the dining room
Silver & Porcelain
Some of the first miniatures in my collection were silver and porcelain pieces and I was looking for a nice way to display the small collection. After reading the beautiful book ‘Rococo in Nederland’ (Rococo in the Netherlands), I decided to build two recessed buffets in the dining-room. This is what the book says about it:
A buffet was indispensable at meal times, not only for rinsing glasses but also for placing all manner of dinner- and serving ware upon. Because the buffets could almost always be closed, the room was not permanently presented as a dining-room. Very few houses had a dining-room that was permanently fitted as such. The meal was usually taken at a simple table which was covered with a damask tablecloth. At the end of the meal the table would be put away until the next meal.
In the book it says:
Artists, but probably also their clients, were sensitive to changing fashions. Around 1739 elements of the rococo style were added to designs rather hesitantly (asymmetrical curls and rocailles). Even during the fitting of a room a new rococo element would be introduced, even though strictly speaking it did not contribute to the unity of the whole room.
In the early days of working on my canal house I didn’t have many tools, only a few simple hand tools.
With a wonderful gift of teak veneer and other woods from master carpenter friend Jaap, I found ways of making parquet flooring and a lovely door using mainly a sharp hobby knife and my old fretsaw.
I designed the floor with the ‘Versailles’ pattern as inspiration. These photos from 2003 and 2004 show some of the process of how I made them. Below the finished product as it is today.
The fireplace between the two buffets is by Sue Cook, bought at the ‘Poppenhuismuseum’ in Heesch. I so loved the marbling on it, that I continued to marble all the skirting-boards and the door to the hall in the same manner. Above the door I painted an ornament after a design by Jacques Etienne Benoist, a famous interior designer in those days.
The wallpaper is an 18th century design, found on some wrapping paper, reduced in size, photocopied and then aged with a little paint and wax. The curtains have been made of silk fabric from an antique Indian sari.
The panelling on both side walls was made from card and wooden moulding, on top there is a small plinth with special sections for the candlesticks. The panelling is held in place by ‘grip wax’, so I can always get to the wiring behind it. The side wall can easily be pulled forward (photo below from 2006), after which the back wall with the fireplace and the recessed buffets can be taken out completely.
The portrait on the wall is a watercolour which I painted using part of a painting from the collection of the V&A as my inspiration.
I have always known this painting as ‘Het theebezoek’ ( ‘The tea visit’) by Dutch artist Nicolaes Verkolje (1673-1746). However, a closer look at the costumes of the sitters has suggested that this painting dates from around 1715 and may have been painted by an unknown artist of English origin.
I covered the frame with real silver leaf to blend in with all of the silver pieces in the room. Despite a special coating it is starting to turn black. Maybe I should cast the frame in real silver so I can polish it…
Similar to the painting, the dining room is set up for tea with a small round table, a hot water kettle on a stand and a tea caddy.
The gorgeous kettle on stand, complete with a little spirit burner, is by Mike Sparrow. The feet and handle are fitted with ebony.
As I mentioned before, I started my collection of silver and porcelain as soon as I started work on this Canal House.
This beautifully pierced cake or bread basket, based on a 1742 original by Paul de Lamerie (London), was amongst the first silver miniatures I bought from Jens Torp.
The detail is stunning! It’s like holding a little jewel.
Two years after installing the fireplace I found a mirror for it. Flanking the mirror on either side are wonderful rococo style silver wall sconces, made by Jean-Claude Martin (France). He also made the beautiful Louis XV style silver firedogs depicting a male and a female figure on pierced scrolling bases evolving into acanthus leaves As I wanted this room to have silver pieces in it, I asked Jean-Claude if he could cast them in silver, which he kindly did for me. (Photos below).
I made a fire basket to complete the fireplace. The glowing embers are a bit of plastic covered with orange/red glass paint, model railway coals and grey pastel chalk with two lights inside connected to a flickering unit.
These wonderful porcelain figurines ‘A Pair of Putti Riding Dolphins’, made by Tricia Street after Meissen originals, are only 2 cm. high (less than 1 inch), but are incredibly detailed. Even the enlarged photograph doesn’t show all the detail.
The majority of the collection in this room has not been made by me.The blue and white china in this room is by two Dutch miniaturists, Henny Staring-Egberts and Cocky Wildschut. Cocky has been teaching porcelain painting for many years, and in 2003 I went to my first porcelain painting class in Cocky’s studio. Under Cocky’s guidance I painted many pieces, but none of them are on display in this dining room at the moment. My plan once was to fill this room with china hand painted by myself. I don’t think that will happen, but I do want to add a few of my own painted pieces to the shelves. The two tulip vases (below) are by Henny Staring-Egberts. In the buffets I have put some of Cocky Wildschut’s plates, vases and a bowl.
In the buffet on the right there are several turned (antique) ivory covered goblets by Vonas Miniatures (the Netherlands) and a glass covered goblet (or ‘pokal’) by Gerd Felka (Germany).
The silver pieces are by Jens Torp (UK/Denmark) and Pete Acquisto (USA). And…by me. Since 2005 I have regularly attended classes by Jens Torp. Jens is a wonderful teacher and we always have a lot of fun. The terrine is a piece I made in his classes in 2016.
One of my favourite pieces of furniture is the wonderful bird cage tilt top table with gorgeous ball and claw feet, carved knees and fluted column, made by Mark Gooch (UK). I bought the six Rococo (or Queen Anne) chairs in 2004 from John Hodgson (UK). The table and chairs look wonderful together.
Johan Ulfman was a Dutch miniaturist who made the most beautiful wooden furniture. Unfortunately I was unable to buy any of his bigger furniture but I am very happy to have this simple little inlaid cutlery box with ivory knob which I bought from him in 2003.
The latest addition to this room is the ceiling painting. I stupidly can’t remember where I got the image from, but I will find it again some day. I made the wooden frame to fit the ceiling painting and created the moulded edges with a router.
The two buffets are filling up with pieces of blue and white china, silver and other beautiful objects, but there is still room for more. I will continue collecting for this room!
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