Tiny Statues in Cities around the World

We are familiar with so many of the largest statues in the world, some of which Anne and I have featured in recent blogs. We wondered about tiny statues or monuments and a search of www.smithsonianmag.com opened our eyes to these 4 cuties with interesting histories.

Chizhik-Pyzhik, Saint Petersburg, Russia

Credit: Dmitry Alexeenko

Most tourists passing over the First Engineer Bridge where the Fontanka and Moyka rivers meet miss the four-inch statue perched on a small ledge on the stonework below - a miniature bronze sculpture of a siskin (chizhik in Russian), a bird related to the finch.

Georgian sculptor Rezo Gabriadze created the piece in 1994 as a tribute to the often rowdy students that attended the Imperial Legal Academy that once occupied the same site. The figure is a nod to the students' green and yellow uniforms, which mimicked the color pattern of the bird. The school, founded in 1835 under the approval of Tsar Nicholas I, taught jurisprudence​​to the children of Russia's nobility for over 80 years. Although alcohol was forbidden at the school, the students' covert social activities were memorialized in a popular folk song known throughout Russia: “Chizhik Pyzhik, where've you been? Drank vodka on the Fontanka. Took a shot, took another, got dizzy.” The school was closed in 1918, following the Bolshevik Revolution.

One of the problems with having a mini monument is that thieves often see it as a free souvenir. Over the years, the sculpture has been the victim of theft on numerous occasions, so in 2002 the staff of the Museum of Urban Sculpture had several copies made, just to be safe.

If you spot the small sculpture, it’s believed that dropping a coin that lands on the ledge brings good luck.  

Dwarfs, Wrocław, Poland

Since 2001, more than 300 miniature bronze statues of dwarfs have sprouted up throughout the city of Wroclaw, lurking in the alleyways or standing in plain sight outside of businesses. But while they may be cute to look at, they have an unusual history tied to resistance to Communism.

The dwarfs are a nod to the Orange Alternative, an underground anti-Communism group that often used graffiti, particularly drawings of dwarfs, to get their message across. The dwarfs originally started popping up in the early 1980s when protest artists started adding arms and legs to the "blobs" that resulted when more overt anti-government slogans were painted over. These dwarf figures caught on, becoming the symbol of the movement. On June 1, 1987, the coalition held a massive rally where thousands of demonstrators donned red hats and marched through the city.

As a way to commemorate the Orange Alternative’s contribution to the fall of Communism in central Europe, the city commissioned local artists to create bronze sculptures of dwarfs. And today, its annual Wrocław Festival of Dwarfs proves popular every September.

The Two Mice Eating Cheese, London

You have to crane your neck to spot London’s smallest statue, a carving of two mice battling over a hunk of cheese, located on the upper façade of a building at the intersection of Philpot Lane and Eastcheap in London, created in remembrance of two men who died during the construction of the Monument to the Great Fire of London, a stone column built in 1677 in memory of those who perished in a devastating citywide fire that had occurred in 1666. Although details of the incident are murky at best, the legend is that the men fell to their deaths after a fight broke out after one of them accused the other of eating his cheese sandwich. It was later learned that the real culprit was a mouse.

Frog Traveler, Tomsk, Russia

Credit: Tomsk Hotel

If you blink, you might miss the Frog Traveler considered the smallest public monument in the world, located outside Hotel Tomsk  in Russia. The barely two-inch bronze statue, created in 2013, is the work of sculptor Oleg Tomsk Kislitsky. In a statement, the artist says that his goal was to create the world’s smallest monument while also giving a nod to the travelers of the world. He based the idea for the piece on a popular Russian children’s book called The Frog went Travelling, by author Vsevolod Garshin, which tells the tale of a traveling amphibian and the creatures he meets along the way.

Perhaps you've spotted a tiny statue that has peaked your curiosity?