Friday, 26 January 2007

A nice day

I spent most of most of today with AA, who is in Amsterdam for the weekend. AA is a Singaporean (why did I know so many Singaporeans even before I moved there??) who lives in London. We met 4 (?) years ago in Amsterdam and have kept in touch ever since. Today while having coffee we decided to do something cultural so we went to the Rijksmuseum. The main part of the museum is still closed for renovation so we visited "The Master Pieces" exhibition in the Philips wing. Lots of Rembrandt, Hals and Vermeer paintings with all the main works on display. Of course the paintings are nice, but for some reason I always enjoy the doll houses. As a real lady would....hehe.

Seventeenth-century doll's houses were not children's toys, they were a hobby. In the 17th century, many wealthy Dutch merchants had collections of one sort or another, which they kept in display cabinets. The wives of these well-to-do gentlemen also had collections, which reflected their personal interests: often their homes. Some had large cupboards full of miniature furniture and dolls, replicas of a real home. These doll's houses were sometimes on a magnificent scale. Whenever an important visitor dropped by, the host and hostess would show their collections. The master of the house would open the drawers of his cabinet and explain the contents to his guests, while his wife gave a comprehensive demonstration of her doll's house. She would display the contents of the cupboards, reveal hidden spaces, light the lamps and would let real water gush from the fountain in the garden. Doll's house demonstrations sometimes went on for hours. for ladies, comparable to the cabinets in which gentlemen kept their collections. This is one of three seventeenth-century doll's houses that have survived intact. It was commissioned by Petronella Oortman, a wealthy Amsterdam lady. The house is remarkable in that all of the components are made exactly to scale. Petronella ordered miniature porcelain objects from China and commissioned furniture makers and artists to decorate the interior. It was extremely costly to create a model house like this. Petronella probably spent between twenty and thirty thousand guilders on her doll's house. In the seventeenth century she would have been able to buy a real house along one of the canals for that price.

After the museum we had lunch and a long talk at De Balie. It was good to catch up with AA.

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