The True Story Behind the Cabinet House in The Miniaturist
In the first episode of The Miniaturist, a miniseries based on Jessie Burton's novel of the same name, 17th-century Dutch merchant Johannes Brandt gives his new bride Petronella Oortman an exact replica of her new home as a wedding gift. From there, the plot centers around Nella and this cabinet house, which she furnishes in detail with gifts from the miniaturist, an elusive, and seemingly omniscient, craftswoman.
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Petronella Oortman's dollhouse at the Rijksmuseum.
"I just thought what a stunning, stunning piece of craftsmanship for a start, and it really drew me in. It’s a very big object, it’s quite aesthetically pleasing. It’s very intimate, but it’s also quite imposing," she tells Town & Country.
Burton began to contemplate what kind of person would possess such a piece. "When I learned that the owner, who was also called Nella, started decorating the house in identical miniature to her real home and spent the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of dollars on it, I just thought that’s such an interesting psychology. Why did she do that? Why did she make all these beds she couldn’t sleep in and food she couldn’t eat?"
Burton began plotting her novel from
A historian told Burton that the original Nella spent the rough equivalent of 2 million euro on the house, and worked on it for years.
"[Seeing the doll house] really started in my imagination this concept of the domestic world, of secrets and interiors and how much control we have over our own lives and our fates," Burton says.
"And the backdrop of Amsterdam at that time was a perfect setting because it was such a wealthy city, but it was a city that was very nervous about its wealth. The cabinet house is a real thing as much as it’s a symbol of the society and of the city of Amsterdam itself."
The Miniaturist airs Sunday nights on Masterpiece PBS at 9 p.m.
A detail of the
One of the rooms in Petronella’s house.
A museum visitor takes a closer look at the
This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.