The Thorne Miniature Rooms

As you may know, this past April, Tiny Dwelling participated in The Miniature Show in Chicago (see post titled: Chicago Miniature Show 2016). During the show I had hoped to visit the Chicago Institute of Art to see the Thorne Rooms…

The “window of opportunity” didn’t present itself for a visit to see the Thorne Rooms, it did however present its self this past week, as my family and I returned to Chicago.

A little history: (Pieces and parts taken from varies online articles)

Narcissa Niblack Thorne (May 2, 1882 – June 25, 1966) was born in Vincennes, Indiana, in 1882; her parents moved to Chicago when she was a child. She was educated partially at home and partially in public school. At age 19, she married on May 29, 1901 to James Ward Thorne, an heir to the Montgomery Ward department store fortune. They had two sons, named Ward and Niblack.

As a child, Narcissa loved dollhouses, she had family members whom traveled the world and often  returned with “trinkets” perhaps they were dollhouse miniatures, as gifts to Narcissi. She then began purchasing miniatures as she traveled the world to add to her growing collection.

Unsure at what point in her life, Mrs. James Ward Thorne, decided to begin designing an constructing miniature rooms, she befriended very talented artisans to help her create the miniature rooms she envisioned. The first known work was exhibited in 1932.

It is believed that one hundred Thorne rooms are known to exist. The Art Institute of Chicago holds 68 rooms, 20 are held by the Phoenix Art Museum, 9 by the Knoxville Museum of Art with the remaining two located at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum, and the Kaye Miniature Museum in Los Angeles. In addition to these rooms, the Museum of Miniature Houses located in  Carmel, Indiana showcases one Thorne room.

If you want to learn more about Mrs. James Ward Thorne, Google the name and or Thorne Miniature Rooms, to learn more.

NOW….. back to my visit to the Thorne Rooms in Chicago.

Visitors are greeted by two not so miniature lions!




Each of the photos below were taken within the exhibit, many through the glass enclosures that housed the individual rooms, or artifacts.

A very brief history of the Thorne Gallery.

An original sketch on display.

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Below is an overview of several master skilled miniature artisans who were commissioned by and worked alongside Mrs. Thorne in creating some of the miniature rooms.


Claus O. Brandell an immigrant from Sweden, settled in Cincinnati, Ohio before partnering with Mrs. Thorne. Mr Brandell designed and made many of his own tools used to create his miniature works of art. Happy to learn Mr. Brandell resided in my hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio and was of Swedish descent, I too, have Swedish roots…

Could we be related?  Perhaps Mr. Brandell is the person responsible for my becoming interested in miniatures!


Lee Meisinger was a young lady whom Mrs. Thorne established a relationship through the Art Institute of Chicago to create miniature petit point needlepoint pieces for her miniature rooms. The precision of the below petit point needlepoint is 30 stitches per inch, which later Mrs. Thorne also requested 40 stitches per inch for more delicate silk projects.




Alfons Weber from Germany, was another master carver commissioned by Mrs. Thorne to create miniature hand carved molds to be used to cast miniature gesso moldings for several miniature rooms.


Another master artisan commissioned by Mrs. Thorne was Kupjack, I seemed to have lost my information on this individual. I remember Mr. Kupjack to be a master miniature furniture maker. Google Kupjack miniatures.

Due to the complexity of the individual rooms, capturing the entire room was not an easy task for me or the camera I had (iPhone). Each room was behind a glass enclosure, therefore casting a glare when attempting to photograph.  I did manage to capture two of my personal favorites.

You can see more detailed Thorne Room images via Goggle images.

This image: French Salon, note the various petit point pieces… My favorite room.

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This image: Window within the English Bed Chamber Room… I really love how the light filters into the setting.

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To those individual(s) responsible for the various positioning of lights within each of the Thorne Rooms, I will call you the master lighting artisans, these individuals truly bring these rooms to life.

This image: Portrait created of Mrs. Thorne in 1915.

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This image: Mrs. Thorne viewing one of her miniature rooms. I wonder how many people have viewed this vary room since this photo was taken…


I enjoyed my visit to view the Thorne Rooms and if you are ever in Chicago, I would recommend visiting the Chicago Art Institute. With a $25 entry ticket, you will see firsthand the invaluable master level works of multiple miniature artisans.


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