Museum, miniature and masters

In the collection of the Rijksmuseum is this ' flessenkelder', a beautiful chest with porcelain bottles and silver mounts.  The Jap...

In the collection of the Rijksmuseum is this ' flessenkelder', a beautiful chest with porcelain bottles and silver mounts.  The Japanese porcelain bottles contained highly desired and precious fragrant oils.   The chest dates to 1680-1700 and was used as a diplomatic gift by the VOC (Dutch East India Company) to give to Asian monarchs.



Several years ago I sent photos of the chest to Jens Torp, thinking it would look fabulous in miniature.  Jens liked the idea and joined forces with Geoffrey Wonnacott (wooden chest) and Terry Curran (porcelain bottles) to make the miniature version.  


On my last trip to the Rijksmuseum I brought my miniature 'flessenkelder' with me so I could see the pieces side by side.  I must say it was quite special!

I have thought of adding another name to the three who have worked on this chest, my own!  I would really like to ad the velvet lining to the lid, as the original has.  Would I dare to do that?  Yes, I think I would.  But only if I can find a suitable fabric.

More photos of the chest in my post here.


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When I started building my first dollshouse thirteen years ago, I used any material I had available which I thought would be suitable for the job at hand.   I used things like fruit crates, bits of wrapping and packaging material such as card stock and plastics, and the foam which was used to protect grapes from bruising.

I also printed some of my own fabrics and wallpapers.  It was at that time when I started to think about the materials I was using and what would happen to them over time.  Most of us know that materials can deteriorate through the influence of environmental factors .  Light, moisture, dust, bugs,  chemicals, or a combination of these, all can contribute to a slow decline of the state of the dollhouse.   (Lets not forget rodents...just look at what those little critters did to my kitchen gloves! ;-) )

'Ontbijtje'  (Breakfast') by Willem Claesz Heda (1594-1680)

But sometimes it is the materials used by the artist which cause the problems.  I was reminded of that when I saw this painting (above) by Willem Claesz Heda at the Rijksmuseum a few weeks ago.   The scene of a breakfast of fish and poultry shows the painter was a master at depicting different textures and surfaces.   

It may not seem immediately obvious, but the painting is missing some colour.   The Chinese porcelain bowl and jugs should be blue and white.  A good quality blue pigment was very expensive at the time and as the painter did not have the funds for good quality pigment, he used a cheaper and lesser quality pigment for this work.  Over time the poor quality blue colour faded badly.  

Photoshopped blue added 'Ontbijtje by Willem Claesz Heda.  
Just for fun I did a bit of quick photoshopping and painted in the missing blue of the porcelain.  It probably isn't the right blue colour and the blue in the rest of the painting has faded away as well so the balance isn't quite right, but it still gives an idea of what the painting should look like.  

The moral of this story obviously is to use the best quality materials you can find or afford.  Of course I don't presume my dollshouse will still be around in 350 years , but I would like it to last for quite some time yet.  Especially the paper and printed miniatures I have made for my dollhouse have started to show signs of fading and wear.  

So, although I am no expert at this,  I do now try to use materials which will probably last longer or have less of a chance of reacting badly to light, moisture, oxygen, chemicals etc., like acid free papers, archival varnishes, paints with good quality pigments, not using glue on fabrics etc. 

'Ontbijtje' by Willem Clasz Heda (detail with blue added).
In my dining room I would like to use a version of this scene, either on a side board or on the dining table.  I think it would look fantastic!  I do still have some more collecting to do though.  And possibly make one or two pieces myself.  Who knows.  


I leave you with this short clip of Jens Torp at work in his workshop, from the KDF documentary 1:12 about the charming world of dollhouse makers and the festival.  Watch the full 20 minute documentary (and more!) on the KDF website here: 


video


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33 comments

  1. Me gustan las botellas de porcelana con su estuche y la copia en mini es una preciosidad.
    Un abrazo
    Maite

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  2. Me gustan las botellas de porcelana con su estuche y la copia en mini es una preciosidad.
    Un abrazo
    Maite

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  3. I have thought a lot about how things might deteriorate over time. Such as some of the wallpapers I have bought. Undoubtedly printed with the use of inks for computer printing. George the Mini Guy talked about that in his blog. He recommended spraying those wallpapers with a matte UV protectant. I suppose that might help over time. Now though I am seriously wondering if any of these modern dollhouse wallpapers can stand the test of time.

