Proud to be an Artisan Member of the International Guild of Miniature Artisans, IGMA

Saturday, April 26, 2008


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."


Sally said...

Beautiful work! I love your wood pannelling. I am currently working on a 12th scale renaissance tower. Any tips gratefully received!


Cookie Ziemba said...

Sally, send me your email to, can't reply like this. Thanks for your kind words.

Anonymous said...

Hello I am Peter Mattinson's daughter and it is really nice to read what you have said about my dad and his work. I have always loved his work and it is lovely to be able to see that someone else has the same opinion!

Cookie Ziemba said...

Laura Mattinson,
Please write to me, I have some exciting news for your father and don't have his email.


Anonymous said...
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LEM said...

Just love the house! I returned recently from visiting the Rijksmuseum and attending the Arnhem show so your Dutch house was of great interest to me.
I've also made my own Bluette Meloney Dutch house ... Vermeer
painting the Muse of History replicating one of his paintings.

Your house is wonderful!

LEM said...

Having just returned from a tour taking in the Rijksmuseum and the Arnhem show found your house.
It's wonderful - I love it!

Cookie Ziemba said...

Thanks, LEM, for your lovely comments. Sure wish I could have joined you at Arnhem, it is one show I would love to visit and haven't yet.


Sandra said...

2223733NadiniCookie, I am fascinated by canal houses and yours is just wonderful. I have really enjoyed reading the history of the house and being able to visualize the 'people' living their lives in this wonderful building. Thank you so much for sharing. Sandra (Sydney, Australia)

Cookie Ziemba said...

Hi Sandra from Sydney, recognize your name from The Camp! Thanks for your kind words on my dolls house and know that I enjoyed every bit of it as I worked on it. Such a joy to bring an inanimate object to "life." LOL