Sitting Pretty

I had a commission today for a really lovely piece.

A lady who has a beautiful Dutch 17th c. dolls house wants a nice little figure to sit in the kitchen of her three storey Amsterdam merchant’s abode.

My! What a wonderful open field that might be!

There are a great many dummy boards to choose from but this lady ( who is Dutch), has seen a picture she would like me to copy as a miniature dummy board figure.

This is a painting by Caspar Netscher of a Lacemaker. c. 1662

Everyone knows the more famous contemporary painting of the Lacemaker by Vermeer. This one, in the Wallace Collection London, is less well known.

And it’s perfect for a dummy board figure.

It is a good ‘contained’ shape, no bits sticking out that are likely to be broken after a time. The colours are excellent, full of interest. The shadows are also good, nice and defined and there is plenty of detail to catch the eye. The subject is also seen in profile and this is good from the point of view of realism. She isn’t looking at you but is quietly going about her business. Catch a glimpse of her in the right light conditions and she would really be there…not taking any notice of you.

Why should it be important that this is so in this original?

Certain shapes translate well to the two dimensional, three D, in other words, some subjects of pictures are better than others at being taken out of their background and used as dummy board figures. Some subjects, therefore work better and harder than others.

There is a tradition of seated figures in dummy board production, going back to around 1662. One of the very first images ever produced in trompe l’oeil, was made by Cornelius Bisschop, the artist who has been credited with popularising the dummy board figure. He painted a work entitled “ Woman Peeling an Apple”, in 1667, which is now in the Rijksmuseum in Holland.

There are many ‘peeling girls’,as dummy boards; that is- girls sitting peeling apples, so why not a girl sitting concentrating on her lace making which of course was a big industry ( albeit ‘cottage’ ) in the low Countries in the 17th century?

The seated figure of a girl is probably one of the oldest forms of the dummy board figure you can find. They have been faked quite a bit too. Oh yes…. dummy board fakes are around. It’s usually possible to work out from the look of the thing and from the paint if it’s not the real thing.

The Chateau de Malle Peeler France c. 1690 4ft.

Anything that will fetch money, in the antique world, will be faked, whether it be a piece of Scrimshaw ( This is most commonly made out of the bones and teeth of certain whales or the tusks of walruses. It can take the form of elaborate carvings, with letters and pictures on the surface of the bone or tooth, with the engraving being highlighted with paint or some other pigment or a Bow ( 18th c. English ) porcelain figurine.

There was quite a spate, in the 1930’s, of faking these figures, especially the small pairs of children we introduced in a previous post.

A Bit on the Side

and it takes some working out to spot them. But spot them we can. Here is a fake for example.

A faked 20th c. ( possibly ) figure of a 17th c. girl

I know it’s not fair…that was an easy one! But one has to start somewhere!

Rather a little Madam isn’t she?

Next? Shall we go to the Theatre?

One Response to “Sitting Pretty”

  1. Jain Squires Says:

    Hello Suzanne,
    Welcome to blogland. Very interesting to read about dummy boards and their history. Not sure how you become a follower on this blog. I use blogspot, my address is
    Think it will be Kensington before we meet up. Love Jain x

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: