9056

AN EXCEPTIONAL MAHOGANY AND OAK DOLL’S HOUSE MODELED IN THE PALLADIAN STYLE

English. Circa 1730.

Measurements

Height: 66 1/2" (169cm)
Width: 48" (122cm)
Depth: 22 1/2" (57.5cm)

Research

Of oak and mahogany. In the form of a Palladian house surmounted by seven turned finials, the façade centred by a pediment above a fluted frieze and four Tuscan columns, the rusticated ground floor centred by an arched door way with a panelled door with a brass handle, the windows to the front and sides glazed. The façade of the upper section forming two doors and opening to reveal a decorated interior comprising a hallway, parlour and kitchen on the ground floor and upper hall, dining room and bedroom on the first floor. The house raised on a rusticated base of breakfront form fitted with seven square glazed windows and with a door to each left side, the interior of the base comprising a store room to the left and a larder to the right. The whole raised on four bracket feet. Minor old repairs. Three ‘bricks’ replaced where missing. 

Provenance:
Vivien Greene, The Rotunda, Oxford
Bonhams Knightbridge, The Vivien Greene Dolls’ House Collection: Part I, 9 December 1998, Lot 3.

Published:
Greene, Vivien with Margaret Towner. The Vivien Greene Dolls’ House Collection. London: Cassell, 1995. 30-32.
Wilckens, Leonie. Mansions in Miniature: Four Centuries of Dolls’ Houses. New York: The Viking Press, 1980. 153.

The present doll’s house, which collector and previous owner, Vivien Greene, described as “totally breathtaking” is representative of the early contributions made to the craft of replicating homes and furnishings on a small scale, and “certainly, if not an adaptation of a real house, professionally designed using various architectural manuals of the period.”1 Modeled in the Palladian style, it is a fine example of early English domestic miniaturization.

The manufacture of European dolls’ houses, or “baby houses” as they were first called, began as early as the sixteenth century, with the first known house being built for Duke Albert V of Bavaria. Germany, Holland, and the Netherlands were the most prevalent producers and collectors and, after the Revolution of 1687, Dutch King William brought the trend to Britain. “The immediate ancestor of the English baby house was certainly Dutch”2 and they began as large cabinets filled with miniature rooms. It was the English dolls’ houses that were, from the beginning, built with genuine façades, as seen in the prime Palladian frontage of the present piece.

At the outset, dolls’ houses were custom built for the wealthy as idealized replicas of the owner’s own residence and were not used as toys, but as displays of social status and wealth. The dolls’ houses were commissioned with impeccably detailed interiors and positioned in places of honor to be studied and admired. Furnishings were custom-ordered to scale with “even miniature copies of pictures and tapestry, china and plate”3 made for the interiors, and the cost of certain complete dolls’ houses rivaled the price of an actual home at the time.

The present dolls’ house is organized into three storeys: the base contains a miniature food larder on the right and a store or toy cupboard on the left side, through side access doors; the ground floor consists of a central hallway with staircase, a pantry or parlor on the right, and a kitchen to the left; and the first floor contains the upper hallway, a dining room to the right, and bedroom to the left (figure 1). The original furnishings have long been separated from the house, but many built-in architectural details remain. Several of the rooms contain molded doorways and fire surrounds, as well as storage benches, cupboards and tables. The kitchen is equipped with a built-in open hutch. The rooms of the first floor have been well preserved, retaining mirrors and wallpapering; the upper hallway in particular was redecorated circa 1790 with a neoclassical paper frieze with griffons and urns, and eight miniature portrait prints. From a construction perspective, “the house has a most complex system of opening, whereby a hand must be inserted through the front door after unlocking it, so that a hidden bolt can be drawn before the front section can be opened and the two side wings operated.”4

It was not until the nineteenth century, with the advent of the Industrial Revolution, that dolls’ houses began to be produced in greater numbers and evolved into a children’s plaything to be enjoyed and collected.

Full research report available on request.

Full research report available on request.