Sarah Danays' Arms of The Portland Vase

18 Jun 2016 – 14 Aug 2016

Regular hours

10:00 – 16:00
10:00 – 16:00
10:00 – 16:00
10:00 – 16:00
10:00 – 16:00
10:00 – 16:00

Cost of entry


The Harley Gallery

Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom


Save Event: Sarah Danays' Arms of The Portland Vase

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Sarah Danays is a Los Angeles based sculptor and photographer whose work is inspired by gesture and antiquities – notably broken ones.


To mark the opening of the new Gallery to house The Portland Collection, Danays has chosen to celebrate the Harley family’s most famous purchase: The Portland Vase.  Standing less than ten inches tall, the deep blue Vase with white low-relief frieze is considered the world’s finest complete example of Roman cameo glass and estimated to have been made during the reign of Emperor Augustus, between 27 BC and AD 14.  Purchased by the Duchess of Portland in 1784, it has been on permanent exhibition at the British Museum since 1810.

To create a template for the sculpture installation, the artist enlarged the architectural frieze of the Vase by seven times to find they matched the vertical proportions of The Parthenon frieze.  The resulting super-minimal composition, which strips away the remainder of the Vase’s scene to isolate the arms of the six adult characters, reveals a very contemporary gestural stand-off within the group.

Danays’ Arms of The Portland Vase are not facsimiles.  Her figurative sculpture makes no attempt to be anatomically correct – indeed, these mysterious three-quarter life size stone limbs are anatomical anomalies.

By exaggerating the already remarkable physical proportions of the arms of the original Vase – where complex foreshortening and perspectives achieve animation, form and depth on a gently convex surface – and hand carving them in-the-round as full sculptures, her work celebrates the genius of its anonymous makers and enables a reexamination of the Vase’s secret.

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