Small Talk Tag: Miniature

Down to the Nitty-Gritty Details

noel and pat thomas

One of the “largest” architectural works in our miniature collection is a grand three-story Victorian house known as Port Townsend. This stately house is the work of husband and wife artists Noel and Pat Thomas. Commissioned by T/m co-founder Barbara Marshall, the house was built with only one request: that it have a greenhouse.

One of the biggest construction challenges—finding curved glass for the greenhouse—was remedied by cutting pickle jars. Another challenge—creating a functional split chimney flue—was a trial-and-error process involving burning incense in the home’s tiny fireplace. While we at the museum aim to keep all of our objects in pristine condition, the Thomases’ design their miniatures to appear realistic, worn, and lived-in. To create this illusion, a full-sized ashtray with a lit cigarette was placed in the parlor to simulate fireplace soot, tiny spiders were set free in the basement and attic to create cobwebs (don’t worry, they’re not there anymore!) and much of the house was coated with their “Famous Thomas Bug Juice,” a graying solution developed from a gunsmith’s formula.

Eloise Kruger’s Meticulous Collection

eloise kruger miniature collection

While many men fought abroad during World War II, Eloise Kruger’s gumption led her to climb the career ladder from a secretarial position to the head of an all-woman accounting firm. When she began collecting fine-scale miniatures in 1939, she used the same tenacity. In 1997, she left her entire collection of more than 20,000 historically accurate decorative arts miniatures to the College of Architecture at the University of Nebraska- Lincoln, now free for public viewing during the week.

The Kruger Collection includes miniature replicas of just about everything you would find in a household, including a kitchen sink! She meticulously recorded every detail available regarding each of her miniatures, including important commission information and correspondence with Eric Pearson, one of the first professional miniature makers in the United States. A whopping 800 books accompanied the collection when it arrived at the university—talk about attention to detail!

Photo: The Kruger Collection, University of Nebraska- Lincoln.

The gods are in the Details

johannes landman miniature paintings

What do John Hancock, Jan Van Eyck, and Johannes Landman have in common? Other than names that start with J, each of these fellows have a signature signature. In true, miniature tradition, however, it would take a trained eye to spot Landman’s tiny signature within the gold-plated brass rosette on T/m’s miniature harpsichord.

Tiny playful carvings of a mermaid and satyr flank the piece’s tiny keys. The mermaid between the posts is actually carved from a single piece. Landman paid special attention to this portion of the harpsichord, carving her head in such a way that it appears to tilt. Her tiny crown was skillfully turned on a small lathe and attached later.

Landman modeled the painting under the lid after one on a full-sized Flemish harpsichord and it is entitled Musical Contest Between Apollo and Marsyas, Judged by King Midas. The painting depicts the Greek goddess of wisdom, Athena, rejecting her flute because of the ugly face she made when playing it. A nearby satyr, Marsyas, makes her jealous by mastering the instrument and a duel between him and Apollo, the god of music, ensues. Things don’t end up well for the loser, Marsyas, who then gets turned into a wine flask—ouch.

Sweet, Sweet Miniature Sounds

johannes landman miniatures

Many know the unique and beautiful sounds of the harpsichord from the concerts of Johann Sebastian Bach. Yet, few know that our miniature version of the musical instrument is capable of playing the same iconic melodies. While the tiniest of fingers might be able to follow Bach’s arrangement, melodies played on our miniature version won’t sound the same as a full-scale harpsichord because you cannot miniaturize sound.

Created in 1:12 scale by Johannes Landman in 2004, the miniature’s small keys were individually fashioned out of ivory and weighted in place to prevent shifting as the piece ages. Under the harpsichord’s lid lies a series of brass strings, each approximately .0035 of an inch thick. When each key is pressed, it plucks the note, instead of hammering it like a piano. What’s more, Landman precisely drilled each pin so the tiny instrument can actually be tuned! Finally, a sound hole smaller than a pea under the harpsichord’s wooden body allows the music to escape.

Miniature Master: Johannes Landman

johannes landman miniatures

You just never know where your career will take you. Johannes Landman previously worked for a firm issuing driver’s licenses before turning to his passion of fine-scale miniatures. Born in Holland, the self-taught artist drew inspiration from his grandmother, also a painter, and from work of the 17th Century Dutch masters when he began creating art. Now living in Canada, Landman makes his living transforming veneered wood, copper, and silk into masterful miniature oil paintings that can be found in museums and private collections worldwide. Landman also teaches at the International Guild of Miniatures Artisans.

He is said to believe that anyone can be a miniature artist as long as he or she has the passion to do so and doesn’t make earning money the end goal. Unafraid of challenges, Landman stretched his talent a little to create the ornate miniature harpsichord, now part of T/m’s permanent collection. The small piece actually plays when its keys are pressed, and its designs reflect the artistic flare and attention to detail exhibited in the artist’s framed paintings.

Page 5 of 15« First...34567...10...Last »