Thursday, August 26, 2010

NHG Library: Dolls' Houses

Thursday, August 26, 2010
Loretta reports:

Among the fascinating little books I’ve received from Shire Library, one of my current favorites is Dolls’ Houses by Halina Pasierbska.

Don’t know about you, but I love doll houses, and finding one in a museum or historic house is a special delight.  One that hasn’t been refurnished over the years offers a peep into the past.  It's not just one room in a painting or drawing, but a cross section of an entire house, complete with furniture arrangements that suggest how the space might actually have been used.  Since historically accurate illustrations of household interiors are not as abundant as exteriors, a doll house can be a helpful research tool.

And even if they’ve nothing to do with my chosen historical period, they’re just fascinating to study.  The Shire book shows us doll houses from the 17th to 20th century, some of which are in private collections.

Among many other things, I learned that the terms “Baby House” and “Doll House” referred to size, not purpose.  I was less surprised to learn that they were not regarded simply as toys.  “It would seem,” writes Ms. Pasierbska, “that the houses…served a serious instructional purpose as well as being objects which reflected the wealth of their owners.  They were excellent visual aids which helped young girls of the privileged classes to learn, through play, how to become good household managers.”

It’s a lovely little book, packing a lot of info into a small package and providing, as Shire books generally do, not only a list of further reading, but of places to visit.

Want more doll houses?  Click on the links to take a tour of The Doll's House of Petronella Oortman (late 17th C), Queen Mary’s Doll House, or Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle.

Illustration is from the book:  Bedroom on the first floor of the Stromer House, 1639.

And here, in accord with some FTC rule or other (which probably doesn’t apply to us, since we're not reviewers, but never mind), I need to tell you that, unlike the majority of books referred to in this blog, which Susan and I buy with our own hard-earned cash, this one came gratis.


Lucy said...

I just LOVE doll houses and their dreamy settings that tell tales of their own. Great posts and thanks for the extra links too:)

Felicity Flower said...

I love doll houses, too! There's something about having whole little worlds in miniature. I must look for this book. These links are fabulous!

Undine said...

Thanks for alerting us to those links. I've been lucky enough to see a couple of those in person, and they truly are amazing--they're among those "how did they do that" artifacts.

Although after reading M.R. James' "The Haunted Dolls' House," I've never been able to think of them in quite the same way again.

Trisha said...

Ever since I was a little girl I've loved doll houses. The book I loved the best about them was Rumer Godden's "The Doll House", and I was sure my own dolls came to life at night like the ones in that book did. Maybe they did, lol! Thank you for reminding me!

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

There's another wonderful doll house in the folk art collection in Williamsburg, a house that belonged to artist/author Tasha Tudor. I found pix via Flickr:

Chris Woodyard said...

One of the most fascinating dollshouse artifacts I've seen is Mon Plaisir, an 18th century miniature doll city with over 400 dolls and scores of buildings/roomboxes depicting everything from a convent to beggars and dancing bears. It was built by Augusta Dorothea von Scharzburg-Arnstadt over a span of years. Furstin Augusta nearly bankrupted herself over her hobby and may have converted to Catholicism because the nuns were willing to loan her money! All the dolls have exquisitely made miniatures garments and shoes and accessories. Many items survive at Mon Plaisir that have not survived in full-size. It is rather a miracle that this assemblage has survived centuries and wars to delight us today. Here is a flash presentation.
There are also at least three books on Die Puppenstadt. They are all in German, but the most recent, Matthias Klein u. Carola Müller Die Puppenstadt im Schlossmuseum zu Arnstadt, Die Blauen Bucher, has (rather inadequate) English summaries for the photo captions. You can also read about it in Leonie von Wilckens Mansions in Miniature, which has lots of good photos of early baby houses.
TMI perhaps, but I am a huge fan of historic dollshouses and what they have to tell us. I also collect miniatures to excess, but have not yet bankrupted my kingdom!

LorettaChase said...

Chris, thank you so much for the link. The book has some photos of parts of Mon Plaisir, but it's only a small sampling. I didn't realize it was quite so extensive. What an extraordinary undertaking!

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