The dolls house of the 21st century has an absorbing story. This is a brief but fascinating history lesson of the dolls house from early Egyptian religious beliefs to 400 year old European aristocracy right through to the modern children’s play toy and adult collector’s item.
We have learnt from archaeology that the ancient Egyptians made minute models of their favourite things such as their pets, their furnishings, their boats, etc. The Egyptians must have believed that these miniature items would accompany them to the afterlife as the items have been found in many of their tombs.
The art of miniaturisation must have survived the Egyptians and found its way to Europe, in the mid sixteenth Century the Duke of Bavaria commissioned a German craftsman to produce a miniature replication of his own house which he later called his “baby house”. A number of the Duke’s wealthy guests must have been quite impressed by his baby house because the existence of dolls houses, dolls house furniture and dolls house accessories flourished. These dolls houses or baby houses soon became a gauge of social standing and good taste.
These extravagant houses were the sole playthings of adults and were definitely off limits to children. Such luxury dolls housesbecame trophy collections owned by the few matrons living in the cities of Holland, England and Germany who were wealthy enough to afford them. These aristocrats began using the cases to display tiny rare treasures and elaborate souvenirs that they brought back from trips to foreign lands. Fully furnished they could be worth the construction price of a regular sized home.
Prior to the industrial revolution in the 1700’s (18th century) each dollhouse was individually crafted, however with the development of the factory dolls houses began to be mass produced along with the dolls house miniatures to furnish them.
Dollhouses soon became learning tools for young upper-class Victorian ladies who were taught the essentials of homemaking and household management. We can still see the influence of this period in doll houses such as the Melissa and Doug Classic Heirloom Victoria Doll House.
Eventually, after World War II, dolls houses became mass produced in factories on a much larger scale. By the 1950s, a typical doll house was made of sheet metal, painted and filled with plastic furniture. The price of these houses reduced enough so that the majority of children from the western world could own one and this once out-of-reach show piece found its way into the hearts of millions.
Today, in the 21st Century, the popularity of dolls houses has never been so strong; it’s now a hobby everyone can enjoy. Young children spend hours developing much sought after social skills and learning to role play with wooden dollhouses while adult collections of dolls houses and dolls house dolls are very impressive indeed, right down to the minutest detail.
Melissa Kellaway is a full time counsellor, advisor and guide to her two beautiful children! Oh and hubby of course, whose passions include helping people, hospitality, fine wines, good food, exercise and her dolls houses.