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Doll's house

Unknowncirca 1670 - circa 1690

Centraal Museum

Centraal Museum
Utrecht, Netherlands

This doll’s house is a lifelike but at the same time idealised representation of an Amsterdam patrician’s home. It is moreover a miniature art collection. Its original owner, a high-class Amsterdam lady by the name of Petronella de la Court, decorated the ten compartments of the house as a kitchen, nursery, garden, salon, hall topped by an office, a provisions and maids’ room, children’s room, bedroom and a laundry room. In the kitchen we see a maid sitting by the fire, baking waffles. The nursery, temporarily furnished for mother and child, is entirely white. The nurse is seated with semi-bared breast, as she is also the one who breast-feeds the child. The garden, which would actually be located behind the house, is shown adjacent to the nursery. Above the nursery are two reception rooms: a salon to receive and entertain guests with card games, music and dance, and an art room especially for the gentlemen. Here we see the home owner’s art collection. The room is full of exotic miniature art pieces. Even the beautifully decorated cabinets are filled with miniature prints and medals. The master of the house is evidently a wealthy man. Dressed in a Japanese robe, a costly silk dressing gown, he is seated at his desk tending to business correspondence. Below, in the hall, we see the messenger boy, a servant and a child in a walking rack. The private chambers and working rooms are located on the top floor: the provisions room to the left with sleeping space for servants, flanked by the children’s and sewing room. The adjacent bedroom is lavishly furnished with a silk four-poster bed and silver toiletry items. In the top right corner we see the laundry room, where clothing and linen laundered out of doors is pressed, ironed and folded. The doll’s house and a large part of the interior was built to order, but Petronella also bought miniature furniture pieces, panelling and silver items directly from specialised traders. Everything has been made as lifelike as possible, even what is not visible, such as the dolls’ underclothing. Decorating a doll’s house took years to complete. The dating of some of the items indicates that Petronella devoted some twenty years to it. Following her death, the doll’s house was passed down the generations until it was gifted to the city of Utrecht in 1866.

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