Six colourful and richly detailed tapestries by British artist Grayson Perry have been installed in the nave of Salisbury Cathedral in the west of England. The group, titled “The Vanity of Small Differences,” has already toured the country, but this is the first time they have been staged in a church setting.

The works, each measuring four meters by two meters, were inspired by William Hogarth’s narrative painting series, specifically The Rake’s Progress (1734) which follows the rise and fall of the debaucherous Tom Rakewell. The 18th-century artist typically used these paintings to make biting social commentary about pretensions and class.

Here, Perry’s protagonist Tim Rakewell explores upward mobility in the present day, using a cast of characters based on people the artist encountered while traveling to various regions of the UK for a TV program.

“Rich in colour and content, it is Perry’s acutely observed attention to detail which draws you in,” said curator Beth Hughes. “I’m sure we all have moments of familiarity as we look through this tableau of English life and see that mug we have at home and ask ourselves, which social class do I belong to?”

References to classical and religious art can be found in the paintings, including to Giovanni Bellini’s The Agony in the Garden and Andrea Mantegna’s The Adoration of the Cage Fighters.

“The Vanity of Small Differences” runs until September 25 2022. See images of the installation below. 

Installation view of Grayson Perry’s tapestry series “The Vanity of Small Differences” in Salisbury Cathedral. Photo: Finnbarr Webster.

Installation view of Grayson Perry’s tapestry series “The Vanity of Small Differences” in Salisbury Cathedral. Photo: Finnbarr Webster. Courtesy of Salisbury Cathedral.

Installation view of Grayson Perry’s tapestry series “The Vanity of Small Differences” in Salisbury Cathedral. Photo: Finnbarr Webster.

Installation view of Grayson Perry’s tapestry series “The Vanity of Small Differences” in Salisbury Cathedral. Photo: Finnbarr Webster. Courtesy of Salisbury Cathedral.

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