The elaborate and exuberant set of nearly 200 pieces, molded from clay and hand-painted in vibrant colors, was made by a woman in a craft shop in Caracas more than 50 years ago. It’s one of thousands of such miniatures from around the world displayed in the Potomac, Maryland, home of Flores, 74, who has spent a half-century amassing his collection.
Flores’s vast mini-world fills 16 rooms. It’s a staggering display of visually arresting objects that can be an overwhelming experience when you take the host-guided tour. Just when you think you’ve seen — or maybe hallucinated — it all, Flores ushers you into yet another room with shelves of more small-scale wonders waiting their turn in the spotlight. By his own estimation, there are between 80,000 and 100,000 figures in roughly 4,000 sets.
There are strutting roosters from Portugal; a pearl from China handwritten with poetry; Navajo Kachinas dancing in feathered ceremonial regalia; trolls from Norway; a marimba band from Mexico whittled from toothpicks; bronze gods and cornhusk dolls from Nepal; model ships from Vietnam; an ebony Noah’s Ark from Malawi; a half-inch Don Quixote twisted from a single strand of wire; minuscule food dishes from Thailand; a spotted cow from Germany licking its side with a tongue out of a Tex Avery cartoon; a sandalwood figurine from India of a Rajasthani woman in a traditional dress, with hidden pocket-drawers that reveal famous royal maharajahs and epic battle scenes with warriors and elephants; and a street peddler from the Salvadoran town of Ilobasco (when you lift the lids of her pottery, there are also “live” armadillos for sale).