Small Talk Tag: Miniature

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.

Going Further Beyond

maria jose santos

Artist Maria Jose Santos began creating ornate porcelain miniature figurines almost two decades ago in mountainous Asturias, Spain. Since then, she has captured the light and whimsical moves of dancing ballerinas as well as the intricacies of ethnic and period dress.  In addition to T/m, her work can be seen in the Kentucky Gateway Museum Center, Switzerland’s Puppenhausmuseum, in Spain’s El Mundo de las Muñecas.

Santos was inspired by a historical painting by Julius Victor Berger when she created the 1:12 scale figures Emperor Charles V of Spain, and Queen Isabella of Portugal and her maid. Queen Isabella even holds two miniature documents; one of which was handwritten by Santos indicating that the miniature work was “put in the care of” The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures.

The title of the miniature trio incorporates Emperor Charles V’s motto, “Further Beyond,” which stems from the Pillars of Hercules – structures the Ancient Greeks once believed marked where the physical world ended. By the time the Emperor gained power, however, sailors knew you didn’t just drop off the edge of the earth at the horizon, so the leader leveraged the phrase as motivation to push boundaries and explore. That’s something we can support as we head towards the our reopening next year!

An Artful Tradition

lee ann chellis wessel egg tempera

Like last year, we’re going to take a look at a work by Lee-Ann Chellis Wessel that commemorates the holiday season. Although her miniature version of The Virgin and Child by Italian painter Lippo Memmi was created nearly 700 years after his, Chellis Wessel has stayed true to the original media: egg tempera with gold leaf on a panel. Memmi’s trademark lacy halos and flattened gold patterns and trim within Mary’s robe all carry an intricate amount of tiny detail. We wonder how Chellis Wessel must have felt replicating those details in fine-scale miniature!

As a special treat this year, Chellis Wessel’s version is on display at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art next to the original work that served as her inspiration. Visitors can view it as well as others scattered throughout the Nelson-Atkins’ galleries as part of the exhibit, Highlights from the Collection of The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures on view now through February 22, 2015.

The Adorned Thorne Rooms

thorne rooms christmas

Have you ever wanted to peek into the delight and spirit of holiday seasons gone by? Well, we have good news. One of the most festive holiday traditions at The Art Institute of Chicago is the annual decking of the Thorne Rooms’ halls. Some of the tiny period rooms don long garlands and dainty, dangling mistletoe. In the English Drawing Room of the Victorian Period, for example, a miniature Christmas tree sits atop a small table, complete with tall red candles on its limbs and a set of dolls resting beneath its bottom branches. In the modern-era California Hallway, a tiny blue menorah sits on a coffee table next to a box holding a dreidel.

In addition to regional, historically accurate décor in several other period rooms, this year’s special display also includes new decorations in honor of the Chinese New Year, a 15-day celebration marked by the lunar calendar. Common commemorative accents in the display will include tiny lanterns, floral arrangements, and banners inscribed with traditional Chinese sayings and idioms.

Photo: Mrs. James Thorne. English Drawing Room of the Victorian Period, 1840-70 (detail), c. 1937. Gift of Mrs. James Ward Thorne. Courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago.

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