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Not currently on display at the V&A

The Nuremberg House

Dolls' House
1673 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This house was made in Nuremberg in 1673 – the date is written on the chimney. It is the oldest house in the museum and is very similar to (though much smaller than) a group of dolls' houses in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg, Germany.

The house was owned by wealthy people who could afford to commission specialist craftsmen to make miniatures of the full-sized versions that they normally made. Dolls’ houses could serve an important role as visual aids for the young girls in the household in learning domestic skills.

There are several clues about the family who would have owned a house like this. It is a merchant’s house, which was used for working as well as eating and sleeping. In those days a shop would use a picture or symbol for customers to see. A unicorn on the left door of the dolls’ house indicates that this house belonged to an apothecary or chemist. The family was clearly interested in religion as on the right door there is a picture of the important Protestant figure, Martin Luther (1483-1546), and there are some prayer books in the bedroom. The house itself is comfortable, with a well-equipped ‘best’ kitchen downstairs on the left which was used to entertain guests and receive customers.

This house has some surprisingly realistic features. For example, the upstairs room has a large water boiler as found in homes of the time, and there is a toilet or privy downstairs. Linen was an important symbol of status and wealth and would be proudly displayed. This dolls’ house has a beautifully full cupboard full of folded fabric.

Prints and books were prized objects in the 17th century, popular with collectors. This house is decorated with many woodcuts and leather-bound bibles.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 456 parts.

  • Dolls' House
  • Dolls' House
  • Dolls' House Furniture
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Materials and Techniques
Painted pine and mixed media including other woods, paper, metals and textiles
Brief Description
Furnished dolls' house made in Nuremberg, Germany in 1673
Physical Description
A seventeenth century 'doll' or 'baby' house with two kitchens and two bedrooms. The best kitchen is on the lower left and boasts a privy at the back to the left. The trade mark is a unicorn (missing its horn) which indicates that the house belonged to an apothecary. There is a picture of Martin Luther, the religious leader on the right hand door. The house also has a working bell, dovecotes and a star on the roof. The date 1673 appears on one of the chimneys.
Dimensions
  • Height: 107cm
  • Width: 91.5cm
  • Depth: 45.6cm
Production typeUnique
Gallery Label
  • This German apothecary’s house is a miniature merchant’s home. The front door leads into the best kitchen, where customers might come to buy medicine. The unicorn on the wall is the symbol of an apothecary. A working kitchen is on the right. Upstairs, both bedrooms have very large comfortable beds. A full linen cupboard and coloured prints on the wall show comfort and wealth. The large bibles and portrait of Martin Luther proclaim a Protestant faith. (2014)
  • The oldest doll's house in the V&A, from 1673. The date of this doll's house is written on the chimney. It is the oldest house in the V&A and as far as we know is the only example of a Nuremberg House outside Germany (there are four much larger houses in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg). Houses of this type were used to help girls learn housekeeping skills. They were usually made for wealthy families as each piece was made by a master craftsman. There are several clues about the family who would have owned this house. In those days a sign or picture would show people what services a business offered. In this case there is a unicorn on the left door (missing its horn, unfortunately) which means that the house probably belonged to an apothecary or chemist. On the right is a picture of the important religious figure, Martin Luther (1483-1546). The house itself is comfortable with a well-equipped best kitchen downstairs on the left which was used to entertain in. Note the privy (toilet) in the corner at the back!(23/05/2005)
Object history
It is not known who owned this house when it was first made, but in 1871 it was bought by the Science Museum in South Kensington. In the 1922 it was transferred to the V&A and came to Bethnal Green to be displayed with other dolls’ houses in the new Children’s Section.
Subjects depicted
Summary
This house was made in Nuremberg in 1673 – the date is written on the chimney. It is the oldest house in the museum and is very similar to (though much smaller than) a group of dolls' houses in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg, Germany.



The house was owned by wealthy people who could afford to commission specialist craftsmen to make miniatures of the full-sized versions that they normally made. Dolls’ houses could serve an important role as visual aids for the young girls in the household in learning domestic skills.



There are several clues about the family who would have owned a house like this. It is a merchant’s house, which was used for working as well as eating and sleeping. In those days a shop would use a picture or symbol for customers to see. A unicorn on the left door of the dolls’ house indicates that this house belonged to an apothecary or chemist. The family was clearly interested in religion as on the right door there is a picture of the important Protestant figure, Martin Luther (1483-1546), and there are some prayer books in the bedroom. The house itself is comfortable, with a well-equipped ‘best’ kitchen downstairs on the left which was used to entertain guests and receive customers.



This house has some surprisingly realistic features. For example, the upstairs room has a large water boiler as found in homes of the time, and there is a toilet or privy downstairs. Linen was an important symbol of status and wealth and would be proudly displayed. This dolls’ house has a beautifully full cupboard full of folded fabric.



Prints and books were prized objects in the 17th century, popular with collectors. This house is decorated with many woodcuts and leather-bound bibles.
Collection
Accession Number
W.41-1922

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record createdMay 5, 2004
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