Friday, February 27, 2015

Joy in Miniature: The Lord Clapham Doll Chair, 1690-1700

Dolls Chair, 1690-1700
This and all images courtesy of:
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Museum of Childhood
At first glance at the photo, you’d think this was a full-size Seventeenth Century chair, but on closer inspection you can see that the scale isn’t quite right for a human. This miniature chair was made for the “Lord Clapham Doll,” which is part of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s collection in the Museum of Childhood.

This tiny chair of wood and cane is in the popular style of the period 1690-1700. The caning in the seats and the pattern of crosses which has been incised in the upper surface of the seat frame are identical to full-size chairs made in the same period—showing that this was made by a professional chair-maker using conventional construction methods.

In order to provide fairness to both genders, the “Lady Clapham” doll sits on a similarly-styled chair. For a doll’s chair or any miniature to survive this long is quite exceptional. As I pointed out, the scale is slightly different from the real thingf. The curators of the V&A explain, “The proportions of the chair are slightly different from full-sized chairs, and not quite to scale with the dolls, because the dolls' feet do not touch the ground.” I don’t know if that’s because dolls don’t like their feet touching the ground or if it’s just the way it worked out.

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