Miniature Vase with Dragon

Posted on Mon, 05/06/2024 - 12:50

On view in May 2024.

Miniatures captured Walt Disney’s imagination from his first encounter with Narcissa Niblack Thorne’s Miniature Rooms at the Golden Gate International Exposition, held here in San Francisco in 1939. Thorne later arranged for a permanent gallery to house her miniature rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago, where Walt would revisit the miniatures that inspired his hobby in 1960.

Comprising nearly 2,000 miniatures, only a fraction of Walt’s collection housed at the museum can be exhibited at one time. The remaining assortment is kept safely behind the scenes in climate-controlled storage. Walt collected, crafted, and curated a breadth of miniatures, including ceramics, glassware, silver cutlery, paper books and magazines, wooden furniture, musical instruments, dolls, faux fruits, candelabras, checkers and playing cards, and working firearms. Currently, the Exhibitions and Collections teams are collaborating to make new custom storage containers for this comprehensive small-scale collection.

This vase—which stands at just one-and-a-quarter inches tall—is finely crafted of porcelain, enamel, and gilding. Some of the hand-painted brushstrokes are the width of a human hair. This is part of a set of miniature porcelain vessels by the same artist, each with a different shape and design. In Chinese tradition, dragons are symbols of prosperity and heavenly goodwill; therefore, they are popular figures on pottery.