Dollhouses built in the 17th century generally served two purposes. One a miniature dollhouse was a sign of wealth and would sit in the main room of a home where visitors would be received. A dollhouse’s second purpose would be as a visual for the children in the home so they could learn the skills they would need to run a household. Dollhouses built in this period for wealthy adults would have included items made by local craftsmen and the miniature furniture and household items would have been greatly prized. Probably several different guild of specialist craftsmen were commissioned in the building and decorating of the Nuremberg dollhouse. This dollhouse referred to as the Nuremberg Dollhouse was built in 1673 and is one of the few dollhouses that have survived from that period. The German dockenhaus or dollhouse has its date written right on the house’s chimney. Also of note are the stars on the house which were popular on real houses at the time, but were eventually banned because they tended to fly off in times of high wind and turn into dangerous flying weapons.
The size of dollhouse is small – only four rooms which make it much smaller than other surviving dollhouses from Nuremberg, Germany. It is also possible to know what kind of business the owners of the dollhouse were probably in as the Nuremberg dollhouse has a unicorn on the left side of the door which meant the house would have been owned by a chemist or apothecary, an early form of advertising. On the right door of the dollhouse there is a picture of Martin Luther, so we can also assume the owners of the dollhouse were religious in nature which conclusion is given further credence from the prayer books which are scattered around in the house.
The dollhouse which is made of pine wood is painted to resemble stone and has seven square front windows in the front of the house. The arched door leads directly into the kitchen which is an example of the ‘best kitchen’ which would have been where guests were first greeted. The master bedroom of the house contains a four poster bed with feather mattresses and an original doll with a face made from wax in a detailed high chair. The main bedroom appears to serve as both a bedroom and sitting room. The Nuremberg house features a large stove painted green with an outlet to the outside, which is representative of stoves of the period, plate rails, unusual wooden casks made out of chip wood, and fine copper and brassware pots and plates.
The Nuremberg dollhouse is the oldest dollhouse in the collection at the Victoria & Albert’s Museum of Childhood located in London, England.