Virtual Visit: Home
Text and Images Courtesy of Phoenix Art Museum

This week, inspired by our current reality, Phoenix Art Museum is bringing you a home-themed virtual visit featuring some of the indoor places and spaces depicted in artworks across its European, Latin American, Asian, American, and contemporary collections, just, you know, for a little change of scenery. And, for fun, take a deep dive into the fan-favorite Thorne Miniature Rooms.

Above, top left: Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, Geisha at the Tea House Fukuzumi, 1878. Woodblock print. Bottom left: Pieter Janssens, Interior with Girl Playing Guitar, 1655-1665. Oil on canvas. Top right: Philip C. Curtis, Whistler, 1963. Oil on board. Middle right: Ragnar Kjartansson, The Visitors, 2012. Nine-channel video. Phoenix Art Museum, © Ragnar Kjartansson. All rights reserved. Bottom right: Arcmanoro Niles, Does a Broken Home Become a Broken Family, 2019. Oil, acrylic and glitter on canvas. 


Above: Narcissa Niblack Thorne, Art Deco Hall, c. 1925 (Salón Art Deco, c. 1925), 1932-1937. Miniature room. Gift of the artist.

Deep Looking: Thorne Miniature Rooms

Visitors to Phoenix Art Museum have long been fascinated and delighted by the detail and precision with which very small artworks can be made. The Thorne Miniature Rooms represent a fascinating world in miniature, created at an exacting scale of one inch to one foot and either replicating actual rooms found in the United States and Europe or drawing inspiration from the architecture and interior design of their respective periods and countries.

The minuscule works pictured above were conceived, designed, and in large part crafted by Indiana-native Narcissa Niblack Thorne (1882-1966), who began collecting miniature furniture and household accessories during her travels to England and Asia shortly after the turn of the 20th century. She commissioned interior scenes to contain her growing collection of miniature objects and even had tiny period-style rugs woven specifically for each space.

Thorne and the craftsmen with whom she worked completed nearly 100 rooms. Her hope was that perfectly proportioned rooms in miniature could substitute for costly and space-consuming full-scale period rooms that museums across the country were beginning to acquire. They also reflect the architectural revivals that were popular among wealthy patrons and which were publicized in the period’s shelter magazines.

The original 30 Thorne Miniature Rooms were displayed at the 1933 Chicago Century of Progress Exposition and gained national attention when featured in a 1940 LIFE Magazine article. In 1962, Thorne donated 20 of the original 30 rooms to a fledgling Phoenix Art Museum, then celebrating its third anniversary, and the rooms have been on view ever since. Other examples of the Thorne Rooms can be seen at the Art Institute of Chicago (68) and the Knoxville Museum of Art (9).

Above: Narcissa Niblack Thorne, Breton Kitchen, c. 1750 (Cocina Bretona, alrededor de 1750), 1932-1937. Miniature room, Gift of the artist.

Thorne Room Virtual Backgrounds

Still working from home and taking all the video-conference meetings ever? Click here to refresh your Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Snap Camera background by downloading the Museum’s Thorne Room virtual backgrounds.

Download virtual backgrounds here