Thursday, November 11, 2010

Miniature rooms

One of the highlights of my recent trip to Chicago was our morning spent at the Art Institute.  We could not have timed the activity more perfectly, either, because the rain poured outside while we admired original masterpieces by O'Keefe, Van Gogh, Monet, and Renoir, ancient sculptures and royal artifacts. It was the kind of rain that soaked your pants even while you stood under an umbrella, and the only rain we saw all week. 

The exhibit that intrigued me most was the Thorne Miniature Room Gallery, undoubtedly because I had never seen anything like it before. Plus I have always held a juvenile fascination with all things miniature. I love any big thing scaled down to a tiny replica when the details and embellishments remain intact, whether it be a pair of tiny infant Nike's or a geographical model of Mount St. Helens complete with little cars and buildings and people walking their dogs. 

From a placard in the museum: "The Thorne Miniature Room Gallery contains 68 rooms that depict the historical development of interior design in Europe and the United States from the late 13th century until the 1930's. All of the rooms were researched and designed by Mrs. James Ward Thorne and and built under her supervision."

Apparently the first rooms were conceived in order to showcase her collection of miniature furnishings and decorative art pieces. Then, it would seem, her hobby grew into a full-time operation where she employed assistants to research precise details such as from which wood species a particular table would have been carved, and to recreate specific needlework florals at 1:12 scale.  I have never been interested in the history of interior design, and viewing this gallery did not instill any such interest for me personally, I have to admit. But I don't think that detracts from my appreciation of the intricate study and artistic creation that so thoroughly captured my attention. 

The rooms were challenging to photograph through the glass, but I had fun trying to create images that would trick the mind into believing the architecture was full-size. This is the best I was able to do. Doesn't it seem like the photo was just taken from a high corner of a large foyer? Or would it have seemed that way if I hadn't already explained the entire concept to you? 

Here is the same room from a few steps back. 

Another close-up, with too much glass reflection. 
And the far-away perspective of the same room. 

Here you can see how the dioramas are arranged around several corridors like this, where you can view them chronologically. Also, "What's a diorama?" 

1 comment:

Bridget said...

Even looking at the rooms through the glass frames I still can't wrap my head around their true size. They look normal size to me. What a strange hobby!


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