I spent most of the last month of June traveling and had the privilege of spending a few days in Valencia and of visiting the fabulous L’Iber, Museo de los soldaditos de plomo (Museum of Toy Soldiers). Housed in the magnificent, gothic style Palace of Malferit, once the residence of Don Juan Brizuela y Artés de Albanell, master of Alcolecha, and becoming, from 1690, the residence of the Marquis of Malferit, whose third holder, Salvador Roca y Pertusa Malferit, was made one of the “Grandees of Spain” by Carlos IV in 1803, L’Iber, holding 95.000 pieces and counting, is much more than the largest toy soldier museum in the world. As it often happens with places and spaces that make you believe that magic is real, L’Iber is the dream turned into reality of Álvaro Noguera Giménez, one of the founders of the Spanish newspaper El País, whose passion for shrunken treasures and private collection of miniatures made the museum a reality.
I had, unfortunately, a very limited time to visit L’Iber but was lucky enough to have someone call my attention to the “Fashion History” corner from which I had to be dragged from. My photos do not make any justice either to the museum collection or to the precious work of the Pixi atelier.
Created by Alexis Poliakoff , son of the painter Serge Poliakoff, second assistant to Claude Chabrol, Jacques Rivette and Jean-Luc Godard, painter, sculptor and master of a magic world of miniatures and lead figurines, Pixi was, from the beginning a revolutionary in the world of toy soldiers and lead figures dominated by army and war themes. Miniature soldier figurines found in Egyptian tombs have been dated to 2500 BC and were created for ritual purposes and not as playthings. Similarly, across Medieval Europe, generals and monarchs had miniature armies crafted for them in silver, porcelain, or wood for use during war-strategy sessions and only in the 18th century started being used as toys for the children of the affluent European aristocracy, evolving as toys throughout the 19th and 20th century and as objects of passion and fervent collections.
From African Art to iconic cartoon and graphic novels characters and never forgetting the apparent triviality of our everyday life, Pixi has miniaturized everything and it’s Arts of Fashion: Haute Couture collection, that has me bound to the promise of going back to Valencia just to spend time at L’Iber, is truly a wonderful army of “fashion toy soldiers”.
Even though it has been coined to depict an economics concept, the phrase “small is beautiful” seems, in the words of John Mack, to be true. “Small is, indeed, very often, and by common consent, beautiful”. All miniatures result from technology and they achieve their “effect via the enchantment cast by [their] technical means, the manner of [their] coming into being, or rather, the idea one forms of [their] coming into being”.
All miniatures seem to have intrinsic aesthetic quality — and from what should they draw this constant virtue if not from the dimensions themselves?
The “diminutive tactility” of miniatures and their magnetic powers of fascination, allow us, even if we are not the intended audience or actor of a certain reality, to form our own constructions of reality. For Lévi-Strauss, “all works of art partake of the nature of miniatures or scale models (…) a work of art is a universe in miniature” one that lets us experience “a world in a grain of sand“.
All photos mine, captions from the Pixi online catalogue