Grayson Perry b. 1960


Birch & Conran, London
Private Collection, UK (acquired from the above in 1989)


The shape of this pot is borrowed from 18th Century Staffordshire urns, which also feature similar decorative edging, ornamental relief and name plates. These Victorian ceramics were, in turn, inspired by Greek and Roman urns, which is perhaps one explanation for this work's title. Here, Perry has used coiling, (a relatively crude, but immediate method), to build the basic shape of the pot and the resulting form is pleasingly askew and lumpy. He explains,

'My manufacture of pots can be at the same time genteel and crude, this persuades the viewer to adopt a frame of mind perhaps at odds with the subject matter. I strive for my own perfection but do not mind my works retaining a naivety and clumsiness' 1

This is one of Perry's first pots to feature sprig moulding. This traditional technique involves making moulds from small found objects, then pressing soft clay into them to make decorative reliefs, which Perry then fixes to his pot with a dab of slip. The decorative edging at the shoulder of the pot is made in this way, as are the heads of English monarchs which are evenly spaced around it. On the body of the pot is the head of Jesus and other ornamental (masonic?) emblems and around the foot is a circle of barbed rose stems and a Harley Davidson winged-skull. These same sprig moulds pop up in other works - the Harley skull appears as the stopper on a perfume bottle and as a decorative handle to funeral urns in The Ashes of Grayson, 1988. The barbed roses appear in another pot Y-Fronts and Roses, 1988, where Perry explained they signified 'the double edged nature of relationships'. 2

In the late 1980s, Perry began using ready-made, open stock transfers, reveling in their 'vulgar kitsch'. Here we see sentimental Victorian scenes such as a horse and cart meeting a sailing ship and children skating on a frozen lake, gaudy yellow flowers and Japanese pagodas in 'oriental' blue and white. The transfers are crudely integrated into the pot within sombre coloured glazes which are applied in splashy brushstrokes. The overall feel is of a slightly dysfunctional trophy, the various signs of Englishness tinged with pathos - a classical compromise.

1 Grayson Perry, introduction to exhibition catalogue, Birch and Conran
2 Grayson Perry in conversation with Jackie Klein, Grayson Perry, Thames and Hudson, London, 2013, p128