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Friday, March 25, 2011

The Stettheimer Dollhouse: Art in Miniature

Florine Stettheimer, Soiree, 1917
One of the more interesting sets of photographs I’ve cataloged recently for the Juley Collection are of the handcrafted dollhouse created by Carrie Stettheimer (1869-1944), a young women who, along with her sisters and mother, played an important role in the New York City art scene in the early part of the 20th century. The sisters, Carrie, Ettie and Florine Stettheimer, were well known in the art world at the time, often hosting parties and salons out of their New York City home. Their circle of friends included many recognizable writers and artists such as Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray and Carl Van Vechten. Florine, the artist of the family, created colorful paintings that often depicted subjects that she knew best; her surroundings and the pastimes of her friends and family. Her painting, Soiree, offers an intimate look into one of the many studio parties hosted at the Stettheimer mansion. 

Carrie Stettheimer, Dollhouse Foyer, 1916

While Florine is known as the “artist” of the family, Carrie spent nearly two decades creating a dollhouse which is a piece of art in its own right.  Began in 1916, the dollhouse is intended to be a near replica of the sisters’ home, even down to the decorations and furnishings that were in the Stettheimer mansion at the time of creation. Carrie painstakingly recreated every detail of the mansion’s interior design. Each room is lush in detail and color, though the room that may hold the most charm for me is the tiny art gallery, situated along the back of the house. Artist friends of the Stettheimer’s, knowing of Carrie’s project, contributed pieces of art to the small house. Works in miniature included Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, and Gaston Lachaise’s Nude Woman.

The Stettheimer’s were a fascinating family. Talented and charismatic, they easily gained the respect of their peers and the artists and writers within their social circle. While I have not had the chance to see Carrie’s dollhouse in person, it is on view at the Museum of the City of New York.

Other images of the dollhouse as well as Florine’s many paintings are part of the Research and Scholars Center’s Peter A. Juley & Son Collection and can be viewed here.

Rachel Brooks
American Art Museum, Research and Scholars Center

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