Small Talk Tag: William R. Robertson

Seeing Double: The Devil’s in the Details

william r. robertson

And details there are! We’ve never tried it ourselves, but given a steady hand and a pair of tweezers, each microscopic door latch in Twin Manors can be locked with a sliver of a key. Every window glides open in its frame except for two fake windows on each side of the façade. These provide symmetry to the home, which was a very important aspect of Georgian-era design. And artist William R. Robertson even painted the brickwork with pigment made from the dust of 18th century brick!

Next time you visit T/m look closely and you can see a sampler in the back hallway by Robertson’s mom Esther Robertson. The sampler commemorates the completion of the two houses; the one in T/m’s home is dated 1989 for the first year the manor was on display. Come see it for yourself August 1, 2015 when the museum reopens!

Seeing Double: Dining in a Manor

Miniature dining room furniture

Like the rest of Twin Manors, the dining room took inspiration from 18th century homes: Wilton-on-the-James (c. 1753 in Virginia) and Wentworth-Gardner House (c. 1760 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire). The paneling on the back wall contains approximately 250 pieces of wood. Look closely and you can see the hidden doorway leading to the pantry in the back hallway on the left wall.

Not to be outdone for the holidays, Twin Manors has historically accurate Christmas decorations. Every holiday season the T/m staff decks the manor’s halls with swags and fruit arrangements (well, not real fruit… that wouldn’t be great for the art). The dining room chandelier is replaced with a Christmas chandelier and a festive bonbon centerpiece adorns the table along with a Williamsburg pineapple centerpiece.

Seeing Double: Furnishings Fit for a Georgian Colonial

Bill Robertson miniature woodworking

William R. Robertson furnished Twin Manors with historically accurate, 1:12 scale period furniture, accessories, and textiles produced by over 100 craftspeople, including some of his miniature artist friends and even his mother! At less than a foot tall, the master bedroom contains every eighteenth-century luxury (or at least what they considered luxury) imaginable: an embroidered bed canopy and spread, a brass bed warmer, and hand-worked rugs. All the textiles are either original designs by contemporary American artists inspired by historical pieces, or copies of objects in museum collections.

The center hallway combines elements from Tulip Hill (c. 1756 in Maryland) and The Lindens (c. 1754 in Danvers, Massachusetts). The stairway is composed of more than 1,000 pieces and the railing cap alone took 50 hours to make. The hand-painted wallpaper depicts 18th century houses. Heather Stewart Diaz spent more than a year on the watercolor scenes. The landing holds a tall case clock and the corner cupboard in the entryway holds a matched set of Imari bowls made especially for the house. No corner was left untouched!

Seeing Double: Two Georgian Colonial Manors

William R. Robertson Miniatures

Self-described as a fanatic for function, authenticity, and detail, it comes as no surprise that William R. Robertson spent five years of full-time work building Twin Manors, two identical houses based on his research of 18th century historical homes from Virginia to Maine. Robertson envisioned the Georgian Colonial structure in 1979 and built a 1:87 scale mock-up to help him design the two, identical 1:12 scale versions. One manor is in the T/m collection and one is in Robertson’s private collection.

Robertson incorporated “the best features” into each of the thirteen rooms in the circa-1760 mansion. For example, the master bedroom’s fireplace mantel was adapted from the library of Gunston Hall (c. 1750, Lorton, Virginia). The Newburyport Room (first floor on the left) was named for its back wall stylized after a wall in the mid-eighteenth-century Dalton Club (Newburyport, Massachusetts). The drawing room combines the designs of Pennsylvania’s Graeme Park (c. 1722 in Horsham) and Woodford Mansion (c. 1756 in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia). And the front doors, with more than 216 pieces each, are replicas of those adorning the Wentworth-Gardner House (Portsmouth, New Hampshire).

As you can imagine, there is a lot more to discover in this miniature manor. Stay tuned!

A Game of Perfection

miniature chippendale furniture

In 18th century America, games and gambling were all the rage. This miniature game table, based off a c. 1770s Philadelphia Chippendale table, would have been perfect for tiny card games! Less than four inches tall, the table’s base was hand-carved by Wm. R. Robertson. The base, shaped from Swiss pear wood, features delicately curving ball-and-claw legs that support the functioning tilt-top surface.

Robertson’s mother, Esther Robertson, created the petit point stitched surface. Based on an Italian tapestry design, the tabletop consists of 33,000 stitches in 41 colors of silk thread. It took her three months to complete the design; when it was finished, she gave it to her son, who painstakingly attached it to the table. Esther Robertson was so nervous something would go wrong during the attachment process that she had to leave the house! Of course, the finished piece turned out beautifully, and the miniature game table is a testament to the amazing design and craftsmanship that goes into making a miniature.

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