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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Peek Inside the Miniature Rooms of Narcissa Niblack Thorne.

Oh Boy, how we underestimated the impressiveness of the Thorne Miniature Rooms at Art Institute of Chicago!  With 30 minutes till museum closing, my husband and I wandered into the museum depths to see the exhibit - expecting to see a dollhouse - but no.  These extremely-detailed and very attractive miniature marvels of interior design are set into the walls at eye level.  They were created with the artistic vision of Narcissa Niblack Thorne (Mrs. James Ward Thorne) and Art Institute of Chicago has 68 of them.
Image from Abbeville Press, Miniature Rooms: The Thorne Rooms at The Art Institute of Chicago.
I love this photo of her in a smock, pearls, and a hat - adding the fine touches to some small wonder.

Scurrying hurriedly from room to room, I imagined myself seated on the sofas and settees, chilling on the chaise lounges, owning all the clever bookshelves, and visualizing the views through every window.  Anxious about our limited time, I'd wandered from room to room on my own... where was my husband?  Thinking he'd vacated the perhaps-too-feminine premises, I searched outside the exhibit.  But when I called out to find him, he was still marveling at the miniature interiors.
Narcissa Niblack Thorne Miniature Room at Art Institute of Chicago.  Photo Toile La La.
Thorne Miniature Room at Art Institute of Chicago.  Photo Toile La La.

Thorne Miniature Room at Art Institute of Chicago.  Photo Toile La La.
Thorne Miniature Room at Art Institute of Chicago.  Photo Toile La La.
If I could shrink down to size, my idea of a good day spent inside the Thorne Rooms would be to gather some books from the rounded coffee-table bookshelf (top room) and study them outside in the sculpture garden.  Next, I would have a look inside the cabinet at left (second room down), then enjoy the view through those sunny yellow curtains of the third room.  Then, before a catnap, I would sketch and jot a few notes at the desk near the window of the lower room. Before reclining on the lounge you can barely see at right, I'd try out the bonnet on the hatstand.

You can see all 68 rooms too at this Art Institute of Chicago link.  Notice the enlargement option for the site - which enables you to experience all the worthwhile details.  After selecting the room you want to study, you'll see the enlargement option.

My photos above have a bit of glare and reflection, due to the glass casing, but the museum photos are immaculate.
Art Institute of Chicago, Thorne Miniature Room - New Hampshire Entrance Hall 1799.
Can you imagine descending this staircase dressed in your best hat and finery, ready to dance and dine?

At the museum link, see if you can spot within the English Drawing Room of The Georgian Period (1800)a harpsichord... with teeny-tiny moveable ivory keys.  If you like modern interiors, look for the French Library of The Modern Period from the 1930's or The California Hallway, circa 1940.

Ileana Ottini has some beautiful Thorne Miniature Room footage at this Youtube link.  There, you'll also learn about the Thorne Miniature Rooms in the collections of several other museums.

This Houston Chronicle Archives link has a very good article about Narcissa Niblack Thorne's miniature interiors(Cecile S. Holmes for Houston Chronicle - "The World in Miniature: Collector's Labor of Love...".

The blog Monkey Puzzle has photos of two more Thorne Miniature Rooms from the Phoenix Museum of Art.