13. December 2010 12:31
On a visit to Chicago when I was about 10, my parents took me to see the Thorne Rooms, and they have remained one of my favorite treasures at the Art Institute. I’m not the only one in love with the tiny, precious period rooms - the 68 rooms are built on a scale of one inch to one foot have something for everyone—a visual history of architecture and decorative arts, the astounding workmanship of thousands of tiny accessories, and memories of childhood dollhouses. And this season, the rooms feature new period-appropriate decorations. The Art Institute didn’t miss a step, first determining, in order to be historically accurate, which rooms should be decorated. And then they procured the teeny decorations from artisans around the world. Tiny toys have arrived from Germany, diminutive delicacies from Italy, and petite plants from South Africa, while several pieces were made in-house by the rooms’ caregiver of the last several years, Lindsay Mican Morgan.
The six decorated rooms will delight all visitors who have never seen them before, as well as those who have long been familiar fans. Among the most elaborate is the English Drawing Room of the Victorian Period, the only room with a Christmas tree - a significant historical nod. Today we embrace the iconic Christmas tree, or tannenbaum, but it was first brought to England from Germany in 1840 following Queen Victoria's marriage to Prince Albert (Victoria also popularized the traditional white wedding dress.) The Thorne Room Christmas tree and accoutrements are based on a famous engraving of the royal couple and their children surrounding a trimmed and toy-bedecked tree, an image that would forever popularize this holiday fixture. Other ornamented rooms include the English Great Hall of the Tudor period with a wassailing bowl, and a yule log; French Provincial Bedroom with shoes lined up before the fireplace, a crèche, and puzzle; and finally a modern-era California Hallway with an Otto Natzler mid-century menorah and box with a dreidel.
Be sure to make this a stop on a downtown visit this month, or bring along any out-of-towners in Chicago during the holidays!
The Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60603
Tel (312) 443-3600