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16 April 201917th Century Cabinets and Dolls Houses in the Netherlands
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17th Century Cabinets and Dolls Houses in the Netherlands Anna Hallett Tuesday 16 April 2019

The seventeenth century was a period of great wealth in The Netherlands. It was also a time in which it became fashionable to collect precious and interesting objects from different parts of the world in ‘cabinets of curiosities and theatres of memory’, thereby illustrating the interests of the collector and his enquiring mind. To be worthy of their contents the display cabinets were often works of art in themselves, made by craftsmen using the finest woods and materials such as gold, silver, brass, tortoiseshell, ivory and precious and semi-precious stones. Inside would be a selection of drawers and miniature cupboards, maybe featuring small paintings and engraved glass.

From the mid-sixteenth century display cabinets developed as the most prestigious article a furniture maker could produce. Often using great ingenuity, craftsmen incorporated hidden features which had to be discovered by a new owner. These cabinets were mostly seen as a male preserve.      

At the same time well-to-do ladies had their own display cabinets, in the shape of dolls’ houses. These miniature households not only are important as works of art, containing objects created by the finest artists and craftsmen of the period (including carpenters, silversmiths, basket makers and glass blowers), but also provide us with an insight into everyday life at the time. Quite a number of the objects found in them no longer exist in real life size.

In this lecture we will take a detailed look at the amazing craftsmanship displayed in the cabinets, whilst learning about the life style enjoyed by some of the wealthy burghers living in The Netherlands during that country’s Golden Age.


Anna Hallett

Anna is an historian with interests in architecture and the arts. She was born in the Netherlands where she studied history and English literature, followed by two history degrees in England. She has lectured on a variety of subjects for a wide range of educational institutions, including universities, colleges and museums. 

Anna has made a special study of the decorative tile industry in the Ironbridge Gorge and published books on almshouses (2004) and on markets and market places and their buildings (2008).


Picture: Domenico Remps, Scarabattolo - Cabinet of Curiosities, 17th century