How About a Little

Art Appreciation?

* Imagine artworks as small as a shirt button.

A new art exhibit at the Smithsonian has more than 1,100 pieces of art, and you'll have to squint to look at just about all of them. That's because all the paintings and etchings are miniature.

The smallest work in the exhibit includes an ivory disk with India's Taj Mahal painted on it. The disk is the size of a button. There are two more button-sized paintings, featuring the emperor who ordered the Taj Mahal built and his wife. Good thing the display includes a magnifying glass.

Just about all the works at the S. Dillon Ripley Center come with magnifying glasses, including a 3-by-4-inch painting called "Hydrangeas." You need help to see the individual flowers.

Miniatures go back at least to medieval times, when artists painted pictures on the initial letters of sections in Bibles.

Before photography, miniature portraits were the way to keep the image of a family member in a locket or on a desk.

The Ripley Center is at 1100 Jefferson Dr. SW in Washington. The free exhibit runs through July 12.

This portrait of Grand Duchess Anastasia of Russia is 21/2 by 3 inches.