Chateau Meno, Audio Tour Track #3012
Chateau Meno, 1971, Charlotte Schoenbach, 1:12 scale
Chateau Meno, located in our museum's Exploring the World Gallery. Created by Charlotte Schoenbach between 1940 and 1971, and acquired by our museum in 2006.The piece was created in 1:12 scale, where one inch in miniature is equivalent to 12 inches in the full scale.
Constructed over a period of 30 years as one large piece, this two-story palace is immense at over six feet wide and nearly 3 feet tall. The structure is a semi-circle with the outer edges open to allow visitors to peer inside the rooms. There are 14 rooms altogether, seven above and seven below, including a chapel, dining room, atrium, library, concert hall, art galleries, a bed chamber, and a marvelous Turkish bath. Each room is decorated in the French Rococo style of the 18th century, with luscious gold flourishes at every turn. The exterior edges of the piece are gilded in thick, gold-painted plaster, like frosting on a cake, framing the entire miniature palace.
Gold can truly be found everywhere within the rooms: lining the marble bathtub, glistening from each of the 12 crystal chandeliers, shining from the fleur-de-lis emblems of the dining hall chairs, and on every frame of every painting, mirror, and tapestry. The warm glow of gold compliments the cool marble floors and the soft satins of the couches and settees. Velvet drapes hang from the ceiling down to the floor in blankets of forest green, honey-gold and creams, with matching tassels and ribbons. The parquet floors compete with the vaulted ceilings for attention, which feature intricate fretwork and hand-painted details. The bathroom and concert hall have floor-to-ceiling Roman pillars, adding to the majesty of the spaces.
Long couches and daybeds can be found throughout the rooms, a testament to what would be a life of luxury and leisure. The art galleries feature miniature recreations of famous works of art as well as small-scale objects of beauty intended to appear large in this miniature world. The library is a historian's dream, with walls of leather-bound tomes and an upper level balcony accessible by ladder. In the atrium, lilies grow merrily around the base of a cherubic statue; a pear tree, heavy with fruit, grows up along one wall; and grape vines crawl and arch across the ceiling, their bundles of ripe, purple jewels hanging down just out of reach. There are numerous doorways and staircases that lead just out of sight, taunting one's imagination for what lies in the rooms beyond.
Nearly every furnishing is a one-of-a-kind creation by Charlotte Schoenbach herself, or else is an ingeniously re-purposed found object. For example, one of the small trash cans is actually the lid from a golden tube of lipstick, and the chandeliers all incorporate re-strung jewelry. Schoenbach was never formally trained in the art of miniatures, instead teaching herself how to carve wood and to weld. She was inspired by photographs of European castles and palaces from her Architectural Digest magazines, most notably the halls of Versailles. In truth, Schoenbach never actually visited the places which inspired her. By creating the world which she longed to see, she was able to touch and manipulate her own fantasy. She named this piece Meno, after her beloved husband. Charlotte Schoenbach passed away in 1995, too early to see her masterpiece on display among some of the world’s finest miniatures.