- Museum number
- Object: The Rosetta Vase
Vase, earthenware, white body, coil built, of ovoid form with narrow neck, with underglaze incised and stamped decoration, and designs painted in blue on a bright yellow ground, with a transparent craquelé glaze. Beneath the designs run slip-trailed linear motifs in pink echoing the cracks on an antique pot. The designs incorporate imagery inspired by objects in the British Museum, including the Museum as a Tree of Life inscribed up the stem 'Story of the World', Cultural Diplomacy'; and Merchandising Opportunities' on a tree house at the top. Signed towards the base of the body with Grayson Perry's punning potter's mark, imitating a silver hallmark: a crowned letter 'W' above an anchor.
- Production date
Diameter: 40.70 centimetres
Height: 78.50 centimetres
Weight: 35 kilograms
Weight: 77 pounds
- Curator's comments
- Made by the artist for his exhibition at the British Museum 'The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman', October 2011 - February 2012, see exhibition catalogue, pp. 95-98. The vase depicts the Museum as a modern-day secular place of pilgrimage where cultures and ideas meet. The imagery is covered in witty captions, including a quote from Jacob Bronowski: 'Monuments are supposed to commemorate kings and religions . . . but in the end the man they commemorate is the builder.' Most of the images are inspired by the British Museum in some way. The ship labelled 'sailing into the afterlife' can be seen as a reference to the Anglo-Saxon ship burial from Sutton Hoo, while the tree of knowledge, labelled 'Story of the World' refers to the successful BBC radio series 'A History of the World in 100 Objects' narrated by Neil MacGregor, then Director of the British Museum, in 2010.
The male human figure is inspired by the illustrations from an influential medieval Islamic treatise, 'The Anatomy of the Human Body', written by the Persian physician, Mansur ibn Ilyas, at the end of the 14th century. Many later copies of the treatise were made and such images were widely reproduced. The idea was that the body could be divided into different 'systems' (bones, veins, muscles, etc) each of which was labelled in the drawings. Perry has used the format to characterise himself, writing 'the artist' above the figure, so that it has become a self-portrait in the form of an anatomical drawing.
The colours of blue and white against a bright yellow ground pay homage to Chinese Qing dynasty porcelains of the 18th century. For an example in the BM, see Franks.833, a vase with dragon above similar stylised waves in blue and white against a yellow ground. See also a large vase of meiping shape in the V&A (C.995-1910) with dragons rising above breaking waves and probably made for the imperial court. The background has been overpainted weith yellow enamel and then fired again: http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O127934/vase/
Perry's vase retains the breaking waves at the base with the tree of life rising up from the water instead of dragons.
The floral decoration on the bottle vase inscribed 'Craftsmanship in the digital age' makes reference to Iznik pottery from Turkey.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2015-2016 10 Dec- 1 May, Australia, Sydney, Museum of Contemporary Art, Grayson Perry.
2014 Oct 14 - London, BM, G2, 'Collecting the World'
- Small firing cracks inside neck, and on base.
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number