly, Good championed a trial and error methodology. She described in a letter that her method of wax modeling was not the sanctioned way of doing it, and a response from a jeweler who told her, “There is no right or wrong way. There are only different ways.”

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