The beloved decorating tradition is back at the Art Institute of Chicago—and continues to ramp up the festivities—with a Twelfth Night–themed room joining in the fun.
Several other rooms once again get their seasonal trimmings. Among the most elaborate is the English Drawing Room of the Victorian Period, the only room with a Christmas tree. Now a ubiquitous feature of the season, the Christmas tree ortannenbaum, was only brought to England from Germany in 1840 with the marriage of Prince Albert to Queen Victoria. The Thorne Room tree and accoutrements are based on a famous engraving of the royal couple and their children surrounding a trimmed and toy-bedecked tree, an image that would forever popularize this holiday fixture. Other ornamented rooms include:
- The English Great Hall of the Tudor period with a wassailing bowl, yule log, and an essential part of the costuming for that period’s singing-dancing revelers—a mummer’s mask
- The Virginia Entrance Hall with mistletoe, wreath, and garland
- The French Provincial Bedroom with shoes, or sabots, lined up before the fireplace, a crèche, and puzzle
- The modern-era California Hallway with an Otto Natzler mid-century menorah and box with a dreidel
- The New Orleans, New Mexico, and the Pennsylvania Dutch (German) rooms filled with regional treats of the season
- The 1930s French Library with a tiny taste of Art Deco holiday glamour
- The traditional Chinese interior filled with shadow puppets and instruments that would have been used to celebrate the Chinese New Year as well as other festive occasions
The 68 Thorne Miniature Rooms enable one to glimpse elements of European interiors from the late 13th century to the 1930s and American furnishings from the 17th century to the 1930s.
Painstakingly constructed on a scale of one inch to one foot, these fascinating models were conceived by Mrs. James Ward Thorne of Chicago and constructed between 1932 and 1940 by master craftsmen according to her specifications.