The World's Most Fabulous (and Valuable) Dollhouse
In this castle lives a community of fairies, in what is perhaps one of the most impressive miniatures ever created.
Colleen Moore (1899-1988) was an American actress famous for the films she starred in during the movies’ silent era. Few knew that she was also the creator of one of the most beautiful and expensive toys in the world. It’s an object or, rather, a collection of objects, of pure detail and luxury: a dollhouse castle inhabited by fairies.
By 1928, Moore was a very well-known actress. In that year (inspired by her father) she took up the task of building a huge dollhouse —a task that involved large sums of money. The interior of the small castle was designed by Harold Grieve, a renowned art director and interior designer who filled it with furniture, decorations, and highly detailed objects. By 1935, the hands of more than 100 designers, architects, and craftsmen had contributed to the work’s creation. For her part, Moore dedicated years of her life to working on it and on the hundreds of objects inside.
According to some records of the time, it was Moore’s eighth doll house, reflecting her own obsession and taste for them. The castle was thought of as the home of fairies, each of its rooms staged as if the fantastic beings had passed through but a moment ago. The kettle is on the stove, the table is ready for dinner, and books in the library have been left open. Speaking of those books, among the castle’s many curiosities there is a miniature book signed by none less than Pablo Picasso, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Albert Einstein; the castle also houses the smallest Bible ever printed. About 1,500 miniature objects can be found inside and include pieces made of alabaster, ivory, opal and platinum, as well as stained glass and a polar bear rug (actually the skin of an ermine with a mouse’s head and teeth).
For ten years the castle traveled all over the United States. The actress’s dream was that this marvel be enjoyed by as many children as possible. It was transported by train (it taking up three whole cars) and was displayed in about 40 cities. The voyages required the work of ten people to assemble and disassemble the castle, and the money earned from the exhibits was donated by Moore to numerous children’s organizations.
Colleen Moore’s magnificent dollhouse, resplendent in its details, has been on display at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry since 1949 and about a million and a half people visit every year. It’s estimated that the current value is about 7 million dollars, but its true beauty still lies in the castle’s inspiring example of the art of miniature and a love for the fantastic.
The video below, from the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, tells its history and some of the peculiarities of this incredible castle…
Image: Emily – Creative Commons
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