Rijksmuseum 17th Century Dollhouses~

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In the 17th century, women in Holland created and displayed miniature dollhouses, in much the same way that men of their era, collected and displayed curiosity cabinets. (You can click the images to enlarge them)
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The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has three of these dollhouses, two are pictured here, one from 1676 and another from 1686.
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These dollhouses were not meant for children and could cost as much as an actual canal house at the time.
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One dollhouse creator Petronella Oortman, commissioned artists of her day to create a perfectly to scale house with marble floors, sculpted ceilings, hand painted wall frescoes, and doors that opened on a garden with a working fountain. She commissioned miniature porcelain from China.

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There is something about these miniature worlds that fascinate us to this day, whether it be scale model trains and towns, or intricate dollhouses.

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Many humans like to be creators and masters of their own perfect little worlds, absent the stress and strife of real life. They are miniature dream worlds where everything is beautiful and peaceful.

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These old dollhouses are time capsules, that allow us to travel back in time and imagine what life was like in 1686 living in Holland, on the canals, in this house.

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Creating a house like this must be like Zen meditation, the creator lost in the bliss of their own imagination.
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I would love to make one, but can well imagine the mounting costs, and how much I might get into it.
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But it is free to look at these amazing houses, that others have built before us, and it sends our imaginations soaring across time, back to them.
Cheers to you and may your New Year be happy and peaceful~

314 thoughts on “Rijksmuseum 17th Century Dollhouses~

  1. Amazing work. I have done a lot of woodworking and furniture building most of my life, but I do not have the patience to do work like they did to make these dollhouses. Wonderful photos showing the great work.

  2. Yes, I can imagine getting lost in creating such miniature worlds. Beautiful photos…you’ve captured the time and love that is obvious in the intricacy of these houses. Happy New Year, Cindy!

    • I looked online at some model houses and started ticking up how much it would cost to make one’s house of dreams and realized it could cost as much as a real house, and yes I would love getting lost in it too!

  3. What detail. It would take hours if not days to take it all in. I’m glad they hadn’t invented plastic back then — imagine all the beauty that never would have created.

    • Can you imagine what family held on to these through the generations for 300+ years. I can see some relative saying, “Oh that is mom’s obnoxious dollhouse she spent so much time on. Donate it to charity.” But nope, these families kept and cared for them for over 300 hundred years, which ends up being a gift to all of us! Happy New Year Colleen.

      • There are certainly some lessons to be learned from that doll house. I wonder how many things under trees this holiday will still be around to be cherished 300 years from now? Happy New Year Cindy.

  4. Very beautiful in their construction and so intricate. The detail is incredible.
    Happy New Year to you, Cindy. May you and your camera continue to capture the world so splendidly.x

  5. Aren’t they wonderful and I imagine kept many a mind from going mad. Now 350 years later maybe we can allow ourself the courage to be our own Master Cretor and live our heart and souls desire… It is 2016… It is TIME. Love Barbara

    • Yes, it is. Interesting isn’t it. We can see the old dollhouses as an effect of oppression, the only way a woman with little power over her life, could feel in control of her world. The tradition has remained however as women and men still do this miniature art today. Like everything involving humans, it’s complicated which makes it fascinating. Thanks for thinking and sharing and yes, it is long past time!

    • Exactly my thought. Women back in the 1600’s may have built these houses to feel control, something they were not allowed to have in their lives. I would build one now to escape the daily horror of a chaotic and cruel world. The trick is how to get the arty, creative and peaceful people to take over the world. If you have an idea on how to accomplish this, let me know!
      Happiest New Year to you dear Linda. I love sharing your life.

      • Definitely true. These houses cost money to make. I can’t even imagine how much Queen Victoria’s cost to make. More simple ones are still so beautiful. Victoria Canada has a collection of dollhouses in a dollhouse museum that I toured and they were wonderful. I like simple adobe doll houses, garden cottage doll houses, fairy cottages. I would actually prefer to live in a cottage than a castle. They don’t have to be super expensive to be fascinating.

