Lagniappe, Audio Tour Track #1001
Lagniappe, Madelyn Cook,1978, 1:12 scale
This 18th Century Virginia Tidelands mansion was designed as the home of a fictional sea captain and was modelled after George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Even the desk in the office is a replica of the one used by Washington when he became president. The artist, Madelyn Cook, included many English and American features in the rooms of the main floor, while on the second floor we find three rooms representing countries which America was trading with by the 1750s, including Spain, China, and India.
In preparation for building the 1:12 scale Lagniappe, Cook spent several years researching American life in the Virginia Tidelands region during the era of the American Revolution. For example, the “Shoo-Fly Chair” located in the kitchen is a replica of one found in the Governor’s Palace kitchen in Williamsburg, Virginia. The Colonial-era “Shoo-Fly Chair” is evidence of the resourcefulness of the 18th century, as the spirit of innovation and self-reliance crept into all facets of everyday life. In a time without air conditioning, kitchens were stiflingly hot, with the only relief from open windows. In a kitchen, these open windows would be accompanied by an onslaught of flies. A person sitting in the aptly named Shoo-Fly Chair could press down upon the attached foot pedal, which activated a fringe above the sitter's head, effectively shooing flies away from the person's face.
Cook’s commitment to period authenticity in the décor of Lagniappe included creating several miniature period furnishings, such as an elaborate four-poster bed copied from an example in the Episcopal Museum in Spain, a copy of a musical birdcage given to the last empress of China, and a reproduction of a double keyboard harpsichord from George Washington’s estate. There is one exception to Madelyn’s penchant for authenticity- the Brass room. This room is filled with almost all brass furnishings, and even the floor, walls and fireplace are trimmed in brass. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this profusion of brass is neither a credible nor practical décor aesthetic for the mid-1700s!
Madelyn Cook produced approximately 90% of the miniature objects found in Lagniappe, including her own hand-crafted miniature rugs using a Russian punch-needle process called the Igolotchkoy technique. This highly specialized artform involves working from the back of a piece of gauze with a hypodermic needle utilizing one, three, or six French silk threads. Each square-inch can take over two hours to complete, resulting in accurately scaled one-of-a-kind miniature rugs. As a final step, Cook shears each rug with an electric razor, producing what is essentially a fine swatch of silk velvet.
Look for more of Madelyn Cook’s exquisite miniature works in our permanent collection, including The Collectors, The Boat Builder’s Study at Lake Tahoe, and her tribute to the famed Chinese garden Yu Yuan.