Astolat Dollhouse Castle
Astolat Dollhouse Castle (also known as Astolat Castle or Dollhouse Castle), is officially appraised as the most valuable dollhouse in the world." This museum quality dollhouse is officially appraised for $8.5 million. Its great value is attributable to its hand-made intricate 800 pound, 9 foot tall, 29 room structure, as well as its extensive collection of the finest miniatures in the world including extravagant furnishings, with working fireplaces, stained glass panels, and 10,000 handcrafted miniature pieces that include original works of art, gold chandeliers, and the smallest antique Bible in the world. The Astolat Dollhouse Castle was once on display at the Tee Ridder division of the Nassau County Museum of Art (New York City, U.S.A). "The Castle is worth so much because of the structure itself," said Paula Gilhooley, the Museum's curator. Furthermore, "Astolat is one of the finest miniature structures in the world exhibiting a rare combination of sculpture, art, engineering and detail that sets it apart from anything in existence to date." Astolat "is a massive feat of construction and when you see it, it will leave you absolutely speechless"  In 2006, a photo presentation of the Astolat Dollhouse Castle was released courtesy of the Nassau County Museum of Art, an updated version released in 2009 showed some of the upgraded interior furnishings and acquisitions, and a video presentation that previewed a charity tour of the dollhouse. The value also derives from its collections of high quality miniatures, including some made of gold, sterling silver, and many are antique and one of a kind. Few other museum quality dollhouses meet such criteria.
When Astolat was first installed, the museum's curator stated "each room is decorated with furniture, tables, chairs, artwork and lighting made by artisans from around the world, and the materials are unique and expensive." It weighs approximately 800 pounds. The interior consists of 29 rooms and adjacent areas that contain approximately 10,000 separate interior pieces. The Astolat Dollhouse Castle was acquired by collector L. Freeman in 1996 and moved it to the Nassau County Museum of Art. Freeman is an avid collector of dollhouses and since her acquisition of the Astolat Dollhouse Castle she has continually upgraded its interiors with additional one-of-a-kind antique miniatures, tiny antique furniture, and paintings in addition to those that already existed within the structure. There are reportedly now about 30,000 miniatures pieces in the Astolat Dollhouse Castle collection, but only about 10,000 are displayed at any one time. The inventory is rotated. The Astolat Dollhouse Castle was on rare public display at the Time-Warner Center at Columbus Circle, New York City from November 12 to December 8, 2015. All proceeds from this exhibition benefited charities for children, including St. Jude's Children's Hospital, Autism Speaks, Orphan's International  and others.
History and description
Inspired by Alfred Tennyson's poetry about the Lady of Astolat, Astolat Dollhouse Castle was created between 1974 and 1987 primarily by master miniaturist Elaine Diehl with support and assistance from artisans throughout the world. In addition to its 9-foot height, it has 29 rooms, hallways, corridors, sitting areas, and windows. The Colleen Moore fairy Castle Dollhouse and the Astolat Dollhouse Castle were designed with fixed contiguous exterior walls to create a three-dimensional viewing effect.
Astolat was built over a thirteen-year period. The exterior took a year to sculpt to the final finish. The interiors and adjoining areas were each constructed to the highest standards of that time. Astolat Dollhouse Castle was initially displayed in Diehl's museum shop in Sedona, Arizona until her retirement in 1996. It was a popular tourist attraction which drew people from around the world. On May 10, 1982 famed dollhouse creator Colleen Moore took a trip to view the Astolat Dollhouse and met with the creator Diehl. Unique parquet floors, framed mirrors, tapestries, gold chandeliers, oil paintings, and fireplaces lead up to the top floor housing the "wizard’s tower" outfitted with telescopes and zodiacal signs. The furnishings include seven periods and styles, including Spanish, Oriental, Tudor, 18th-century English, and Victorian.
The Dollhouse Castle's namesake was inspired by the fantasy castle "Astolat" in Alfred Tennyson’s poem Lady of Shalott. Astolat Castle has a copper roof and structural wood walls that are finished on the exterior with papier-mâché and then sculpted to a rough faux stone finish. Some of these exterior wall panels are fixed to create a 3-dimensional effect when viewer's peer into the Castle. Other walls can be opened or removed for group viewing. The structure was built to a 25.4 mm to 304.8 mm scale (one inch to one foot) (1:12) scale.
Layout and floor plan
Consisting of seven levels, stairways, and hallways, Astolat Dollhouse Castle was created for 360 degree viewing. As with the Colleen Moore dollhouse certain exterior walls are fixed to create a 3-D viewing experience. The basement level consists of the Knights Of Columbus room, wine cellar, kitchens, and the armory. The main floor contains the entrance foyer, main stairway, and butler's closet. Next level up contains the formal living room, dining room, and music room and its audience balcony. The fourth level contains the private library containing duelling pistols, a library of miniature books, fireplace, miniature daguerreotypes, and the oil painting display area. Fifth level contains the sleeping quarters. Sixth floor contains the grand ballroom, musician's alcove, bar area and sitting rooms. Wizards's tower is on the top level and contains hand painted zodiac signs, telescope, observatory and astronomical depictions. 
The interior spaces include miniature fittings and furniture most of which are antique, hand-crafted, and one-of-akind. Some are even artifacts from Pompeii. Other furnishings, and ancillary art includes sculptures, original oil paintings, portrait miniatures, hand sewn tapestries, carved wood moldings, chandeliers, sconces, framed mirrors, and accessories. These include miniature inlaid marble bathrooms, parquet floors, gold chandeliers, hand etched wood panels, and pieces made of gold. Most of the interior furnishings and artwork are original and were purchased at auctions from private collectors, or commissioned from known miniaturists and artisans. Such artists include Eric Pearson, George Becker, Warren Dick, Laurel Coulon, Mary McGrath, among others. The lighting features fully illuminate all areas of Astolat and separate day and night-time lighting systems automatically adjust based on the time of day.
Other notable dollhouses
Other notable dollhouses include Titania's Palace, which is on display in Denmark, Tara's Palace, which is on display in Ireland at the Tara's Palace Museum of Childhood in Powerscourt and the Stettheimer dollhouse in New York City which is primarily known for its original miniature artwork.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Astolat Dollhouse Castle.|
- Official Website
- Nassau County Museum of Art
- Queen Mary's Dollhouse
- Fairy Castle Exhibit
- Photos of the Astolat Dollhouse Castle (Hi-Def)