    • Yes, I saw Queen Victoria’s this past year. Incredible! The crowds around it made it impossible to photograph unfortunately. Her’s was a bit more modern and completely intact which made it especially fascinating and so elaborate. These Dutch ones were missing gardens and such, but they are incredibly old, so we are just lucky they survived~

  6. As a little girl, I could see being very interested in having a miniature doll house. They used to have a store that displayed them in the window. They do capture a moment in time in the era. Now I’m just content to look at them.
    Happy New Year Cindy.
    Leslie

    • I think the reason children like miniatures so much is because they feel small and powerless. Miniature trains and dollhouses give them an opportunity to be in control and feel powerful. I think the motivation for adults is to recapture that imaginary feeling they had as a child, and after living in the real world for awhile, adults have a need for escape. I find it all fascinating.

    • It would be fun to build one with a child, and it wouldn’t need to be so perfect. They have houses pre-built and you could furnish it together. I bet you two would make a wonderful house. Happy & Healthy New Year to you and your loved ones~

  7. Simply beautiful – old masters in miniature. Have seen most of the doll houses in the National Trust properties at varying times.

  8. Wow, fabulous houses. The silver fireplace tools, wicker baskets, I can’t imagine how they were made in such fine detail. I’ve heard the the Rijksmuseum is wonderful – lucky you to visit there!

    • The Rijksmuseum is fabulous. Who can top the Dutch Masters? I marveled at the wicker and the silver too. Especially the wicker. How did they find the reeds to weave? How did they make it to scale so perfectly. They look so real like you could pluck them off the wall and put your bread in them. Simply amazing.

  9. A wonderful post to begin the New Year for it captures the hope and longing of humanity to create certainty in a complex, mercurial world that demands our active participation. Thank you, Cindy for making my 2015 amazing. Looking forward to the journey ahead.

    • Oh I so love the way your first sentence caught everything and more that I was trying to express. But, then, this is you Rebecca. You are a woman who says very much with few words. It is a very unusual gift. We are starting on our fourth year together my friend and I have loved every minute of it. Happiest New Year to you and your family~ <3

    • Oh, don’t you long for that Russel, to absent oneself from all the unecessary noise and conflict? I know you do, as do I, which is why we sail away in our imaginations. I am priveleged to have you as a friend Russel and look forward to what we both will do to sail above the strife in 2016. Be well my friend.

    • Oh my God, if you do then I might too. I have been looking for years now at the kits, but to do it right will be sooooo pricey!! I can’t imagine how much fun it would be to watch you build your house in posts. Still don’t let me influence you. But DO let me know if you take the plunge. It would be like being a kid again. I spent days at a time making doll houses as a child….. <3

    • I never cease to be amazed traveling to other countries and seeing the incredible art created by all sorts of people in every walk of life many hundreds of years ago. I am afraid as cultures we are losing this focus on the uplifting aspects of art in everyday life. So glad it resonates with you as I know it did with Ms. Oortman. I wonder what she would think if she knew how famous her creation is?

  10. As a teen, I loved miniature worlds, belonged to the local Miniature Guild, and studied doll house magazines for ideas for building the furnishings for my own 2 houses. One of which was 4 feet wide and 3 feet high. The pantry shown above made me gasp, because still, among my balsa wood stash (35 years later, mind you) I have those pantry doors, waiting for me to figure out how to hinge them to the walls of a doll house I donated to a club in another city 15 years ago. ๐Ÿ™‚ I still have the wooden barrels, too.

    I believe I saw this house in 1983 when we visited the Netherlands. We also when to Windsor, just so I could see the Queen Mary Dollhouse.

    Now I have my own house to decorate, and I’m down to one smallish Victorian dollhouse, its rooms empty, the box of furniture and accessories stashed on the roof. Some day, I’ll have to redecorate.

    Thanks for the memories this post incited!

