THE WORLD BEHIND A DOLL’S HOUSE at the Historisch Museum, The Hague

It all started with one dolls house, finished in 1910. Then a hobby turned into a consuming passion. Now Lita de Ranitz’ large dolls house takes pride of place in this delightful exhibition.

The first exhibition rooms are covered in beautiful wallpaper, giving visitors the impression of being Lilliputians entering a magical world of dolls houses and miniatures. The museum owns Lita’s twenty dolls houses and collection of over 1,000 miniature items – though not all are on display.

Visitors are first introduced to Lita and her family. Her stern father served Dutch royalty so well, he was granted a title. The family was wealthy and owned a few manor houses. Old embossed leather wall-covering from one of these, ended up covering a wall of the large dolls house.

Had Lita lived now, she might have become an interior designer or architect. Unfortunately, being a Victorian Lady limited her options. She failed as author, dabbled in charity and traveled – accompanied by a lady friend.

Lita’s friend inspired the hobby which turned into a craze. Lita decided to commission a large doll house, taking contemporary houses as examples. Thus, the hall in her large dolls house is based on the real hall of Toys Hill House, in Kent.

The large doll house is a ‘modern’ 1910 home. It contains early examples of central heating, a bathroom, even a vacuum cleaner! Yet it is an ‘upstairs-downstairs’ house: one of the maids is seen walking down the stairs.

Once the house was ready, friends visited. They signed a miniature visitors book. It contains a royal signature. Queen Emma also donated an ivory miniature chess set.

A few items were inherited. Others came from all over the world. Friends brought presents and among these gifts were works of art.

Around 1920, Lita married artist Willem Tholen. He and the couple’s friends created miniature paintings to grace the dolls houses’ walls. It contains works by Tholen, Toorop, Louis Apol, Paul Gabriel, Johan Jongkind, Floris Arntzenius and others. The exhibition also contains normal-sized works by contributing artists.

The last room of this charming exhibition contains more art! For here are examples loaned by contemporary collectors. Watch a video of a working miniature printing press house and admire art in the Miniature Museum.

This museum belongs to artists Ria and Lex Daniels. Exhibited are a mere 300 works. Their collection now contains over 2,000 contemporary miniature works of art.

Artists continue to contribute to their collection. A few famous names: Daniel Spoerri, Dennis Oppenheim, Sol LeWitt, Roy Lichtenstein, Annie Leibovitz, Karel Appel, Marlene Dumas, Kieth Haring, Damian Hirst – and many, many more.

Interested in another miniature collection? Then walk to nearby Museum Meermanno. Here, the ’Bibliotheca Thurkowiana Minor’ – a miniature library with 1515 tiny books – is on permanent display.   Kate Den    21st February 2018



The exhibition continues until 10th of June.