Miniature of the Month
1760 Louis XV Microscope by Bill Robertson
There is perhaps no one more committed to the historical accuracy of working 1/12-scale miniatures than Bill Robertson. This Louis XV style microscope is a significant example based on the 1760 original by Claude-Simeon Passement made for King Louis XV—now displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Made of 24K gold, nickel silver, wood, glass and shagreen (sharkskin) the working miniature microscope features a functioning three-element lens and coarse and fine focus adjustments.
There are 125 parts in the microscope which stands just two inches tall. Bill constructed the piece decades ago after studying the original at the Met. To match the features of the original, he used baby sharkskin and melted Canadian gold coins to add to the frame. Also authentic is how he finished the miniature. During research he read that the microscope should be polished with the tooth of a wolf. Bill used a puppy tooth.
We’d expect nothing less from the miniaturist who began his career in 1976 at age 21 when he found himself unemployed, not in college and living with his parents. On more or less an ultimatum from his father, he built his mother a dollhouse for her granddaughters. Relieved his stint as a dollhouse builder was over, he didn’t give miniatures a second thought until he stumbled upon a miniature show in Florida where he was astounded at the prices some of the items were selling for. He then began to rethink his dollhouse building experience. Now, close to 50 years later, the IGMA Fellow has made more than 1000 pieces and is known around the world.
The Kansas City miniaturist no longer takes commissions but recently has begun selling work he has held onto many years, including collaborative pieces he made with his mother Esther Robertson who became a talented miniaturist in her own right. The microscope, acquired in 2017, joins several other works by Bill displayed in the KSB Miniatures Collection. His pieces have also been displayed at the National Geographic Society, the Smithsonian, The Mini Time Machine Museum and The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures.