Battle to keep rare doll’s house in Britain

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A doll’s house dating back to the 1700s is at the center of an export battle in Britain on Friday.

Government arts minister Michael Ellis has imposed a temporary export bar on the rare Georgian miniature house in a last-ditch effort to keep it in Britain.

Unless a price tag of 110,500 U.S. dollars is found to match an offer from an overseas buyer, the baby house, as it used to be known before later being called a dolls’ house, faces being exported overseas.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said: “The house is a rare and magnificent example from the early 18th century, one of the only around 30 surviving examples of pre-1760 English baby houses.

“It descended through the family of William Edward Forster, the Liberal MP who introduced the Education Act of 1870 and was later Chief Secretary for Ireland.”
Dolls’ houses have recently attracted renewed attention following the publication of a best-selling book by Jesse Burton, “The Miniaturist”.

The book was inspired by Petronella Oortman’s famed baby house, on display at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum.

Added the DCMS spokeswoman: “The concept of the miniature house came to England from the Netherlands and Germany in the early 18th century, and was intended for training the young daughters of wealthy families in household management. Miniature furniture, and utensils in silver, pewter and porcelain, were supplied by toy merchants, while girls were encouraged to develop sewing skills by making clothes for the house’s dolls.”

“Due to their intricate and expensive design, baby houses were more a training tool than a plaything for children until the early 19th century, when the design was simplified and production increased, resulting in the dolls’ houses of more recent times.”

Ellis said: “This striking piece is a captivating window into the history of childhood. I hope it can remain in the UK, where it can be studied and admired further.”

Peter Barber from the official committee that reviews the export of works of art and objects said: “This captivating and little altered house in miniature takes us into the elegant 18th century home while also shedding unique light on the education of young middle class girls at that time.”

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UK government steps in to stop rare Georgian house moving overseas

The National
Originating in the Netherlands and Germany, dollshouses were traditionally given to the daughters of wealthy households to prepare them for managing a home until the early 19th century when they became a plaything and were simplified for increased production. A UK arts council committee made the …

 

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