Saturday, 12 May 2012

The fascinating world of dolls' houses

The Guardian has just published a wonderful profile of a young chap who builds exquisite dolls' houses.

José Alesón is one of a number of adults who build, collect and display fine dolls' houses. These are not the objects you might remember from your childhood, though. These houses are far more considered, serious and, dare I say it, expensive. Their owners are concerned with accuracy (often historical), aesthetics, crafting quality and the story which lies behind the abode. Most notably they often refrain from populating their tiny residences with dolls, on the grounds that they break the illusion of reality. 

The article touches on the history of fine dolls' houses. The oldest were copies of houses belonging to the gentry. These were both an expression of their patrons' wealth and were used to teach daughters about household management. Today, however, such houses are often the opposite - they articulate where people would like to live, rather than where they actually reside. They are miniature fantasies, and as such can sometimes be rather strange. Another young woman profiled in the piece has built an S&M dungeon in her miniature mansion, complete with scale whips and chains.

They culture of fine dolls' houses therefore has links to the antiques trade, architectural models, interior decoration and the study of social history. These rather grown-up facets of culture might explain why the houses seem equally popular with men. There is clearly a degree of obsession which seems to go hand-in-hand with these houses, but this is no bad thing in my opinion. As the journalist Vince Aletti said, "the object of an artist's obsession can open up doors to their soul that might otherwise remain shut tight." In this case, the doors just lead to very small rooms.



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