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Sunday, April 27, 2008

18th C. Mansion House, York, England

Caroline Hamilton, the owner of the London Dolls House Festival, knew of a beautiful 18th c. English townhouse by Peter Mattinson that was partially finished. She sent me a photo before I went to London for the fair and when I saw its roof top from outside the fair, I got chills!

MANSION HOUSE was built by Peter Mattinson of Yorkshire. Peter based the exterior of this model on the Lord Mayor's house, called Mansion House on St. Catherine's Square in the City of York. Peter was unable to gain access to the interior and based it on a house of the 18th c. period located on the same street, called Fairfax House. Coincidentally, Fairfax House was the ancestral home of Sally Fairfax. She was the woman for whom George Washington had a yearning and is visiting in the Music Room of the Vassall Craigie Longfellow House. When I realized I had miniature family connections between my 18th c. houses, I just had to take a moment to this getting a little too strange?

When I first saw Mansion House at the London Dolls' House Festival (LDHF), I felt it was destiny as the pine wood paneling in the Dining Salon looked just like the paneling in my own dining room. As it happened, my husband was traveling through Europe on business and knew I would be at the LDHF. I was kneeling on the floor in front of the dolls house when he found me. It took us ten minutes to decide to buy it.

As always, I feel I must research the period of each dolls house, and was reading through many books looking for a likely story. Mentioning the house I was working on at my miniature club meeting, one of the ladies suggested "The Scarlet Pimpernel," an original novel by Baroness Orczy. I found a very old copy of it that was falling apart, read it and by a strange coincidence, the 1934 movie version with Leslie Howard and Merle Oberon was on television the following night. What follows is my version, with apologies to Baroness Orczy...

The year is 1792 and the 'Reign of Terror' is rampant in France. The aristocrats were hiding, fleeing for their lives and the St. Just family took a ship to England to seek refuge with friends. Marguerite St. Just, a former actress with the Comedie Francaise, married an Englishman, Sir Percy Blakeney. She became impatient with his foppish ways and, like so many ladies of the time, was infatuated with the mysterious Scarlet Pimpernel who wore elaborate disguises and saved aristocrats from the shadow of "Madame la Guillotine." Sir Percy wrote the following couplet about the Scarlet Pimpernel...

"They seek him here,
They seek him there,
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.
Is he in heaven or is he in hell?
That demmed elusive Pimpernel."

THE BALLROOM: Mademoiselle Marie Fournier is guiding the Blakeney cousins, Cosette and Jean Paul St. Just, on a tour of family portraits. They are studying Francois Boucher's painting of Madame Bergeret by Melissa Wolcott Martino. When we first saw the dolls house, my husband felt that such an elaborate house should have a ballroom and Peter Mattinson cut through the floor of the second servants room to accommodate a two story ballroom. John J. Hodgson provided the gilt furnishings throughout the house, the two children are by Jane Davies and Mlle. Fournier by Joan Durigg.
DRAWING ROOM: Sir Percy Blakeney and Lady Marguerite, by Sue Atkinson of Sunday Dolls, are in the elegant Drawing Room which is wallpapered with an 18th century Chinese design known as 'Monkey Paper.' The monkey paper was card stock by Caspari cut to fit, taken from a nearby historic home in Katonah, New York, called 'Caramoor.' Lady Marguerite is about to pour tea for Sir Percy from the tea set on top of an unusual three-legged tilt top table which has a shelf area behind locked doors for cup storage. The table was made by Gerald Crawford and the Simon Willard tall clock was made for me in 1979 by Ron Terrill. Chuck Krug made the yellow sofa and green wing chair, Patricia and Bruno Herbillon made the Louis XV Bureau Plat (desk) on the right wall. Roger Gutheil made the bonnet top secretary.
THE GRAND HALL: The photo on the left shows the upper hallways, taken from Fairfax House. Roberts the butler, by Sunday Dolls, directs the footman when a leather covered truck is delivered to Mansion House. On the John J. Hodgson table is a bowl made by Jean Welsh of The China Closet which was a gift from a N.A.M.E. National Houseparty in Philadelphia. The 144th scale Baby's House under the stairs is by Lew Kummerow and is taken from the Tate Baby House in Bethnal Green Museum.
THE DINING SALON: The room has been prepared for desserts after an evening dinner party. I designed and worked the petitpoint carpet and the small chest on the left is by Herbillon. The sideboard on the right is an antique bought in London and believed to be made by one of the same craftsmen who made several pieces for Queen Mary's dolls house. I bought the sideboard in Kay Desmonde's Kensington shop and immediately left it in the back seat of a London Taxi! We traveled all over London to find out where the cabs go at the end of the day and actually found it! Wonderful London cabbies!
MASTER BEDROOM: Lady Marguerite's sister-in-law, Violette St. Just, is in bed having just delivered her baby girl. Suzanne, Lady Marguerite's personal maid, arrives with fresh linen. I made and dressed Violette and Suzanne as well as Martha Washington, who is visiting. Little Katherine Blakeney has come to visit her aunt and new cousin, but seems to be more interested in the sweets than visiting new babies! Katherine was made by Sunday Dolls. In the niches on the back wall are busts of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette of terra cotta by Le Chateau Interiors and many small implements in the room are by Lawrence St. Leger of England.