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    1. Yes, now that you mention it I vaguely remember something like that. He doesn't seem to be blogging anymore, does he? I do use an archival UV protect varnish for some of my paper products. Whether it will stand the test of time will depend on many factors I suppose. Not just the ink, but also the paper (I now use acid free papers) and the glue we use to glue it to the wall. What is the wall made from and how will that react to the glue, or will some chemicals in the wall over time react with the paper?
      I think our best bet with papers we buy is to keep it away from strong light, moisture and dust. And yes, spray with a UV protect varnish.

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  4. Me parecen preciosas todas esas pequeñas botellas en su estuche. En realidad, creo que muchos de nosotros no nos hemos planteado la duración de las cosas que hacemos. Simplemente lo pasamos bien. Aunque teniendo en cuenta el tiempo que le dedicamos y la pasión que ponemos, no estaría mal que pensásemos en ello.

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    1. Well I think having fun working on (or collecting) miniatures is the most important thing. But for some things, especially paper, it pays to think of the quality of materials you are using. I have made flowers in the past which looked wonderful but are already fading badly. A real shame as it was a lot of work and of course now they don't look so good anymore.

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  5. I also wonder about my flooring, and whether that will last because I have been using the flooring that is attached to paper and I think that glue will wear out, instead of making my own flooring. On the positive side, then the electric lights can be replaced! Beautiful pictures.

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    1. 🎶 Always look on the bright side of life 🎶 ;-) Yes, glues can be a worry. But it doesn't mean the glue used for your flooring won't last long. And I suppose eventually all glues will become dry and brittle. I would think those hot glues won't last very long.

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  6. Hi Josje! This is such an interesting and worthy topic!!! I think about it a lot in my building.... will this glue become brittle and dry out, will this cloth become a target of moths, will this plastic become yellow and brittle, will this foam disintegrate... and I lament that I just don't know the answers! I use materials such as Sculpey... but they have not been around long enough for Time to have tested them! Same with many of the modern adhesives. Plastic itself is only about 60 or 70 years old.... and we know many of the older ones do not age well! It is an argument for only using the oldest and time tested materials! I agree with you that it is a very worthy subject indeed! I do wish I knew more!

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    1. It is difficult. I don't know enough about it either. I suppose even conservators have their own specific fields of knowledge and won't always know which material is best to use. I don't have a lot of faith in the modern materials lasting very long. From own experience I know that many plastics and foams will disintegrate after two decades. I don't have a lot of polymer clay items (or dolls) but I don't think it is a very stable material (purely a gut feeling, I don't know much about it). I have read stories of dolls more or less rotting away from the inside. A complete horror!
      To be safe it would be best to stick to the oldest and time tested materials. But then we may miss out on these new fun materials which may prove to be fine in time after all. Oh dilemma!

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  7. What a very interesting post! The little chest is so beautiful and I really enjoyed the KDF video, thank you---

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    1. You're welcome Linda. I don't think you'll have a problem with your carved furniture. Unless it breaks or burns, it will be around for hundreds of years.

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  8. Hi Josje,
    I think that you are a modern day "Patron of the Arts" and an artist yourself.
    Who would not love to acquire such treasures.
    I do enjoy my hobby and it is wonderful that we can do so through our inventive minds.
    Your post has given me some thought,
    Regards Janine

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    1. Thank you Janine, that is quite a compliment!
      Enjoyment of the hobby has priority for me. I would use any material I could get if I couldn't do it any other way.

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  9. Impresionante la reproducción,es perfecta y preciosa,enhorabuena!!!!
    Besos.

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    1. It is wonderful, isn't it? Thank you Pilar!

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  10. Very interesting post... It made me thinking my own dollhouse. And the chest is unbelievable!

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  11. Hello Josje,
    I think the chest is one of the most beautiful pieces on Jens Torp's website. It is stunning! It was great to see the effects of time in the pictures. It is something we don't always think about but so important for houses we work so hard on and want to preserve. I look forward to seeing that lovely scene recreated in miniature.
    Big hug
    Giac

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    1. Thank you Giac. That scene will take some time before I have that installed (I seem to say that often ;-) I have more ideas than time ). The material I would worry about in this scene would be the the Fimo food. I don't like to use clay so I would most likely commission it, but I think Fimo is one of those materials which won't last very long. I hope I am completely wrong about this though.

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  12. Hello Josje,

    That piece is miniature ART! You can see the love and craftmanship that went into this beautiful piece. As for the preservation of miniature work I have to admitte I started thinking about that recently. Paper was one of my favorite materials to work with, but now I found myself thinking about the hand of time everytime I start a new project.
    The "easy" materials are always on hand. Good quality materials for minature projects can be hard to find. The Rijksmuseum is on my list of museums I want to visit this year. Can't wait to see your miniature piece in real life! hugs AM

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    1. Yes, I agree good quality materials are often hard to find. And most materials are all sold by different stores, making the search even harder.
      Have fun at the Rijksmuseum! The chest was part of the Asia exhibit this time, but it is in their regular collection normally although I don't know where it is on display in the museum.