    • Oh my you have no idea how much I loved this comment and you! What an awesome teen you were. Did you keep photos of your houses. They, and you, sound incredible. I know exactly what you mean about having you own house to decorate and being consumed with that. But when, you really finish your own house, when there is nothing left to do, as it is with me, that is when those boxes of furniture and accessories will start to call your name. I saw Queen Mary’s Dollhouse in spring of 2015. It was so crowded, it was hard to get a decent look. How incredible was that???? Just amazing!
      So happy to stir good memories and even happier you shared them~

  11. I have always been fascinated by the detail of some miniature doll houses. Occasionally, I see them with little quilts in them, and as a quilter, this post reminded me of my own fascination with miniature quilts and the patience it would take to organize and put together such small pieces of fabric. I thoroughly enjoyed these photos! Best to you and yours in 2016, Cindy! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • I just don’t get how things like the wicker baskets or a quilt could be done? With a jewelers loupe and really tiny reeds in the case of the baskets, and tiny-tiny needles and microfilament thread with the quilt. It’s like micro-surgery. Truly amazing. All the best to you in 2016 Deborah~

  12. Those are really amazing Cindy. Peggy has an adult dollhouse that she put quite a lot of work into. (The cost of the small furniture blows me away.) Her house is lots of fun, but it doesn’t look anything like the ones you are showing. โ€“Curt

    • Oh I want to see Peggy’s house. Might you cajole her to do another post? It would be wonderful and I have lots of questions. Other bloggers would love it too. I have seen the cost of the furniture which is why I haven’t done it, but obviously, I am still thinking about it! ๐Ÿ˜‰

      • Maybe Cindy. She smiled. Peggy recently took it apart and stored the furniture. It was one of those “I need the space for something else.” She had great fun when she was building and furnishing the house several years ago, however. I’ll let you know if I talk her into it. ๐Ÿ™‚ โ€“Curt

    • Well that is a crime Bette that can be remedied! Do a google search for doll house kits and rest your creative brain upon this idea for a moment or two. Thankfully, it is never to late to make a dollhouse. Happy New Year Bette! We will be starting our fourth year together next year and I have loved every moment! <3

  13. Beautiful and intricate design seen in the miniature sized houses. A far different kind of doll houses we have in the U.S. conformed to our life style and surroundings. ๐Ÿ™‚ My father made doll houses for my daughter and I still have it, ready to give to my granddaughter when they find room for it. It is a very special and sentimental one, still.

    • I love all forms of dollhouses. The pioneer ones, the fairy and gnome houses, the adobe haciendas, the old Victorians. They are all wonderful. Every country seems to have their own unique versions. I also love dioramas, retablos, train villages, anything miniature. How wonderful that you have your own family heirloom ready to be passed on. That is special. Happiest New Year Joyce! <3

  14. I definitely see the appeal of creating a miniature world of my own to suit my tastes and indulge my fantasies! Now if only I can shrink myself so that I might be able to enjoy those marble floor and hand-painted wall frescos. Here’s to dreams! Happy New Year Cindy! ~Lynn

  15. This is fascinating Cindy!! such exquisite detail! My girls and I built dollhouses together for them years ago– but they looked nothing like these!! Dutch domestic art is my favorite– and these little houses and a different picture of the same themes. Great post. So glad you’ve gotten to travel and see so much! Happy New Year ahead!! xo

  16. I adore dollhouses! Unlike my own house, things stay right where you put them, and you don’t have to constantly clean house! I once gave a dollhouse kit to a niece as a gift and it was a wonderful project of bonding between the girl an her father! Go ahead….do it….it’s a new year! Many blessings for the new year to you and yours….

    • I love it so much when Dad’s get into to doing this with their daughters. What kinda of a very cool Dad is this!! I think Aunt Cynthia also sounds like a cool aunt. My son in law calls me a hipster, which I think is intended to be a humorous insult. Laughing…….but I will wear my hipster status proudly. Cool is cooler than hipster, don’t you think?
      Happiest New Year dear friend and I look so forward to reading more of your incredibly moving poetry in 2016. Be well~

  17. That is so unbelievable that so much detail and intricate carving can be produced in miniature. They actually look like a full size house. Great photography Cindy to get such fine detail.

