Copyright (c) Jane Austen’s World. Mrs. James Ward Thorne of Chicago was no ordinary luxury-loving, self-indulgent socialite. Her love for doll houses as a child spilled over into adulthood, and she collected miniature furniture as she traveled through Europe. Her hobby led her to commission cabinetmakers and architects to recreate dozens of detailed historically accurate and important rooms on a scale of one inch to one foot. Each room was not only made to scale, but so were the upholstery, textiles, rugs, and curtains, which were fashioned by the Needlework Guild of Chicago.
Mrs Thorne bequeathed 26 European rooms and 98 American rooms to the Art Institute of Chicago. When I visited that world renowned museum, I had the forethought to bring my Flip Camera. My amateurish videos managed to capture the three-dimensional quality of the rooms and how they were lighted. Each room provides a peek into another space, giving the sense that doors and windows open up to a real world outside or lead to hallways and other important spaces.
Image scanned from Miniature Rooms: The Thorne Rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago.
This remarkably detailed model of an English dining room was based on the interior of the dining room designed by Robert Adam at Home House in London. Features from the dining room in Saltram in Devonshire were also incorporated into the miniature. Comparing the miniature model (below) with the life-sized recreated Adam dining room from Lansdown House, which is now housed at the Metropolitan Museum in New York city, one can see how faithful Mrs. Thorne and her artisans were in recreating details and proportions.
Like Adam, who had control over all aspects of the design, including the architecture, decoration, antiques, furniture,wall papers, paint and plasterwork, Mrs. Thorne closely oversaw each detail of her exquisite rooms. The furniture throughout Mrs. Thorne’s version of the Adam dining room were decorated with ram’s heads, as was the frieze. The urns on the fireplace mantle are copies of Wedgwood examples, and the paintings over the mantle and side table are after Claude Lorrain.
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