Small Talk Tag: Miniature

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!

Building a Fine-Scale Collection

fine-scale miniature

What started as a souvenir in the 1950s, became a serious collection by the 1970s, a museum by 1982, and is today the world’s largest and finest collection. Museum co-founder Barbara Marshall combined her love for small things with an eye for detail refined throughout her professional career in Hallmark’s art department and volunteer service at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. The combination resulted in a patron that desired only the highest quality work from artists that could meet her standards.

Marshall encouraged artists to create their dream fine-scale works, allowing many artists to explore the boundaries of the art form. The outcomes can be seen throughout T/m’s miniature galleries, including Emperor Charles V of Spain and Queen Isabella of Portugal.

Inspiring a Fine-Scale Collection

fine-scale miniature

On Small Talk, we’ve already looked at three miniature commissions in the early 20th century that helped spark the fine-scale miniature movement: Queen Mary’s Dollhouse, Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle, and the Thorne Rooms. All three commissions employed full-scale craftsmen to create miniature versions of their work for public exhibition. But how did the museum’s collection come to be?

Museum founder Barbara Marshall loved small things. Contrary to most children, she always looked forward to getting the “smallest” present. In the 1950s, she discovered the shop of Eric Pearson, one of the craftsman hired to furnish the Thorne Rooms. A 1:12 scale Pearson rocking chair began her collection that is now the largest in the world. Stay tuned for more about Marshall and the gigantic, miniature collection she built.

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