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Back in the late 1800s, A. Schiller, serving a long jail sentence for forgery, spent 25 years inscribing all 65 words of the Lord's Prayer on the head of each of seven pins... a truly remarkable achievement.

But now he has been outdone by two amazing artists, one in Ukraine and the other in Britain, who have produced what are claimed to be the world's smallest hand-made sculptures. Before reading more of this story, click HERE to see a comparison of their work.

"When I make my miniatures, I try to hold my breath and touch the work with the instrument between the beats of my heart to prevent my hand from trembling," says Nikolai Syadristy, a 65-year-old Ukrainian.

A museum displaying his works is in the Orthodox Christian Monastery of the Caves, a 12th century holy place in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev. Another Syadristy museum is in Andorra, the tiny state in the Pyrenees, while a third was planned for Barcelona, Spain.

"Visitors to the Kiev museum can see a 3.85-millimeter (0.15-inch) model of the Santa Maria, Christopher Columbus' sailing ship, composed of 256 gold parts," Turkish Daily News Online reported last year. "Antoine de Saint-Exupery's Little Prince stands just 0.8 millimeter (0.03 inch) tall, on a pearl planet with a 2-millimeter (0.08-inch) airplane nearby.

"There's also a miniature book of verses by Ukrainian national poet Taras Shevchenko - 12 pages of poetry and pictures bound with a spider web. The book can fit through the eye of a needle.

"Syadristy has created about 100 miniatures with instruments he made himself. [At first, he took] a whole year to create one or two miniatures. Now, it takes him nearly a month of painstaking work to create one piece - whether it's baby swallows inside a nest made of half a poppy seed, or a red rose on a green stem 0.05 millimeter (0.002 inch) thick, inside a human hair that has been polished so thoroughly that the flower can be clearly seen through it."

Author of an article in the website of the Biopolitics International Organisation (B.I.O.) in Athens (Greece) wrote:  "Nikolai Syadristy is an artist of highest sensitivity and a pathfinder who brings us closer to the beauty of the miniature world. His creativity and unique craftsmanship are a source of inspiration and vision, and provide new insight into the world we live in."

Here are some of Syadristy's works, as described in the B.I.O. story:

  • Life - A man is displayed walking on a minuscule spring. The man, 5 microns in size, is made of gold. This human image is the finest in the world.
  • The Portrait - The portrait of the great Ukrainian poet T. Shevchenko is carved out of a thorn stone with a sapphire knife. Using the same technique, the artist has carved out portraits of the great Ukrainian singer Solomia Kruselnitskaya and Abraham Lincoln.
  • The Swallows - A swallows' nest is made from a poppy seed, inlaid with gold. The swallows and their fledglings are also made of gold and are only 5 microns thick.
  • The Chessmen - A tiny chessboard is placed on a pinhead. The piece arrangement is taken from a game between Alexander Aliokhin (black) and Raul Capablanca (white), for the 1927 world championship. The chessmen are made of gold.
  • The Flowering Branch - An apple seed is cut in half and a watercolour painting of a flowering branch has replaced the cleaned out contents of the seed.
  • The Cavalcade - A caravan sails down the sands. A pyramid and a palm tree are seen from a distance. The whole composition is made of gold and placed in the eye of a needle.

Not to be outdone, a British website hails Willard Wigan, who lives on the small island of Jersey, as "the world's greatest micro-miniaturist."  It says his "mesmerising masterpiece" is a tiny statue of the racehorse Dubai Millennium, ridden by Frankie Dettori, "which he created in tribute to one of the greatest racehorse and jockey pairings the world has ever seen...

"Inspiration for the creation came to him when he turned on the television one day and by chance saw His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, owner of Dubai Millennium, speaking about the great affection he had for the legendary stallion.

"'He spoke with such fondness for, and affinity with, the horse that I was profoundly touched by his sincerity. As a great animal lover myself, a deep inner feeling compelled me to capture this great love and beauty in another dimension for eternity as I only know how,' said Willard.

"To complete this magnificent hand-sculpted, hand-painted, modern day masterpiece, which is invisible to the naked eye and can only be measured in thousandths of an inch, Willard worked continuously at his Jersey retreat, night after night as the island slept, when the air is relatively still, and his mind and body is in harmony with the Creator."

Wigan, who formerly lived in Birmingham, England, carved a miniature Statue of Liberty  set in the eye of a sewing needle,  using surgical blades, holding his breath while he carved. He visited the U.S. to see the original.

Many of Wigan's works are featured in a touring UK exhibition, Impossible Microworld, and include:

  • Birds tending a nest with three eggs on the tip of a hair.
  • Ballerina dancing on a pin head.
  • Adam and Eve carved in the lead of a pencil.
  • The Statue of Liberty in the eye of a needle.
  • Cottage with garden on the head of a pin.
  • Samson inside a human hair.
  • Polar bear on a single granule of sugar.
  • Lennox Lewis v. Evander Holyfield on the head of nail.
  • Goldilocks and the Three Bears, carved from cocktail sticks.
  • Cricket playing a violin.
  • Horse standing on the head of an ant.
  • Presidents' heads at Mount Rushmore, carved on a match head.
  • Venus of the Mirror by Valasquez, painted on a shirt button.
  • Two lovers on a beetle.
  • The woman of the sunflower.
  • Juggling act in a ladybird.
  • Herd of elephants on a hair.
  • Two fleas boxing.
  • The Sphinx and pyramid on a single grain of sand.
  • The Three Graces by Rubens, on a shell.
  • Flea riding a bicycle.

To see amazing examples of these artists' work (suitably enlarged) and for further details, click on these links:


Lord's Prayer on a coin

Seattle's Ye Olde Curiosity Shop, which began business in 1899 as an Indian trading post, offers this bargain for 95 cents: "We take a penny, squash it into an oval, and then write the Lord's Prayer on it! Now you can take it anywhere with you. Size is about 1 1/2 inches long." - Ye Olde Curiosity Shop.  


Copyright 2003

Eric Shackle

Story first posted May 2003

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