Home » Headline, Museums, Victorian Christmas

Thorne Miniature Rooms

on November 23, 2010 – 10:07 am

English Drawing Room of the Victorian Period, 1840–70
Mrs. James Ward Thorne, American, 1882-1966
Miniature room, mixed media. Interior: 17 1/2 x 28 1/4 x 213/4 in.
Scale: 1 inch = 1 foot. The Art Institute of Chicago
Gift of Mrs. James Ward Thorne, 1941.1199

The Art Institute of Chicago invites everyone to get into the spirit of the holiday season as the museum welcomes visitors of all ages Home for the Holidays to celebrate the return of two of the most loved works in the museum’s collection as well as a special presentation of an old favorite.

This year the museum begins a new holiday tradition: six of the Thorne Miniature Rooms will be decorated, for the first time, with period-appropriate holiday trimmings. Keeping to Mrs. Thorne’s exacting standards of craftsmanship, several renowned artists from across the country and around the world have been engaged to create pieces for the rooms.

[Image: ©2010 The Art Institute of Chicago]

Tiny toys have arrived from Germany, diminutive delicacies from Italy, and petite plants from South Africa, while several pieces were made here at the museum. Among the most elaborate of the decorated rooms is the “English Drawing Room of the Victorian Period”, the only room with a Christmas tree. Now a ubiquitous feature of the season, the Christmas tree, or tannenbaum, was only brought to England from Germany in 1840 with the marriage of Prince Albert to Queen Victoria.

[Image: ©2010 The Art Institute of Chicago]

The Thorne Room 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, yule log, and an essential part of the costuming for that period’s singing and dancing revelers—a mummer’s mask; the “Virginia Entrance Hall” with mistletoe, wreath, and garland; the “French Provincial Bedroom” with shoes, or sabots, lined up before the fireplace, a crèche, and puzzle; and the modern-era “California Hallway” with an Otto Natzler mid-century menorah. A Chinese New Year-inspired Thorne Room will be installed later during the season.

[Image: ©2010 The Art Institute of Chicago]

In addition, returning are Marc Chagall’s masterpiece “America Windows” and a selection of nearly 50 pieces from the “Harding Arms and Armor Collection”. As always, in what has become a grand annual tradition, the “Wreathing of the Lions” ceremony will take place on the day after Thanksgiving, Friday, November 26, at 10:00 am. A full day of holiday activities will be taking place inside the museum after the wreathing ceremony. Hubbard Street Dance Chicago/Hubbard Street 2 will perform “Favorite Things” in the Modern Wing’s Griffin Court at 11:00 am, and from 10:30 am to 3:30 pm, families are invited to visit the Ryan Education Center in the Modern Wing to make their own wreaths inspired by favorite Art Institute treasures. The Art Institute will remain open until 8:00 pm for visitors on Friday, November 26.

Combined with a full roster of festive performances, enlightening gallery tours, and engaging activities for children, the Art Institute is the holiday destination for the entire family. For general museum information, please call (312) 443-3600 or visit online at www.artinstituteofchicago.org. For information about specific lectures and family programs, please call the Department of Museum Education at (312) 443-3680. Exhibitions and programs are free with museum admission unless otherwise noted.