SERVANTS ROOM: While Mary, made by Sunday Dolls, was sweeping the floor of Cook's second-floor quarters, Lucifer, the biggest household cat, burst into the room from the attic above, in pursuit of a mouse!

BELOW STAIRS: Below stairs in Mansion House are four rooms including the kitchen to the left and the buttery on the right. The buttery is filled with an assortment of cheeses and a rocking butter churn and two cats are hoping for some fresh cream. The kitchen details are taken directly from Fairfax House. The cold room, left below, is where the meats are stored and Tweenie is on her knees in the wine cellar, shown below...

Miniature oil painting by Cookie Ziemba

This oil painting, after a Rembrandt, was from a class I took from Johannes Landman in 2007 at the IGMA Guild School in Castine, Maine. Jan, as he is called, is a master in oil painting and I was lucky enough to be in the lottery to get in his class. It was difficult, but nowhere as difficult as the watercolor on vellum shown below. I do hope to be able to get into his next class at the Guild because this is a technique I would like to do in the future.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Miniature Watercolor on Vellum by Cookie Ziemba

This watercolor painting on real vellum was done in a class under the direction of John J. Hodgson, master painter and furniture maker. John is an expert in anything he undertakes and I felt that my painting came out quite well. I took this class at the IGMA Guild School in Castine, Maine.
It was the most difficult painting I've ever worked on because the ground is actual vellum (embryo lamb skin). Therefore, it has all its flaws, but you cannot see them until the skin is wet with paint. One of the subsequent paintings I attempted had a big flaw on the cheek of the lady I was painting. I had to stop working on it as it could not be saved.
We used ordinary fine artist watercolor paints, John likes Schminke Horadam brand, and the finest possible sable brushes, including 4 o's - 0000. If you have ever worked in watercolor you know how unforgiving it can be depending on the ground material. With the vellum, there is no blending or moving the paint. When the brush is laid down, that is the stoke that stays. I felt I had to finish it in the week that we were at Castine and had to drop another class. The other instructor was quite understanding, but I did feel badly. I continued to work on it after class hours until my neck and shoulders ached, but, oh how I loved it.
John made the frame it is in and the painting is out of scale for a dolls house, being more in keeping with the description of a miniature painting, which had nothing to do with dolls houses. I bought one of John's beautiful watercolors and mine hangs beneath his on a wall next to the Leicester House, the only spot I could find to have them on display but stay out of the sun.


Exterior Views
The following paragraph is quoted from the "Contributors in this Issue" page regarding an article I wrote for International Dolls House News (IDHN), Volume 26, No 2, 1997. A photo of the window area of the parlor was on the cover of that issue.

