I recently read Jesse Burton’s novel, The Miniaturist. Compelling to say the least; and the story is a true tribute to the historical fascination for miniatures. From the back cover: On a brisk autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt. But her new home, while splendorous, is not welcoming.
Nella's life changes when Johannes presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist–an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways...
The dollhouse which inspired the novel belonged to Petronella Oortman, who curated it between 1686 and 1710. According to Rijksmuseum, which holds the object, the dollhouse cost as much as a real house along one of Amsterdam’s exclusive canals.
Oortman’s dollhouse is decorated with original, miniature paintings and murals commissioned from successful Dutch artists. It features handcrafted wicker and upholstered furniture, sculpted ceiling reliefs, marble flooring, and miniature porcelain dishware specially ordered from China. When the dollhouse was being displayed, the front door opened to a full garden complete with a working fountain, and the copper pump in the kitchen (cook room) was fully functional. (The mechanical functions of the fountain and the pump, as well as the outdoor garden, have been lost.)