Small is beautiful: Prague museum focuses on micro miniature art
Prague is home to many museums. But only one, the Museum of Miniatures, requires visitors to use a microscope or magnifying glass to view its exhibits, which belong to the micro miniature art genre.
In the courtyard of Prague’s Strahov Monastery is where you will find the Museum of Miniatures, which has for over two decades been offering visitors a very different experience to what they will find elsewhere.
Instead of paintings or sculptures, the museum contains a range of microscopes. Using these devices, visitors can take in pieces whose detail is invisible to the naked eye.
The artworks on show belong to the fine art form known as micro miniature art, which was founded in the 1950s by the Armenian artist Edward Ter Ghazarian.
The painstaking genre later became popular in Russia, where practitioners set seven challenges if one is to be considered a micro miniature artist.
Ignat Kinol is manager of the Museum of Miniatures.
“They started with the flea, because in Siberia there was a book about an artist who was able to put horseshoes on a flea. That’s why everybody started by copying this – they took a flea and put horseshoes on it. That was the first thing. Then they had rice, when they draw on rice, that’s the second main thing for them. Then hair. The needles – they put something into the needle.”
The Museum of Miniatures was based in the Russian city of St. Petersburg before moving to the Czech capital in the late 1990s.
The artist with most pieces at the museum is Anatoly Konenko from Russia, followed by Gazharaian and another Russian, Nikolai Aldunin.
Ignat Kinol says Konenko, who is particularly well-known for tiny paintings, actually started out making instruments for eye surgeons.
“He was able to cut and to do these very small, detailed pieces because of that. So he made his own instruments. Some of them are here. We have some instruments from, I think, Aldunin. They create their own instruments and then with these instruments they start doing their work. They’re not able just to go and buy regular instruments and then work with them – they have to create them first. Each artist has their own instruments. Because there is not official school of micro miniature it means that everybody comes to it from some other areas.”
The most famous piece by Konenko, a book containing the Chekov short story The Chameleon, is on show at the Prague museum.
Another popular exhibit, the operators says, is a bicycle by Aldunin. Made of pure gold, it is just a few millimeters in length and is placed on a needle.
The museum also offers miniature reproductions of works by the likes of Matisse, Dali and Leonardo da Vinci.