"Cookie Ziemba has been a collector of dolls houses and miniatures for the past twenty-two years and has assembled a magnificent collection during that time. Cookie has generously shared her houses with readers over the past few years. In 1995 (Vol. 24-2 and 3) we featured Cookie's Leicester House set in the 16th century and Mansion House which was an 18th century recreation, and in 1996 (Vol. 25-4), we were able to show the Vassall Craigie House reflecting the period of an American Colonial. With her keen interest in history and being an avid reader and traveler, Cookie enjoys researching the facts necessary to complete each house with great accuracy and detail. Cookie became an IGMA Artisan for her skill in needlework of which many examples including doll costuming, tapestry and crewel embroidery can be seen throughout her miniature houses. In this issue, we feature Cookie's latest model home, a 17th century Dutch house beginning on page 32."
The two aspects in history that have always interested me most are the English Elizabethan and 17th c. Holland. This is certainly because the architecture of these periods is so very appealing. I had visited England many times but had never been to Holland. In 1993, seeing an advertisement for a Nutshell News tour starting in The Netherlands and terminating in England, I knew it would be a trip encompassing my interests. My companion on this trip was fellow miniature club member and friend, Mrs. Frances Statuto of New Jersey. We had the pleasure of befriending and having as our guide, Mrs. Trees Beertema of Alkmaar, The Netherlands.

I had always planned to have a Dutch canal house built and went on this trip determined to find the "right" house to recreate. From the outset, I had a particular style of house in mind that would have, amongst other things, a very ornate gabled roof. As part of the tour, Trees Beertema arranged a trip to the museum in Gorinchem (now called Gorkum) called "Dit is in Bethlehem." It is unknown why this house is called by that name and there was no literature describing the house, its former owners, etc. I recently found out that it was written on a plaque from a monastery that was probably just used as a decoration, but it has become the name of the house. I found an old book at the library that had a small photograph of it, but very little text. During my visit, many photographs were taken but I was unsure at that time that this would be the right house, partly because the exterior bricks were very dark and part of my requirements was to have a lighter, warmer brick color, which was ultimately achieved.

The tour ended in Birmingham, England at the Miniatura show where I spoke to Peter Mattinson, who had already made my 18th c. Georgian dolls house called "Mansion House" (see posting and International Dolls House News, Vol. 24, 1995). All the material gathered in Holland was left with Peter and plans for the house were started.

When I returned to the United States, I sent Peter a reprint of a book from 1912 of line drawings called "Old Houses in Holland" by Sydney R. Jones and mentioned an illustration I thought would be perfect. Upon further investigation, I realized this was the very same, much photographed house in Gorinchem! Since it is now a museum, the actual house did not quite look like a home anymore and I was unsure as to how the interior should be finished. A sketch in a book called "Daily Life in Holland in the Year 1566" by artist Rien Poortvliet solved this problem as it was also probably based on the house in Gorinchem. Both houses (actual and drawn) have the date of 1566 inscribed on them, as well as the miniature version.

Once the dolls house was underway, I planned who should "live" there. An artist seemed to be a natural choice since I love the genre paintings of Holland's Golden Age. Peter Mattinson actually suggested the idea of an artist and this appealed to me. The theme of a artist resident has since been incorporated in all my subsequent houses. I am an artist myself, painting in watercolors, now oils, designing and executing petit point and fine crewel embroideries, etc.

I researched the lives of the painters but, other than Frans Hals, Rembrandt and Vermeer, detailed information about the Dutch artists lives was very scarce at the time. Since then, I have gotten a number of monographs on other Dutch artists that I admire, i.e. Gerrit Dou, Gabriel Metsu, Gerard Ter Borch and Jan Steen. However, I was drawn to the work of Pieter de Hooch and even found that I already owned a miniature painting of a de Hooch, a segment of one of his paintings of a mother and child by Paul Saltarelli. On discovering that de Hooch died in an insane asylum called the "Dolhuis" (translates to mad house not dolls house...but...), it seemed obvious to me that I had found my artist. As mentioned, the prototype was in Gorinchem, so it is only typical of a 17th century canal house and not a copy of de Hooch's actual home in Delft, which is unknown and probably much more modest.

