Friday, November 9, 2018

Cool 19th Century Places to Visit: The Thorne Rooms

Sometimes the coolest things are the smallest. That’s certainly true of the Thorne Rooms, a series of miniature interiors painstakingly recreated. While the rooms were constructed between 1932 and 1940, they depict lifestyles from the late 13th century to the 1930s, in Europe, Asia, and the U.S.

The visionary behind the work is Narcissa Niblack Thorne, wife of James Ward Thorne connected to the Montgomery Ward department stores. She designed the rooms and commissioned artisans to create the various pieces to populate them. The scale is one inch equals a foot, and the details are exquisite. I recall touring the rooms held by the Art Institute of Chicago. In a tiny library of the Georgian era lay a pair of spectacles on a side table before the hearth.

Peering through the glass boxes that house the collection, one is transported to another time, another place. Many date around the late 1700s/early 1800s. A Regency hero or heroine would be right at home. I certainly feel at home. Thorne’s English Dining Room of the Georgian Period formed the basis for Sir Nicolas Rotherford’s dining room in The Courting Campaign. Margaret Munroe slept in Thorne’s Massachusetts Bedroom, c. 1801, at the Marquis deGuis’s home in the Lakes District in The Marquis’ Kiss.

The Art Institute of Chicago holds the most of these wonderful rooms (68 in all), many of which you can find online to view. The Phoenix Art Museum and the Knoxville Museum of Art also have collections.

Highly recommended. You may never look at a room description the same way again.

Photos in this post were used under a Creative Commons license and taken by Joseph Reagle

No comments: