For the second year in a row, the Art Institute of Chicago is offering a special holiday treat with their decked out Holiday Thorne Rooms. This year eight of the rooms in the 68 room collection are dressed in their holiday best and open for viewing. The entire collection, created from 1934 through 1940, features elegant miniature dollhouse like rooms built on a scale of one inch to one foot that showcase European interiors from the 16th century through the 1930s and American furnishings from the 17th century to 1940. The collection, a gift to the Museum from Mrs. James Ward Thorne, is said to be the world’s largest miniature room collection.
A New Holiday Tradition.
In 2010 the first of six rooms in the Thorne collection were decked out in holiday style. They were decorated for Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s with each room recreating a special holiday memory and revealing its own holiday tradition. The rooms included a French provincial room, with a creche and children’s wooden clogs, placed in front of the fireplace and waiting to be filled with gifts; an English Victorian room with elaborate decorations and a fully decorated Christmas tree; a 1940s California room decorated for Hanukkah; and a Chinese room ready for the new year.
In order to maintain Mrs. Thorne’s exacting standards of craftsmanship before decorating the rooms, Thorne Room caretaker Lindsay Mican Morgan conducted meticulous research using photos from the 1930s and ’40s. Morgan then commissioned renowned artists from across the country to create the precision decorations for the rooms. She explains that the painstaking work involved a lot of tweezers and magnifiers in order to create tiny garlands from twisted wire and paper, German toys, Italian delicacies, ornaments and other holiday decor.
New for 2011-12.
In addition to last year’s six holiday Thorne rooms, visitors this holiday season will be treated to the following:
The New Orleans Room.
A 19th century New Orleans sitting room adorned with magnolia boughs and Spanish moss features a beautiful ball gown, reminiscent of fancy holiday ball gowns created by 19-century French-born seamstress Madame Olympe of New Orleans, draped over the green chaise lounge.
A New Mexico dining room.
The New Mexico dining room showcases the 1930s and ’40s with its resurgence of American crafts and regional artisans. Many of the crafts represent religious ceremonies used during the Mexican Las Posadas celebration that re-enacts the nine-day journey of Mary and Joseph’s unsuccessful search for shelter on their way to Bethlehem.
The Americana Room
New this year, the Americana room has never been seen publicly before. It is on loan from the private collection of Marshall Field V, the great-great-grandson of retail baron Marshall Field.
The Holiday Thorne Rooms, located in Gallery 11, are free with Museum admission. They will remain open through January 7, 2012. For those interested in more information on the Thorne Rooms, the Miniature Rooms book is available online from the Art Institute Museum Shop or call 1-888-301-9612. $45 hardback or $29.95 softcover.
Preview some of the pieces and rooms in Show Me Chicago’s gallery below.