Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Art of Play: The Tate Baby House,1760

The Tate Baby House
Dorset, 1760
This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This toy house was last owned by a Mrs. Walter Tate in whose honor it is named. Made in Dorset, the dolls’ house is said to have been modeled on an Eighteenth-century Dorset house.

Unlike many other dolls’ houses of the Eighteenth Century, this one features a very complex structure which comes apart in several sections so that it could be easily taken on trips.

Since journeys at the time were predominately taken via carriage, they took a long time, and therefore, trips and visits lasted much longer than they do today. Therefore, careful planning was involved and people would take a variety of different items which we would never consider bringing along with us today—like this dolls’ house.

A “Baby House,” such as this one from 1760 was designed as a plaything for an adult woman who was encouraged to decorate the house, furnish it and use it as a model for her own home in some ways.

The furniture that we see here is not contemporary with the house which was first updated in 1830 and, then, at regular intervals afterwards by its various owners. After all, that was the point of the thing—to use it as a model for a real home as well as afford a lady a fun thing to do. In some households, in fact, houseguests would bring small presents for the “baby house,” such as little silver kettles or salt cellars.

This house is constructed of painted wood with a balustraded external staircase leading up to the first floor level, A pedimented entrance door has a Venetian window above with four windows on either side. Above the cornice is a parapet formed of pilasters and turned balusters, behind which is a glass lantern lighting the staircase hall. Oeil de boeuf windows flank the basement door. The original windows were replaced in the Victorian era and the roofline and base are Edwardian alterations.

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