Miniature Silver: The Helen Goodman Luria Collection

June 4, 2019 – June 30, 2021

Miniature Silver was a passion for Helen Goodman Luria, who in the early 20th century began a weekly pilgrimage to antique markets looking for unique miniature silver pieces to add to a growing collection. Her collection reflects a passion for small objects made from precious metal– which dates to the early 17th century. Some of these gleaming silver miniatures were created for practical purposes, though most were meant simply to delight the eye. One hundred and fifty antique and vintage miniature silver pieces, in an array of subjects from household objects to whimsical vignettes make up Miniature Silver: The Helen Goodman Luria Collection.

In earlier forms, silver miniatures (commonly referred to as silver toys) were the playthings of royalty. The first miniature silver toys on record date from the 16th century. They include an inventory of soldiers and cannons created for the young Louis XIII of France and a dollhouse furnished with silver household miniatures given to the daughter of the Duchess of Bavaria by the Duchess of Lorraine in 1571. Aspiring to the lifestyle of the court, the aristocracy soon developed a taste for elegant diminutive silver objects. Although silver toys were certainly acquired for children, collecting them became the hobby of the wives of ruling families and wealthy merchants. Display cabinets designed as dollhouses and furnished with miniature silver household items were highly valued and considered part of the owner’s art collection.

Few could afford a dollhouse, but many well-off citizens had shelves or small wall cabinets in which they displayed miniature silver. Due in part to economic prosperity, the Netherlands produced the greatest number of miniature silver toys, reaching its height during the early 18th century. Miniature silver has also been produced by Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia and the United States, and a large number of silver toys were are also made in the Far East. Many of the pieces in the Helen Goodman Luria collection are likely of Dutch origin.