The vanity of small differences

GP363_Lamentation_2012-FULLAt the Temple Newsam House in Leeds, there is currently an exhibition by Greyson Perry, “The Vanity of small differences.” It is a series of tapestries in mockery of William Hogarth’s “A Rake’s Progress” from 1735. Hogarth follows the rise and fall of Tom Rakewell paintings and engravings: Rakewell is a young man who falls prey to the fashions and foolishness of his time; an unhealthy mix of youth, money, lust and a city. Perry reflects this with Tim Rakewell: who comes from a common birth of a young mother and a runaway dad to a stereotypical infamous death by car accident and a ripe old age with a young new wife.

There are six tapestries following his life, all borne from Perry’s study and research into the class differences and ‘taste’ differences of males and females of the ‘common’ class. He focused around Sunderland, Tunbridge Wells and the Cotswolds. The tapestries were made along with the documentary series “All in the Best Possible Taste.”

They move from the circumstances of his birth, to the marriage of his mother to his step father, to his girlfriend and her family, to making his own (accompanied with the death of his mother.), to having a mansion in the Cotswolds as they are New money, (Not upper-class), before finally Tim’s death in “#Lamentation”.

My favourite would be the last one; focusing on Tim’s death, although the narration is from the woman who tries to help; who was walking past. She notes that “All he said to me was “Mother.”” Coming full circle, as the woman bears a resemblance to the image of his mother in the first tapestry. The last comment is “All that money and he dies in the gutter.” Rewording the fact that money doesn’t stop you from dying, a fact we all seem to ignore, as the social classes grow wider and the difference in ‘taste’ is dictated to us by circumstance. Making us Tim Rakewell obsessed with money, of rising through the ranks.


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