Minis Magnified Issue No. 63 Take a Seat! Pt. 3

WRITTEN BY MUSEUM SERVICES MANAGER, EMILY WOLVERTON

Issue No. 63 of Minis Magnified will be broken down into three parts, each magnifying a couple exquisite seats in our collection.

Take a Seat! Exploring Some of the Whimsical and Historical Chairs in our Collection. Pt. 3 of 3 | Read Pt. 2

Some of our most interesting pieces of furniture can be found in our History Gallery, where antique miniatures dating as far back as 1742 tell stories of bygone eras. These well-worn objects of play now serve quietly as time capsules, reverent sentinels of long-forgotten memories. Among the many faded building facades, our collection of Bliss ABC Furniture stands out. Like the Bliss houses in which they would reside, this set of chairs and accompanying couch were the result of some of the very earliest American toy assembly lines, brought about by the Industrial Revolution. The simplicity of their design is what made them so economical to produce: brightly colored lithographed paper over simple wooden shapes. Established in 1832, the craftsmanship of the R. Bliss Manufacturing Co. ensured their durability: all of the furniture is made from seasoned wood, which has prevented warping over the last century, as well as real nails instead of glue (which eventually dries and splits). Even the lithographed paper, although cheaper to produce than painted furniture, lends a hand to the longevity of the pieces, since paint will eventually become brittle and chip away. Only the faded colors hint at their old age; they are still remarkably sturdy.

Bliss ABC Furniture. R. Bliss Manufacturing Co. ca 1910. History Gallery. Photograph by Michael Muscarello.

Bliss ABC Furniture. R. Bliss Manufacturing Co. ca 1910. History Gallery. Photograph by Michael Muscarello.

As well as being dutiful historians, miniaturists love to use their imaginations – and their sense of humor. There is potential for tremendous freedom when creating your own little world, and Charlotte Schoenbach knew this better than most. Chateau Meno was lovingly constructed over a period of 30 years, a longed-for dream which she patiently brought into existence. Schoenbach designed 14 rooms for her Chateau, each one decorated in the French Rococo style of the 18th century with luscious gold flourishes at every turn. Not formally trained as a miniaturist but exceedingly clever, when it came time to create the perfect palace bathroom, she didn’t shy away from one of the more, well, basic human necessities, as some miniaturists are inclined to do (children tend to notice more frequently than adults how often miniaturists simply “leave out” the bathroom, altogether.) Schoenbach wanted her luxurious home to truly have it all, so she crafted a toilet which could delicately pass the test as a vanity seat, even placing it next to a cabinet stocked with lotions, perfumes and bath salts. But what a lovely toilet it is – a faux green marble seat with gilded flowers and golden hinges. After all, what good is a miniature palace if we couldn’t truly live in it?

The discreet and oppulent toilet in Chateau Meno (Charlotte Schoenbach, acquired in 2006). Located in our Exploring the World Gallery. (Above, left) The Turkish bath of Chateau Meno. Photograph by Amy Haskell. (Above, Right) Lifting the seat reveals that the vanity chair is in fact a toilet. Photograph by Emily Wolverton.

The discreet and oppulent toilet in Chateau Meno (Charlotte Schoenbach, acquired in 2006). Located in our Exploring the World Gallery. (Above, left) The Turkish bath of Chateau Meno. Photograph by Amy Haskell. (Above, Right) Lifting the seat reveals that the vanity chair is in fact a toilet. Photograph by Emily Wolverton.

 

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