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Sotheby's is bold, but right, to explore the wonder of the smaller scale

A young girl stands in a field full of endless tulips
For children, feeling small is a common occurrence, adults often have to seek it out Credit: Martin Pope/Martin Pope

One of the boring things about being a grown-up, I find, is a dull homogeneity of scale. We live, inevitably, in a world where most things are calibrated to the dimensions of the adult human. Even our measurements are based on the proportions of the human body – a thumb’s or arm’s length, a pace, a handful. It could hardly be otherwise (and if it were, it would make daily life frightfully inconvenient).

But compared with the gigantism and miniaturism of the world as experienced by children, it makes for a certain predictability. Unless you work in a field where your business is the study of the immense or the ineffably small, a daily dose of astonishment is hard to maintain.

For children, astonishment needs no maintenance. When you are closer to the ground than to your mother’s face when she stands up, when the family cat is as tall as your waist, and the kitchen table looms above your head,...

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