  18. What a treat you have brought to my eyes. I am sure you would have great fun with a doll’s house. Imagine all the little pieces you could pick up on your travels. ๐Ÿ™‚ Am I naughty to tempt you? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Oooooh, I didn’t think of this. I could make a travelers house. Now this thought will not leave my mind, especially since, there is no more room in my house for souvenirs!!! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Yes, this is a deliciously naughty idea! Happiest New Year Mandy. We have celebrated at least three together now I think. I look forward to the fourth~

    • Yes. Exactly. You know there are antique dollhouses all over the world. I think it would be incredible to take a trip to see as many as possible within a designated time frame.

  19. O am fascinated by the doll houses you featured. I did fairly well with my parents and I getting furniture and people for my 2 girls’ dollhouse. When they out grew it, I regret only a little, we gave it to a family who had just had twin granddaughters. Now that I have grandies, I think about it more. We had the porcelain claw-toed feet bathtub, etc ๐Ÿ™‚ These are both fabulous, Cindy. I am happy they are displayed where everyone can see. Smiles, Robin

    • Oh, I can imagine the regret at not keeping your dollhouse Robin, but I also see the generous heart that motivated you to gift it to other little girls. This is a reflection of how I preceive you Robin. Kind and generous. Happiest New Year my friend~

  20. I’m dying here! I’ve been twice to the Rijksmuseum and the line-up was around the block so I walked on by and visited the Van Gogh instead. Now I know better. Next opportunity I will stand in that line just to get to see these miniatures. I *love* miniatures, and these are obviously exquisite examples. I so want to see them. Have you been to Madurodam? If not you must go next time you’re in the Netherlands – all the iconic buildings of the country in miniature. Thank you for sharing this. It’s now on the ever-growing list!
    Alison

    • Hah!! Considering our life style, our travels, our values, it shouldn’t surprise me that you love miniatures too. But it does. Amazing that you love them too and no I haven’t been to Madurodam, or the miniature village in Britain or Germany. I want to go to all of course, just as you do, and it is probable that either you or I, or both will actually go!! How cool is that?
      The Rijksmuseum is best visited off season, not in spring or summer, just like the Ufizzi. If you go in mid-late November, you will see the Christmas markets and there will be no crowds, no lines, and you’ll have the dollhouses to yourself as you should. Happy New Year Alison! <3 <3

  21. This is simply amazing ~ so life-like, with the detail of the woodwork, the drapes/canopies it is hard to believe that first someone would have such artistic talent to pull off such a feat and then to learn that what I am seeing was made in the 17th century. Wish I lived in such a place ๐Ÿ™‚
    Wishing you a beautiful and happy New Year Cindy ~ what a great year it was for you with your travels and most impressively your photography, and we all thank you for sharing it all with us. I believe 2016 will carry even more magic for us. Take care ~

    • You are a joy Randall. Blogging is such a gift isn’t it. It enables like minded people to make connections with each other all over this amazing world. You and I would never have crossed paths in the real world unless we were at the same spot taking phtographs and then we wouldn’t be talking to each other! Your last set was just inspiring. And yes, it blows me away that this Dutch woman made this house as a hobby and maybe never had an idea that 350 years later it would be in a world famous museum seen and admired by people all over the world, photographed and posted by a Hollerite woman from California in her blog, causing more people to be amazed at her talent.
      What an amazing world, and what circularity of time.
      Happiest New Year to you Randall. I so look forward to sharing 2016 virtually with you~

  22. The detail work in the miniatures is remarkable. On the more practical side, to keep them from collecting dust must be a constant process.

