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The Rijksmuseum Dolls' House Collection

23 January 2018

We recently posted on our Facebook page about Petronella Oortman, who created the beautiful dolls’ house which inspired the book ‘The Miniaturist’ and the tv adaptation of the same name. As it went down so well, we thought we’d delve a little deeper into the collection of dolls’ houses kept at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, where Petronella Oortman’s dolls’ house now resides.

The museum has three dolls' houses in total, which date from the 1600’s and 1700’s and are an exciting window into what a wealthy home would have looked like in Amsterdam at this time.

Petronella Oortman

Petronella’s dolls house was given to her as a gift by her wealthy husband Johannes Brandt and she set about filling it with beautifully hand-crafted replicas of the real items from her home, between the years 1686 to 1710. Although the dolls’ house was incredibly realistic and it may not have been an exact representation of the house that she lived in, it may have represented her dreams and aspirations.

At this time, dolls' houses were a popular hobby for women and would have offered the same enjoyment as a curiosity cabinet would have done to the gentleman of the time. In fact, Petronella’s husband had a curiosity cabinet and you can see the miniature version in the bottom right hand room of the dolls’ house.

Petronella loved her dolls’ house so much, that she had a painting commissioned of it. The painting shows the yellow curtains which once protected the front of the house, as well as the original dolls that she had made for it. Unfortunately, all the dolls have now been lost, except for the baby in the cradle.

Petronella Dunois

The second dolls’ house in the collection at the Rijksmuseum was made by Petronella Dunois. Petronella was an orphan who lived with her sister in Amsterdam but was a wealthy lady and an art collector. Both sisters made their own dolls’ houses, but only Petronellas survived.

Unlike Oortman’s dolls’ house, Dunois filled her dolls’ house with ready-made furniture, many of the pieces are marked with the year 1676. The dolls’ house contains a peat loft, a linen room, a nursery, a lying-in room, a reception room, a cellar, a kitchen and a dining room.


The third dolls house in the museum was made in 1760 and is quite different from the other two. Instead of a cabinet housing the main attraction being the realistic rooms inside, it is instead the exterior of this house that is the most interesting and realistic. Like the other two, it is a model of a real house.

The front of the house is removed to reveal the rooms inside. The house is divided into a basement with two cellars, portal and kitchen; first floor with hall, small hall, staircase, dining room; second floor with bedroom, small room, stairs and nursery; attic with two attics.

We hope that you’ve enjoyed this little tour of the Rijksmuseum's dolls' house collection. You can find out more by visiting their website.

Lyon Miniatures Museum

17 June 2013

Ever been to Lyon Miniatures Museum, in France?

The web editor at Dolls House and Miniature Scene, Ann Sutcliffe, recently paid a visit there and you can read about what she found – and see the photos on their website.

Ann was very impressed and says: “If you ever get a chance to visit Lyon at the confluence of the Saone and Rhone Rivers, please make sure you take a few hours off to visit this exceptional museum.

“Set over five floors are over 100 miniature scenes or dioramas containing thousands of exquisitely crafted masterpieces by international artisans.”

And look out for a more detailed article with extra photos in a forthcoming issue of DHMS.

A dolls’ house in a bottle

18 April 2012

Everyone’s heard of a ship in a bottle but a house is quite a different matter. 

Amazingly one does exist and is on display at Tara’s Palace Museum of Childhood in Co Wicklow, Ireland.

The house in a bottle is described as being 300 years old, an age which dwarfs every other exhibit in the museum, even the magnificent Tara’s Palace with its exquisitely detailed and furnished 22 rooms.

It isn't the smallest item on show: that honour belongs to a tiny little doll, no bigger than a small coin, which is billed as the smallest doll in the world.

The big, the small and the unusual, what more could you ask for in a Museum of Childhood?

It’s just a shame it’s not a little closer to home but for anyone visiting or living in Ireland, it’s a real must for the young at heart.

Historic dolls’ houses on show in Holland

7 March 2012

It is always fascinating to see historic dolls’ houses and a new exhibition in Holland features some splendid examples from the 17th and 18th centuries.

The XX Small exhibition at The Hague’s Municipal Museum, which runs until the end of this month, has already attracted more than 86,000 visitors, a testament to the phenomenal popularity of dolls’ houses in Europe.

According to an article on the France 24 website, dolls' houses were popular among wealthy 17th and 18th century Dutch and German women, who often spent a small fortune on these miniature works of art.  In fact, the houses often cost as much as their real-life counterparts.

Made by skilled craftsmen and artists, the houses are full of fascinating miniatures, from real paintings to cutlery in pure silver and a library stacked with Lilliputian-sized books.

As well as being something to admire, they offer a unique miniature window on domestic life in a bygone age.

World famous dolls’ houses feature in talk

2 March 2012

It’s amazing how dolls’ houses are so popular all around the world.

One recent talk, in Ohio, featured photos of exhibits from our very own V&A’s Museum of Childhood in London.

The museum has one of the very best collections of doll’s houses not in private hands and it ranges from the 17th century Nuremberg House to the 21st century Kaleidoscope House.

And unlike the residents of North Ridgeville, we at least have a chance to see the collection with our own eyes.

So if you are ever in London, you should definitely try to see this wonderful and world famous collection of dolls’ houses for yourself.
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