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The Miniaturist Enthralls

“Every woman is the architect of her own fortune.”

The new 3-part mini-series, The Miniaturist, airing on PBS delves into 17th century life in Amsterdam. Based on Jessie Burton’s book by the same title, the mini-series is based on a real married couple and a bizarre wedding present: a cabinet house.

Cabinet houses were displayed in many seventeenth Amsterdam houses serving 2 purposes: status symbols denoting extreme wealthy and privilege. A cabinet house was a miniature replica of a home consisting of a large hutch sectioning off rooms. They were expensive showpieces and incredibly popular; they were not toys. The cabinet house led to the modern-day dollhouse.

The inspiration for the novel exists and is housed in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Johannes Brandt, a Dutch merchant, gifted his wife Petronella “Nella” Oortman an expensive cabinet house upon her arrival in Amsterdam. Nella spent the equivalent of $2 million Euros over 5 years filling up the house with trinkets, furniture, and people. It is exquisite!

Author Burton proclaimed, “[seeing the doll house] really started in my imagination this concept of the domestic world.” She constructed her novel highlighting the marginalized misfits within society. Although the story revolves around the true owners of a cabinet house displayed in the Rijksmuseum, the story is pure fiction.

The television cabinet house reflects the coldness of the physical house and the characters living within. The British production company crafted a cabinet house to match the home used in the series. However, not everything is as it appears. A mystery surrounds the Miniaturist, played by Emily Berrington, and how she knows so much about the house, objects, and people associated with the dwelling.

The PBS series is a refreshing addition to the line-up of British productions airing.