Art Around the World

Mini Masterpieces Going for Millions

By Tom Gross, April 24, 2001

Miniature masterpieces are becoming more and more valuable. First, we had the two-inch high portrait of George Washington that was valued at $1 million when it sold at auction earlier this year in New York making it by some estimates the most expensive artwork per square inch ever sold.

The portrait, commissioned by America’s first president as a gift for his wife, Martha, in 1789, was painted by Dublin-born artist John Ramage in watercolor on ivory, and shows Washington in his general’s uniform complete with lace cravat and gold shoulder ornaments. The work is framed in an oval golden locket, which also contains a lock of Washington’s hair.

Now, 212 years later, miniatures have even found a home on the humble yellow post-it note. A tiny pastel and charcoal sketch by the American-born artist RB Kitaj on just such a note, has sold for $1000 in London. Named “After Rembrandt” by the artist, it has officially been declared by the Guinness Book of World Records to be the world’s most valuable yellow sticker. Office workers may wish to doodle a little more carefully on that yellow pad during breaks in future!

If this wasn’t enough evidence that small is beautiful, the 64-year old Ukrainian artist, Nikolai Siadristyi, has just opened an entire museum of miniatures. And where else to open such a mini-museum than in one of the world’s most miniature countries, Andorra (population 70,000), the tiny state that lies tucked in the mountainous region between France and Spain.

The museum has installed over a dozen microscopes on its walls to help visitors better appreciate the finer details of Siadristyi’s incredibly compact work in one case, a tray, a cup, two golden goblets and an apple, have all been carefully drawn on a single crystal of sugar. In another, a chariot has been painted on a needle no bigger than a human hair. And a portrait of the pope has been painted on a pip. For those of you who would like to visit, you can email for more information.

Article copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.