Small Talk Tag: Miniature

A Gilded Palace Comes to America

Catherine Palace

It’s hard not to be amazed by Russia’s eighteenth century Catherine Palace. With its sky blue and gold gilded façade, the building is three stories of “whipped cream” Rococo architecture. The interior is equally stunning: grand halls with marquetry floors, ornately-painted ceilings, and, of course, wall-to-wall flowery molding dripping with gold leaf.

Private collector Carole Kaye commissioned Robert Dawson of The Modelroom to miniaturize the fairy tale magic of the Catherine Palace. Nearly a decade later, the finished product has been gifted to the Kathleen Savage Browning Miniatures Collection at the Kentucky Gateway Museum (on view through April 30, 2016). One of the most stunning rooms in the miniature palace is a 1:12 scale interpretation of the Amber Room, in which Dawson hand painted and engraved hundreds of pieces of veneer to emulate amber. The full-scale Amber Room was once considered the “eighth wonder of the world.” Maybe the miniature Catherine Palace could be considered for the ninth!
Photo: KSB Miniatures Collection.

Allegory of a Lullaby: The Inspiration

Johannes Landman

Many of the artists represented in T/m’s fine-scale miniature collection draw inspiration from history, architecture, and the natural world. However, Johannes Landman also turned to his own personal history as inspiration for this beautiful cradle, titled Allegory of a Lullaby.

Formally, the cradle is based on a traditional Dutch cradle with four panels and delicately carved scrollwork details. Like much of his work, Landman emulated the style of the Dutch Old Masters for the allegorical scenes on each side of the cradle. Informally, the most touching source of inspiration for this work can be noted by the fact that he often calls this work “Christina’s Cradle,” in reference to his mother, who died when he was an infant. The work, which took over 1,100 hours to plan and create, is a tribute to every child who has lost a mother.

American Folk Art in Furniture

Folk art furniture

If you’ve been following our blog for a while now, you know that fine-scale miniature artists Jim Ison and Therese Bahl didn’t stop once the bones of the room were finished. They had to furnish it! For “A Tribute to the Classic Period of American Folk Art,” Ison and Bahl made sure they had plenty of seating. Ison created two spindle back chairs with tan leather seats, a Windsor chair painted green, and a Martha Washington chair based on a circa 1800 model upholstered in flowered print. Bahl made a black Hitchcock chair based on a circa 1830s Connecticut model with painted gold designs, and a pink sidechair with painted fruit, flowers, and accents.

With plenty of places to sit, Bahl added a wood swing table with a rural house scene and a black metal deed box with painted embellishments. Ison contributed a mahogany writing desk with six drawers and accessories, an octagonal-topped mahogany tilt top table based on a circa 1800 model with spade feet, and a clock for the mantle with a painted landscape and gold finials. Together, they created a yellow Boston rocker with an ocean scene and a decoratively painted side table. While this may be just another project in the life of a fine-scale miniature artist, we, for one, are exhausted!

Lights, Camera, Miniatures!

Miniature museum in lyon

Like T/m, Lyon, France’s Musée Miniature et Cinéma features two distinct, yet related collections. Rather than toys, this French museum collects, conserves, and displays a variety of cinema props and objects, many of which are actually miniatures in their own right. For generations, filmmakers have used small-scale models and dioramas as a less expensive alternative to filming in an exotic location, or using full-scale props, or computer-generated imagery. Miniatures can have a use beyond just art you know!

The other half of the collection at Musée Miniature et Cinéma focuses on fine-scale miniatures, many of which were created by the museum’s founder, Dan Ohlmann. Formally trained as a cabinetmaker, Ohlmann works in a variety of media, and is especially drawn to the curvaceous (and difficult to recreate!) Art Nouveau style. Operating in a historic sixteenth-century building, the museum also houses a workshop for miniature artisans, who at the moment are collaborating on a scaled-down version of the Brasserie Georges.
Photo: Restaurant Maxim’s de Paris, Dan Ohlmann. Courtesy of Musée Miniature et Cinéma.

American Folk Art Murals in Miniature

folk art mural wallpaper

It is believed that the home’s namesake, Ezra Carroll, commissioned the artfully adorned walls in the Ezra Carroll House. Located on a busy east-west thoroughfare near the store he owned, Carroll occupied the home from 1815 until his death in 1844. During this time, he hired itinerant painter William Price to paint the walls of his home.

While all the rage in England and France, scenic wallpaper was expensive to import and difficult to get your hands on. Ever resourceful, Americans folk artists in New York and New England found a DIY solution worthy of a 21st-century pin: hand-painting oil landscapes directly onto dry plaster.

While we know very little about Price, we do know he is the murals’ artist thanks to his signing and dating the work. Some scholars think he may be the same William H. Price that is listed as living in New York City in 1844, and that he may have been a veteran of the War of 1812 because of his depiction of Commander Perry’s victory at the Battle of Lake Erie in one of the murals. Scholars assume that he took inspiration from local and exotic scenic views in order to duplicate the French’s elaborate wallpapers.

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