Art in MiniatureMiniature Art Exhibition

What Is Miniature Painting?

There are many way of defining a miniature painting. Each culture and time period has its own guidelines based upon professional and public opinion. Here we offer a variety of guidelines towards a definition of miniature painting. Please refer to the society websites or exhibition prospectuses for further details when entering these shows. For a scholarly approach to the definition of miniature art and the philosophies guiding contemporary miniaturists, please refer to the book: MODERN MASTERS OF MINIATURE ART IN AMERICA by Wes Siegrist, 2010, ISBN 978-0-9821278-3-4 (268 pages)
Available online for free via Google Books or see

While the Association of Miniature Artists recognizes and encourages individuality, experimentation and future changes in the miniature art movement the AMA exists to provide a common ground among members especially in the context of defining their work to the public. As a member of the AMA you choose to agree with the following statements:

  • Given the historical foundation of traditional miniature art, I will strive to understand it better for the promotion, preservation and advancement of the art form.
  • Given the perplex multiple definitions of the term Miniature today, I choose to adhere to the following tenets to describe and distinguish traditional miniature work and when possible, will adhere to them in creating, displaying, and marketing artwork as a ‘miniature’:
  • 1. Minute in scale vs. life sized. For practicality following the general 1/6th scale for my work sent to formal miniature exhibitions and shows
  • 2. Delicate and painstaking technique that withstands magnification
  • 3. Small in format and size: 25 inches or less for surface area. Sculpture should fit inside an 8"x8"x8" cube including the base
  • 4. High in quality. The work should exemplify Fine Art ~ demonstrating a mastery of composition, color, values etc.
  • Given my concern for the future of the miniature art form I will do my best to educate artists and the public about the historical and current miniature art movement, contribute work to the exhibitions and volunteer when possible with the existing societies, shows and online forums as interaction with fellow artists is key to better understanding and continued advancement of the genre. My membership in the AMA will continue as long as I work in the miniature art genre and adhere with the statements and tenets.

  • The AMA definition represents the first worldwide standard to be adopted by practicing miniaturists. It is also the standard definition for the Miniature Artists of America Society.

    The Association of Miniature Artists, 2007]

    • A high standard of draughtsmanship and composition.
    • Mastery of miniature technique in chosen media and palette.
    • No subject larger than life, portrait head no larger than 2" (5cm).
    • Frames and mounts must be of high quality, clean and in keeping with the painting.

    Each of these points is taken into consideration by the judges on Selection Day.

    The miniature by virtue of its detail and the finest execution of medium must stand up to the closest inspection, whilst at the same time hold its own with good composition and tonal balance when viewed from afar. A wide variety of media is used on surfaces such as paper, Ivorine, Ivorex and others from specialist suppliers. Works also include those of enamellers and engravers. It is the great variety of subjects, media and techniques which serve to keep miniature art alive and a constant delight.

    [Hilliard Society of England, 2010]

    The RMS defines miniature solely by technique. At present the size limit is 6x4½ inches inclusive of framing.* Full members may exceed this rule but are requested to keep to the rules as much as possible. Scale is limited to 2 inches or less for human heads or single objects. The Society's Aims are to Esteem, Protect and Practice the traditional 16th Century art of miniature painting emphasizing the infinite patience needed for its fine techniques.
    Image size not to exceed 25 square inches. Sculpture may not exceed 8 inches in any dimension including the base.
    *Upon its founding the Society of Miniaturists (RMS) recognized miniatures as large as 12x10 inches.

    [Royal Society of Miniature Painters, Sculptors & Gravers, 2009]

    THE SPIRIT OF A MINIATURE: This unique art form, based on a minute scale, traces its roots back to the book paintings and illuminated manuscripts set in the 7th century. A work of fine art in miniature is a particularly personal object that draws the viewer into an intimate, concentrated little world that is breathtaking in its execution.

    Every single detail is miniaturized – the scale of the subject matter, the brush or pencil strokes – so that only with high magnification can one behold the immaculate details of the artist's technique which may include stippling, hatching or pointillism.

    These techniques are a specialized means of producing a perfect balance of color and detail in a series of thinly applied layers of exquisite color intended to reflect light. The miniatures show a high standard of design and the artist’s mastery of the chosen media and palette.

    [Miniature Painters, Sculptors and Gravers Society of Washington, DC, 2012]

    Miniature paintings and sculptures are fine art on a small scale, with minute attention to detail, which can withstand close inspection or enlargement. As a guideline (not a rule) for a general definition of small scale, a subject should be no larger than 1/6th actual size. (A human head is about 9 inches so the painted head should be no larger than 1½".)

    Subjects too small for portrayal in 1/6th scale or non-representational work such as abstracts or surrealism may meet the spirit of a miniature if the work meets the above definition of miniature art.

    Image size may not exceed 25 square inches.

    [Miniature Art Society of Florida, 2012]

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This website,, was established May 1996 by Caroline Hayes. As of June 2012, it is maintained by Wes Siegrist. Images on this website were used by permission by Caroline Hayes and/or Wes Siegrist.