What is a miniature?

Traditionally, the only size agreed upon internationally in contemporary miniature art is that the work should be “hand-held”. Subject matter is usually intimate and delicate, being rendered with fine and small brushstrokes in order to accentuate detail. Vibrant, intense colour is typical in a painting. The exact sizes, all small, differ throughout the world. Let our South African Society offer you the following guidelines…..


  • A drawing, painting or sculpture must adhere to the one/sixth guide. This means that a human head approximately 230mm high must be rendered 38mm or less; a rose which is 120mm should be depicted as 20mm or less. These measurements are acceptable world-wide.
  • The OUTSIDE measurement of a framed work may not exceed 170mm x 170mm IN AREA including the moulding of the frame.
  • The frame should be narrow enough to embody the spirit of miniaturism and must be in proportion to the image. In a mounted work the moulding should be no wider than 25mm and in an unmounted work, 30mm.   All works under glass must have a mount, or at least, a “slip” to keep the image from touching the glass. Acid-free materials must be used wherever possible.
  • Small subjects which do not lend themselves to the one/sixth rule must be rendered “in the spirit of miniaturism”. Here the discretion of the selection committe will apply. Abstract works should be harmony with the delicate spirit of miniaturism.
  • Importantly, the signature should be neat and very small.
  • Sculpture, which must be of lasting materials, should fit within a 170mm cube, including the base.
  • Prints of any technique must be hand-pulled and of a numbered series.
  • No jewellery, crafts or photographic techniques are acceptable