Modernism's Miniatures: Space and Gender in the Stettheimer Dollhouse and Duchamp's Boîte-en-Valise

Master's Thesis


Carrie Stettheimer’s Dollhouse was created over the course of almost twenty years (from 1916-1935) and was inspired in part by the Stettheimers’ luxurious homes, where they hosted a prominent literary and artistic salon. The Dollhouse can be read as a three-dimensional counterpart to the whimsical paintings of Carrie’s sister Florine, as both artists shared a penchant for craft, ornament, and miniaturization, all understood to be feminine. Carrie and Florine’s unabashed embrace of these elements placed them somewhat at odds with the avant-garde art world of New York, with which they were nonetheless deeply involved. For not only did the Stettheimers host members of the avant-garde at their salon, but Florine also painted many of them, and they, in turn, created miniature artworks for Carrie’s Dollhouse. More than simply a vessel for the display of diminutive works by prominent artists such as Marcel Duchamp, however, the Dollhouse is itself a work of art that engages the avant-garde spirit of playfulness that is highlighted by the works it contains. In addition to providing Carrie with an outlet from her everyday domestic life, her Dollhouse, along with her activities in her home, were part of a systematic attempt to create aesthetically pleasing, fantastical environments and a theatrical mode of life, which can ultimately be viewed as avant-garde in its combination of art and lived reality. A similar playful and pleasure-loving spirit guided the creation of the “Boîtes” and “Boîtes-en-Valise”, which Duchamp began making in 1935. Possibly inspired by the Stettheimer Dollhouse and the miniature “Nude Descending a Staircase” that he executed for it, Duchamp employed miniaturization and reproduction in order to create hundreds of boxes containing miniature “portable museums" of almost seventy works in his oeuvre. A comparison of Duchamp’s and Stettheimer’s projects reveals the fine line between the supposedly very rigid categories of avant-garde and bourgeois, and art and craft (with their attendant gendered associations), that these works effectively blurred.


Attribute NameValues
  • etd-04192012-185358

Author Quinn Darlington
Advisor Kathleen Pyne
Contributor Kathleen Pyne, Committee Chair
Degree Level Master's Thesis
Degree Discipline Art, Art History and Design
Degree Name MA
Defense Date
  • 2012-04-20

Submission Date 2012-04-19
  • United States of America

  • domesticity

  • avant-garde

  • art

  • femininity

  • University of Notre Dame

  • English

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units


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