  23. I wonder if there is a word in German that captures intricate, fascinating and darn cute! You captured it all Cindy so well.
    Sending you a chickie hug ๐Ÿฅ

    • Oh my gosh, I was there, saw the Olmstead’s but totally missed this. I need to go back. I’m craving food in the nearby Amish towns in Iowa anyway. This is wonderful. Thank you for the lead John and Happiest New Year to you my friend~

      • I’m not familiar with the Olmstead unless you’re referring to Frederick Law Olmsted’s work on the park surrounding the superb Liberty Memorial (now The National WWI Museum and Memorial). The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is worth a visit to view specific famous pieces. The Truman Presidential Library and the Arabia Steamboat Museum are notable.

  24. Wonderful miniatures, Cindy. Isn’t the Reijksmuseum a great world-class museum? They have some miniature rooms in the Art Institute in Chicago, but they are mostly American.

    • American is good too. I love all miniatures and want to see more so thank you for the lead. My family is from Chicago. I was the only one in my generation not born there and I haven’t been back since I was a kid. So a trip to the midwest, considering John’s comment above, seems indicated! Thank you~

  25. Wonderfully presented miniatures, Cindy. I love miniatures, but i do not think I ever saw these. Many years since I visited as well. I always wonder if it’s men who made them or women? I guess it would have been men in those days. And I love the idea of making a traveler’s house!

    • I love Mandy’s idea of a travelers house too! This would be so much fun.
      I think these houses were one of the few ways women were allowed to be creative and artistic during this time frame. Both these houses were reportedly designed, implemented and overseen by their female creators. Men of this era made curiosity cabinets as similar hobbies. Your thought provoking comment reminded me of Artemisia Gentileschi the
      Italian painter (1593-1652). She was one of a small group of influential female artists of the Renaissance. She was trained by her father, raped by a mentor, tried, tortured and exonerated for the rape during a seven month trial. For a long time her work was said to be done by a male artist, until finally she and her work received the recognition it so deserved. I suspect there were other female artists of the era whose work was passed off as done by a male, rather than the other way around. Thank you for spurring this train of thought Leya and Happiest of New Years my friend. I look forward to our shared blogging journey in 2016. <3

      • Of course there must have been rather many women who never were recognized for their work. It was not long time ago that women could not write either…stand as authors of novels or poetry using their own name. So, some improvements there are…

    • The intricacy is incredible and the more amazing that it was done in miniature, in this time frame, by a woman as a hobby, and passed through the generations and saved. Yes this is incredible! All the best to you Sheryl in 2016!

  26. Hi Cindy, I have a dollhouse that I worked on with the kids–it’s very fun, and we love it for all the reasons you mentioned. Thanks for sharing this. Best wishes for a Happy New Year!

      • No worries there! It is packed away for now, but there will come a day when I have more time to take it out to play with, with or without grandchildren. Thanks for the good wishes, and the same for you and your family!

  27. Well these doll houses certainly raise the bar…How delightful!
    (Wait – a way to have a nice house without worrying about the dog’s muddy feet…real potential for a calm and sense of stylish accomplishment without pet destruction/interference! Ha Ha)
    Hope your new year is fill with great adventures and wonder

    • Exactly! Plus no dishes to wash, bathrooms to clean, laundry to wash or gardens to water. It is perfect and perfectly clean at all times. This is why they are pluperfect in every way!! ๐Ÿ˜‰ ๐Ÿ˜‰
      Happiest and healthiest New Year to you my friend~

    • Oh my gosh, I saw your name and went to your blog hoping to find you and left a message which I don’t know if you’ll receive. It was so wonderful to see your handle Belinda and know you are out there somewhere. I hope you have sensed that I have been thinking about you regularly and sending you my healing thoughts and prayers.
      Thank you so much for checking in. You are in my thoughts, in my prayers, and in my heart. <3 <3 <3

  28. I’m so stunned by the details of the miniatures. How incredible, Cindy! Can’t imaging the effort and time they spent… Great images of these beautiful dollhouses. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Happy New Year to you and yours, Cindy!

  29. Amazing dolls houses ๐Ÿ™‚ I love being transported back through time here….shame we can’t shrink to fit inside and see what life would be like if we were living it ourselves!