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  13. hoi Josje, ik had hem al eens voorbij zien komen, je 'flessenkelder' (wat grappig dat dat zo heet), maar dat kan ook zijn op Jens Torp's site.. In ieder geval erg leuk om te weten dat jij de drijvende kracht erachter bent, dat wist ik niet en het is een waar museumstuk geworden, echt prachtig! JA, zeker weten dat je dat moet doen, de bekleding, dat zal echt iets toevoegen, succes met het vinden van het juiste materiaal en het doen, lijkt me spannend, maar jij kunt dat absoluut. Je haalt iets heel waardevols aan over materialen en de houdbaarheid ervan en dank voor je reminder. Ik heb er vaak aan gedacht en/of speelde in mijn achterhoofd, wat de duurzaamheid van iets is, welk materiaal het beste wat dat betreft etc, maar het heeft vaak toch het onderspit moeten delven helaas. Maar dus goed om weer aan herinnerd te worden en weer vaker aan te denken.

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    1. Nee ik had 'm al eens eerder laten zien, maar niet naast zijn grote broer natuurlijk. Nou ja, drijvende kracht....Het fluweel zal niet makkelijk worden, vooral omdat fluweel relatief dik is natuurlijk. Zelfs zijden fluweel is toch nog vrij dik voor miniatuur.
      Van sommige materialen weten we al lang dat het snel vergaat, met moderne materialen is dat natuurlijk lastig te voorspellen. Zo gebruik ik de laatste tijd regelmatig Milliput, een tweecomponenten mastiek waarvan ik geen idee heb hoe zich dat houdt op termijn. Maar het is mooi spul dus dat zal ik toch wel blijven gebruiken.

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  14. I remember that your beautiful miniature . And now see near that scale 1/1 is really a sensation. Finally the translator works on your page and I can understand what tales . My current project in miniature does not have the advantage of your first dollhouse , but also to me mind seeing fade over time the effort and money spent to meet their imagination . I remember that in your post you wrote that for windows and facade of your dollhouse you used the best acrylic paint on the market . This particular has impressed me a lot and I always thought that I had used material . It would be nice to be able to make a serious guidebook to not have too many surprises in the future ..... in short, what to do and what absolutely not!

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    1. Glad to hear the translator works for you again!
      Yes it is a shame to see our work fade away with time. So if we can do something to prevent that it could be worth spending a little bit extra...How funny you remembered what paint I used! A guidebook would be so helpful! But unless we write this all together and have help from a professional such as a curator, I fear that would be very difficult. Plus of course, as mentioned in previous replies as well, with many of the modern materials we just don't know what will happen in the future.

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  15. That chest is truly exquisite, a beautiful work of art.

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  16. Hi Josje! Thank you for Showing us you tiny TREASURE BOX and for introducing Jens Torp to us as well. I can readily see why he was the RIGHT man for the job and I'll look forward to seeing your contribution regarding the addition of the velvet lining that you are sure to find! :D
    About your observations about wishing to use only THE BEST. I believe that you make some valid points regarding the longevity of materials, and I APPLAUD people that can afford The Best And who share your Passion for quality, as well as your Immense Skills and Talents! ( can you tell that there is some serious mini envy going on here? ;P )
    Ultimately though, we will never KNOW what will happen to all of the tiny things that we have loved to make, and we can only HOPE that they will stand the test of time AND be cherished by others. I have seen some pretty old doll's houses of the past, on the auction block and as faded, stained and broken as they were, they were still highly prized and sought after, even as the gavel went down.

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    1. Hi Elizabeth, It really is a treasure box, good description! We have a silk shop in Amsterdam which sells beautiful silk velvet, but I am afraid it may still be too thick for the box. We'll see.
      Good materials can be expensive, thankfully we don't need huge quantities in miniatures. But it does all add up. If, for whatever reason, I could not get quality materials, I would use any material I would have access to. Making things would have priority over how long it would last.
      Those old houses you find at auction do have so much charm! Even if I would like to see my houses stay in the family, my grandchildren (if I ever have any) may not be interested in big, dust gathering pieces of handicraft their ancestor made ;-)

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    2. Oh I disagree Josje! I think that your future grandchildren will be just as Fascinated with your doll's house as you are. Children are especially drawn to tiny things and without a doubt, your grown children will recognize the value of your work and preserve it, just because YOU did it and because you have done it so Well! :D

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