All were made in the past ten years by skilled miniaturists precisely to the scale established in the 1930s by Narcissa Niblack Thorne, the creator of our 68 miniature rooms. Discover the tiny pine garland, a delicate pastry hedgehog, miniature skates and a menorah, all created to blend seamlessly into the imagined interiors created by Thorne.
The decorated Thorne Rooms continue a century-plus of holiday celebrations at the Art Institute. In 1907, a “medieval-style banquet” was held, reported by the newspapers as “Holiday Revels of Old England are Given at Art Institute; Princes and Peasants, Baronesses and Blacksmiths, Together.” In the 1920s, newly minted American paintings were included in a selling exhibition, allowing museum visitors to consult curators and buy their gifts directly from the Art Institute gallery. In the 1930s, a children’s choir sang traditional songs in the galleries. In 1943, Hiram Powers Dilworth, a poet, musician, and museum guard, wrote a “Christmas Verse” in response to a request by a visitor. And in 1937, the Art Institute was open on Christmas afternoon, though visitors had to pay an additional 25 cents to visit the Thorne Miniature Rooms.
This year the rooms are the scene of our seasonal celebrations. We hope you and your family will enjoy them—envisioning festivities of the past while finding inspiration for new ones tailored to our times.