The Astolat Dollhouse Castle is officially appraised at over $8.5 million. It’s 9 feet tall, weighs over 800 pounds, and filled with 10,000 valuable miniatures.
Astolat recently concluded one of its rare public exhibitions at the Time-Warner Center at Columbus Circle in the heart of New York City in order to raise money and awareness for children’s charities.
The Astolat Dollhouse Castle was designed and built by famed Colorado miniaturist Elaine Diehl between 1974 and 1987 with help from experts and miniature artisans from around the globe. It was modelled and named after the Castle in Tennyson’s Lady of the Shallot. Since completion, it has continually been updated, and thousands of superb miniatures have been added.
Notable reviewers and publications have said: “Astolat Dollhouse Castle represents an important example of American art, both historically and aesthetically.” “Astolat is one of the finest miniature structures in the world… like nothing in existence today.” “It must be seen to be believed.” “It will leave you speechless.”
This extravagant home has a weaponry room, a dovecote, a wizard’s tower, and an appraised value of more than $2,000 per square inch—all good hints that it’s not a traditional abode but a 9-foot-tall miniature called the Astolat Dollhouse Castle. Built by the artist Elaine Diehl around 1980 and decorated with 10,000 teeny-tiny items, the $8.5 million dollhouse is the world’s most expensive and will be on display from Thursday through Dec. 8 at the Shops at Columbus Circle, in Manhattan’s Time Warner Center.
It took 13 years for Diehl, a celebrated miniature artist, to build the dollhouse, which has an appraised worth of $8.5 million. That works out to about $288,000 per square foot—a number that could make the luxurious apartments at the Time Warner Center, which can run about $5,000 per square foot, feel like servants’ quarters.
The dollhouse takes its name after the castle in The Lady of Shallot, a 19th-century ballad by Alfred Lord Tennyson.
Is that a fountain we spy out front? Why yes, it is. And some amazing topiary flanking the front door, which leads into a grand entrance hall.
Suits of armour abound, which is a neat feature and the secret to the castle’s overall worth. The dollhouse’s lofty appraisal is based on its valuation as a work of art and the price tags associated with the thousands of tiny objects collected therein. A silver flatware set, for instance, is said to be worth $5,000.
Here, with the hinges open, you can see the detail involved. As with any stately home, there are finishes like real parquet floors, marble bathrooms, and gilt trim—giving the sense that the castle was inhabited by a Victorian dame married to a medieval warlord.
Some of the finer touches include hand-stitched tapestries, vases in real lapis lazuli, and replica 18th-century oil paintings—such as the postage-size reproduction of Thomas Lawrence’s Pinkie, displayed on the wall of the salon shown here. Have a cocktail and sit for a spell.
The library contains tiny books with tiny letters that can be read under a magnifying glass. The book collection includes a Bible considered one of the world’s smallest. A drop-leaf secretary bookshelf is valued at up to $2,500; a miniature Hebrew Torah was worth up to $2,500 at the time of purchase.
Sure. A miniature rock collection.
The castle was shipped to the Time Warner Center in 66 boxes and took more than 20 hours to assemble. It stands 9 feet tall and weighs more than 800 pounds. Because it spent its life indoors, the copper roofs haven’t developed a green patina.
Tiny taxidermy. That is all.
The bottles in the castle’s bar contain real liquor. We spy Jameson, Bailey’s, and Gordon’s Gin, not to mention some wine of an undisclosed vintage. Anybody for a drop?
The food, on the other hand, is probably made of polymer resin, said curator Dorothy Twining Globus—recalling Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Two Bad Mice, about two rodents who trash a dollhouse after discovering that the food on the dining room table is made of plaster.
The dumbwaiter is said to be in working order.
The first dollhouses date back to the 17th century, according to Twining Globus, when they were seen not as child’s toys but displays of fine craftsmanship acquired by wealthy families in Holland, Germany, and England.
Dollhouses were mass produced beginning in the 19th century, said Twining Globus, and soon became a children’s staple. Today, Toys R Us sells dollhouses for as little as $29.99 and as much as $329.99.
The world’s most famous dollhouse was built in 1924 for Queen Mary by the architect Edwin Lutyens and has been displayed at Windsor Castle in Berkshire, England. Although with “The World’s Most Expensive” title, Astolat Castle is nipping at its heels.
The owners of Astolat Castle have a collection of 30,000 items that can rotate through the house on an ongoing basis.
The bathroom is stocked with a hand towel and actual, usable toilet paper (for a very tiny bum).
The view through a window into a child’s room …
… containing rocking horse and fairy princess.
Thanks to the chinoiserie wall hanging and plush low-slung bed, this room is known as the Opium Den.
A weaponry room, for fighting minor wars.
After the current exhibition ends, the owners hope to tour the dollhouse to other locations to raise money for children’s charities.
Here, a shelter for domesticated pigeons.
The lone doll occupying Astolat is a wizard perched in a castle spire—Merlin, we presume.
Curator Dorothy Twining Globus standing next to the 9-foot-tall castle, which has an exterior wall opened on its hinges.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Zack DeZon/Bloomberg