Thorne Miniature Rooms

English Lodge Kitchen, c. 1840-1850

Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, Arizona

These rooms are incredibly detailed and realistic -- even though they are only about one foot tall! With even the light sources carefully planned to simulate sunlight streaming in through windows and doors, the illusion is so convincing that I almost expected miniature people to walk in any minute! A plaque accompanying the exhibit explains the creation of these miniature marvels:

The Thorne Miniature Rooms

People have long been fascinated by the detail and precision with which very small art works can be made. The Thorne Miniature Rooms are examples of this fascination for the world in miniature. At an exacting scale of one inch to the foot, several of the rooms replicate actual rooms found in the United States and Europe, while the remainder faithfully depict the architecture and interior design of their periods and countries.

The rooms were conceived, designed, and in large part created by Narcissa Niblack Thorne (1882-1966). An Indiana native, Thorne began to collect miniature furniture and household accessories during her travels to Europe and the Far East. Impressed with the period rooms she encountered in major museums, beginning in 1930 Thorne commissioned craftsmen and artisans to build interiors to hold her growing collection of miniature objects. Many of the rooms even contain period-style rugs Thorne had woven specifically for each space.

The original thirty Thorne Miniature Rooms were displayed at the 1933 Chicago Century of Progress Exposition and seen by hundreds of thousands of visitors. They gained national attention when featured in a 1940 LIFE magazine article. In total, Thorne completed nearly one hundred rooms. Twenty of the original thirty were given to the fledgling Phoenix Art Museum in 1962, and have been on view here ever since. Other examples can be found at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Knoxville Museum of Art, the Indianapolis Children's Museum, the Kay Miniature Museum of Los Angeles, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England.

Italian Dining Room, c. 1500

English Georgian Library, 1714-1820

French Louis XV Salon, 1715-1754

American Colonial Bedroom, 1740-1750

English Adam Dining Room, 1762-1794

French Louis XVI Drawing Room, 1774-1793

French Louis XVI Bedroom, 1774-1793

Art Deco Hall, c. 1925

Art Deco Library, c. 1925

Directions: Phoenix Art Museum, 1625 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, Arizona. An admission fee is charged.

Last visited: February 2010.

Standard disclaimer: Sites are described for entertainment purposes only, as they were at the time of my last visit. I can not vouch for the current condition of the site or its accessibility.

Revised: February 21, 2010
Copyright © 2010 Joe Orman
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