In that story (which Cynthia Ozick chose it to read aloud in their monthly fiction podcast), a court miniaturist creates progressively smaller and more intricate replicas of reality until his objects become so infinitesimal that no one can see them—a sort of black hole of artistic endeavor. Then there's the person in Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman who constructs progressively smaller decorative chests to fit inside one another until No. 28 "looked like a bug or a tiny piece of dirt." Reductio ad absurdum?
In any event, here are a variety of wonderful objects from the book. The charming 6.5 cm–high Inca llama (Peru, 1400-1500) is made of 13 pieces of thin, hammered gold. It was found in a funerary site and is assumed to have a sacred purpose. Below, a Persian cast-gold model chariot, 5th-4th century BC, 18.8 cm long.
The task of rendering minute things visible to the naked eye at a viewable scale required not just the means of seeing things, made possible by the microscope, but the equally tricky process of reproducing them at a much enhanced scale so that others could see them too. Robert Hooke's Micrographia represented the crucial breakthrough." Above, his drawing of a flea.
Above, pieces from the set known as the "Lewis Chessmen." Probably Norwegian, they were made of walrus ivory and tooth, 1150-1200. The height of the largest figure is 10.2 cm.
At right, this woodcut of Kabuki actor Sanogawa Ichimatsu holding a bonsai tree illustrates the miniature concept brought to horticulture.
Below, Edward Bawden's The Dolls at Home pictures the life of paper dolls whilst the humans are away. Akin to the Russian nesting dolls concept, one wonders what transpires in the little red dollhouse.
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