Melanie is part of a ceramic work entitled The Three Graces made by Turner Prize-winning artist Grayson Perry for his solo exhibition Who Are You? at the National Portrait Gallery during winter 2014-15.

Perry is known for his investigations into British class, gender and social issues, the results of which he then explores in his work. As part of his research for Who Are You? he attended a Miss Plus Size International competition in Somerset. There he met three larger-sized women and interviewed them about their struggle for acceptance. Melanie is a portrait of one of these women.

The curvaceous ceramic form echoes fertility figures dating back more than 25,000 years. By referencing these prehistoric celebrations of the female body, Perry’s portrait becomes a positive image of an oversized woman. Added to this, Perry’s title of The Three Graces is a reference to a long history of representations of idealised beauty, such as Antonio Canova’s famous sculpture (1814-17) of the same name. Layered on to the figure of Melanie are painted and printed images of women, from supermodels to the Madonna, which show the shifting view of what constitutes female perfection.

York Museums Trust holds the world’s most extensive collection of British studio ceramics, totalling more than 5,500 works by over 600 artists. In August 2015 York Art Gallery reopened after redevelopment with a new Centre of Ceramic Art, where many of these pieces are on display, alongside historic ceramics dating back to prehistoric times. Perry’s Melanie now joins the collection as the most prominent work of contemporary art in the new centre.


The artist.

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