    • I don’t ask for much in life. I would like to time travel, be able to beam instantly all over the globe to eat, be able to shrink and go around un-noticed, win the lottery, and be able to spend the night in any place in the world that I choose, think Sistine Chapel. It’s not asking for much and I don’t see why I can’t have these things. You, after all, get to fly over all multiple universes with your wolf.

      • ๐Ÿ˜€ No it’s not much to ask at all…all perfectly reasonable and fair and nothing less than any thinking human being would realistically and understandably expect in their day to day existence ๐Ÿ˜‰ ๐Ÿ˜€ I certainly don’t think anyone would see any reason whatsoever why you shouldn’t have such reasonable, down to earth demands…I mean expectations lol … met ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ˜€

  30. I’ve always wanted a doll house. I’ve never seen ones like these before. Amazing craftsmanship. I’ve been staring at them. I like the room with the miniature china the best. I can imagine myself siting there and eating off those plates. Fantastic!

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  33. They are so cute. ๐Ÿ™‚ I would have wanted one when I was little. I hope you’ve had a beautiful start of the year, Cindy, and I wish you an entire beautiful 2016! <3

    • If I had this doll house as a child, I would have been cramming Barbie into the dining room. ๐Ÿ˜‰ ๐Ÿ˜‰ Love to meet you this year my friend and look forward to following you in 2016! All the best to you in the coming year~ <3

    • That struck me too. In Oortman’s house, in the photos, they look like a real home. This is because she was meticulous about making everything to perfect scale. It is quite impressive~

  34. Wow! I mean, WOW! So beautiful, intricate and detailed. I’ve got so much catching up to do. We got moved to north Georgia but we’ve still got a lot of boxes to get through yet. It’s so cold here; I keep wondering if I’ll get used to it. Not easy going from 85 to 35. It was 19 this morning when I got up. Anyway, I wanted to say hi and I’ll be back soon hopefully! I hope you and yours had a fabulous Christmas and New Year celebration! Hugs! ๐Ÿ˜€ <3

    • I can’t wait to see your beautiful new home! I can well imagine the transition to colder temps is quite an adjustment. 19 is downright nippy! But you new place is so gorgeous, I am super excited for you and look forward to your photos. We had a wonderful Christmas and New Year thank you and hope you did too. All the best to you Linda and great to hear from you!

  35. I can’t believe such beauty exists in a ‘doll’ house! Therefore, I plan to live there! So much detail, quality, and mesmerizing-ness— I must have it!!!! Just kidding, but wow, those pictures blow me away-

  36. I remember some time ago and the Mexican (?) dollhouses you photographed, and you confessed how much you like the mini houses. This is a spectacular version, and very interesting, of the mini dollhouses. ๐Ÿ™‚

  37. Happy New Year, I love my dolls house, it was a flat pack that was built and painted and wallpapered it took years to do and the best bit was going to the market and fairs to buy the tiny furniture bit by bit. It’s a great hobby and you can do it a little at a time by getting the basement, then next birthday the first floor shops.
    Great photos.

    • It sounds wonderful and so engrossing. I can tell you were raised in a very art and music focused family which I noted with your brother and your Christmas wands. Seems delightfully idyllic~

  38. sono stata anche io in Olanda da poco, anche se conoscevo giร  Amsterdam ed il mio itinerario รจ stato diverso.Ho apprezzato molto questo tuo reportage per la giusta espressione dello spirito olandese espresso con le immagini, colgo l’occasione per augurarti un felice 2016!

  39. Not to mention the advantage that these tiny, perfect homes are SO much easier to keep clean! Happy New Year, Cindy.
    xx,
    mgh
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMore dot com)
    -ADD Coach Training Field founder/ADD Coaching co-founder-
    “It takes a village to transform a world!”

  40. wow, those little houses or curiosities were freaking awesome! the detail and the time and patience it must have taken to make them is unreal, and the they have survived for so long. thank you for bringing them to us. xx Paris

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  42. Thank you for posting these – yes they are fascinating and as you say a time capsule. So much detail. Its like looking at a house of the time without getting tired feet.

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