From 1652, de Hooch worked in the town of Delft and most likely knew Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675). This hasn't been proven but as Vermeer was the president of the Guild of St. Luke's, they likely influenced each other's work. De Hooch specialized in interior and architectural paintings showing women at various housewifely duties: feeding a child; combing nits out of the hair of a child; putting linen in a cabinet, as well as general family scenes in a courtyard. Many of his paintings have a wonderful feeling of looking through from one room to the next and Peter Mattinson was able to recreate this with the use of trompe l'oiel.
Artists Studio
The period represented in the finished house is c. 1660, but skillful aging of the house makes it look nearly one hundred years older, back to 1566. Since this is the home of a painter, it was decided the artists' studio should be on the ground floor to entice passersby to come in and make a purchase. As you enter the studio from the street, a map of a Dutch city hangs on the left wall, a common element shown in some of Vermeer's work, a well worn leather hat and vest hang on pegs next to the map. The artist has a still-life set up on his table, with a pencil sketch of it nearby. On his storage cabinet is his ledger book used to note sales and orders, and a skull, useful as a prop for a still-life (not shown) The easel was copied from the one in Vermeer's "The Allegory of Painting."
The Kitchen
The kitchen is located behind this small studio. The painted chairs are made by Ruth Pollock of Spain and the copperware and roasting rack by her husband. The table was made by Warren Dick and some of the food by England's Rosie Duck. The basket of bread is by The Kitchen Captive. Notice the open door on the far right wall past the kitchen that looks through into the "next room" which is a trompe l'oiel effect, as well as the "buttery" through the kitchen pantry (does not show in this photo).
The Parlor
The next floor shows the formal parlor where the artist and his wife, Jannetge, would entertain their friends as well as court customers, wealthy burghers, who would hopefully commission paintings. People of all walks of life collected paintings at that time and they were even to be found hanging in the blacksmith's shop. There are many reproductions of works by de Hooch, as well as other contemporary artists, included examples by British artist Leslie Smith; Russian artist Dimitri Pavlenski and Paul Saltarelli from America. The table and court cupboard are by Warren Dick, some of the flowers and fruit by Hope Elliott Cameron, pieces of blue and white delftware are copies from the Makkum factory and some are porcelain by Carol Lodder. Pierre Wallack made the large chair, the mandora resting on it is by Canada's Ken Manning and the enclosed child's high chair with potty is from Holland. The flooring throughout is typical tile work patterns seen in many homes in Holland.

The Bedroom:The bedroom floor has a cupboard bed that can be closed with curtains to keep in body heat. Below is a drawer for the baby to sleep in. Some of the painted pieces are made by an 80 year old woman from the Dutch town of Hindeloopen, Annetje Derksen. The walnut high chair is by Englishman, Barry Hipwell. In the middle of the room is a bobbin lace pillow and stand by Carol Hardy, together with a small lace maker's candle stand. The light from the candles would be magnified by glass globes which contained water, giving adequate light on the dark days of winter.
The Attic
The attic is where the young apprentices slept, ate and learned their craft; painting, preparing pigments, canvases and brushes. In my story, De Hooch was their master and trained them. (There is no documentation of de Hooch having apprentices, but many of his contemporaries did). Beyond this open attic space, behind a moveable panel, is the secret room where the family might have hidden a priest. This is a result of building the dolls house before the research was completed. The Calvinist Dutch were not as intolerant of religions as some other countries at the same time and this would not have been necessary.

Peter Mattinson is a Master in his own right...a Master of Miniature Houses. He was able to create the house of my imagination in three dimensional form, and with no difficulty at all, one believes they are looking at the real thing. I had the house many years before reading the book and watching the movie, "Girl with the Pearl Earring." I was enthralled watching the picture as I felt the actors were walking through my miniature house.

This dolls house was exhibited in the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut from November 17, 1999 to January 16, 2000. It has recently (June 2008) been featured on the cover of the Spanish miniature magazine, "Miniaturas, Construccion & Coleccionismo."