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Restoring the Museum of Miniature Arts in Juodkrantë

Museologists have long noticed that miniatures – paintings, graphic arts, sculptures and applied arts in a smaller form – nearly disappear in a large space alongside massive paintings and sculptures. Placing all of these miniatures into one exhibition space, the artistic value and charm of miniatures are conveyed. The miniatures do not compete with one another but instead, simply augment each other. In 1976, after Juodkrantë Church had been repaired (after years of having been left derelict), the exposition of the Museum of Miniature Arts was installed. Our society saw the miniatures as works of art, which were of special beauty and subtlety. Classical music concerts and poetry evenings at Juodkrantë Church were to encourage even more interest in the small examples of paintings, graphic arts, and sculptures. In 1978, the casement glass windows of the architect Vladas Vizgirda (which during concerts were closed so as not to distract audience members) highlighted the expositions uniqueness. The lines of the arched stands, on the other hand, imitated in their own way the building's architecture. Like Palanga's Amber Museum, large crowds came to visit the Museum of Miniature Arts although traveling to the Curonian Spit at that time was strictly limited. Remaining statistical data indicates that each summer, the majority of Neringa vacationers and tourists visited to the Museum of Miniature Arts. This interest in Miniatures on the part of visitors became one of the most important incentives to restore the Museum of Miniature Arts. This summer, the museum will be opened in a historic building next to the church on the other side of the street. In the 1970s, the actual museum building was relocated near the church and restored. This was done in order to save it from the threat of destruction caused by the construction of nearby vacation homes. Numerous tourists, who will stop to visit the Juodkrantë Church as well as those who will become acquainted with the lagoon's coastline and Witches' Hill, from now on will have the opportunity to see hundreds of miniatures and summer exhibitions. 

The impressive collection of various genres is kept in the funds of the National Art Museum of Lithuania. There are only medals here – over 1,500. (The museum expects to place about 200 on exhibition.) They are the miniature painted portraits, fans, and sculptures created by the masters of the Parisian, St. Peterburg and Viennese school. 

Miniatures developed according to their natures although the depicted art, fashion, and even advances in technology of the times had their influence on them. From 13th to the 16th centuries, the flourishing art of miniature graphics overlapped the classical period of art, which saw the increasing spread and popularity of miniature portraits. This trend began to vanish with the discovery of photography, where devices (the predecessors of the modern–day camera) were able to capture images in miniature at prices ten times cheaper. During the Renaissance, oval miniature sculpture (i.e. various types of statuettes) were popular, while during the Baroque period, fans were very popular – fans whose form, décor, and material all very much depended on fashion. They were made of ivory or tortoise shell, mother–of–pearl and even wood, and then decked in cloth. Some are noteworthy for their subtlety of color, the genre scenes they depict, or their complicated ornamentation. Others for their elaborate ajouré. 

Life before, visitors at the Museum of Miniature Art will see fans created by the masters of Paris, st. Petersburg, and Prague (16th – 19th centuries). Boùesùaw Ruseck's painting, “A Lady with a Fan”, which will be presented in a large format, illustrates women's jewelry and fans of the Vilnius region. The miniature portraits are noted for their attention to detail in pictures and their subtle colors. Artists would typically paint water–colors and frame them in gold or in medallions (precious materials used just to hasten their actual decay). Not only portraits, but also paintings on small boxes, the already mentioned fans (both of which belong to the fields of applied art and painting) as well as Palech's examples of painting will be placed on exhibition in the restored museum. Perhaps, medallions will make the largest part of the exhibition. They can be divided into two commemorative and historical, both of which immortalize the most important event of certain periods, as well as famous personalities (i.e. scientists, artists, and public figures), towns, exhibitions, etc. The medals on exhibition reflect the development of this art and the separate work of its masters. The medallions of Fiodor Tolstoy, who helped to establish the “art of medals” as a discipline at St. Petersburg's Academy, have a special place in the museum. His medallions depict the 1812 War in Russia. A very valuable 16th–century poster of Sigismund the Old will be of interest to visitors. In the Museum of Miniature Arts we will see more artworks of the Lithuanian school (works of Vilnius’s goldsmith guild, the already mentioned Rusecki portrait, and others). At the restored exposition, a great deal of attention will be placed on the evolution of Lithuanian medals. 

Visitors will particularly like the colored copper engravings, which depict costumes from the late 17th century – early 19th century. They will serve a double function, as they acquaint visitors with the history of clothing with their details and attributes, while on the other hand, the engravings will show what types of soldiers, artists and other professions existed. Visitors will be struck by the steel engravings of English artists, who focused on the architectural monuments of antiquity. Such art was financed by an association that wished to make ancient monuments more popular at the time. With their poetic as well as romantic images, the creators of these
engravings look not only at Europe (Italy, Greece, and the Crimea) but also at monuments in Africa and Asia Minor. At the restored museum, visitors will see more than a few examples of applied art: small paintings, boxes, and wallets created by the art of sewing colored glass bead; tiny porcelain and faience sculptures, vases, plates and cups; 19th–century tableware as well as plaster cast busts of ancient gods and goddesses from the Mesien factory. 

From this summer on, the more than one–hundred examples of miniature paintings, a part of the National Art Museum of Lithuania's collection, will once again be a cultural jewel to the natural environs of Neringa. Visitors will have the opportunity to explore landscapes, portraits, compositions with religious, everyday–life, and mythological motifs, and the various techniques of miniature painting: the application oil paint on small copper or marble plates, water–colors r gouache on ivory or paper, as well as varnish or enamel painting. 

From the mid–18th century, the painting of miniature portraits became the most important from of miniature–making. This type of the art makes up the largest portion of the National Art Museum of Lithuania's collection – more than 70 art works, which will be amply represented at the Miniature Museum. The styles of Rococo, Classicism, and Romanticism (often with a dash of sentimentality) in portraits, painted watercolors and gouache on ivory plates (less often on paper) acquaint one with the grace of how artists apply both subtlety and image. Such subtlety and image are then highlighted even more by the exquisite little frames. The miniatures represent different schools – French, Austrian, German, Russian, Polish, and Lithuanian. 

We hope that museum visitors will enjoy the miniatures of the self–educated artist, Lida Meðkaitytë. Her works are being kept at the National Art Museum of Lithuania; they will make up a third of the exposition. Visitors may take in the subtle miniatures of Meðkaitytë, which convey the outdoors of the artist's home village of Antðvenèiai with precision. It is a world of silence, which radiates goodness and invokes peacefulness. In the artist's miniatures, expressions of the moment pulsate, as they open to subtle images of nature and the images of the world of people. 

Besides miniatures, two exhibitions will also be running in other museum buildings during the summer season: The Lithuanian art exhibition, “Dolls and Textiles” and an exhibition on amber and works of amber, “Amber Miniatures,” which the National Art Museum of Lithuania has put together with “Gintaro pasaulis” Ltd.


Romualdas Budrys, director of Lithuanian Art Museum



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