One of my favorite works in the Rijksmuseum must be this one. The stunning 17th century dollhouse that belonged to Petronella Oortman (1656-1716)
Petronella Oortman was a wealthy woman in the Dutch Golden Age married to Johannes Brandt, the couple lived in Amsterdam in the Warmoestraat. The gentlemen of that time often had a cabinet of curiousities (wunderkammer) where they’d keep a collection of objects, often acquired on their travels. You can see such a cabinet in the small reception room on the lower right. Similarly Petronella Oortman, just like many other wealthy women back then, had a dollhouse built for her in the form of such a cabinet. The cabinet, made of tortoiseshell and decorated with pewter inlays, was build by a French cabinetmaker working in Amsterdam at the time. Petronella curated her dollhouse between 1686 and 1710, making sure it was absolutely perfect. It’s estimated that she spent between 20.000 and 30.000 gulden on it, a sum sufficient to buy a canal house with at the time. The proportions of the dollhouse are exactly correct and all the contents have been made of authentic materials; Petronella had the porcelain plates, in the lower left picture, made for her in China. And she had the Dutch Golden Age artist Willem Frederiksz van Royen paint a mural in the game room and Johannes Voorhout decorate the tapestry room. This dollhouse is supposed to show the idealized version of Petronella’s house and represents her dreams and aspirations.
She would often show visitors her dollhouse in sessions that lasted an entire evening. Jacob Appel painted the dollhouse in 1710; the painting shows that the dollhouse was once protected by yellow curtains, which when closed created the impression of a four-poster bed, with plumes on the corners. After Petronella’s death the dollhouse went to her daughter Hendrina and by the 18th century it was widely popular, attracting viewers from foreign countries. The dollhouse has also been the inspiration for the Miniaturist, the novel by Jessie Burton.