Recognized throughout his career for his ability to transcend formal boundaries, Arp’s amorphous compositions open up to vast associations and interpretations. In the present work the artist equally acknowledges Classical art in his title, as Amphore citérieure likely refers to an ancient vessel produced in Hispania Citerior (Tarraconensis, in Augustus reorganisation) between the first century BC and the first century AD. A container most commonly used for storing wine, the amphora also served as a prize and an ornamental object; with surrealist wit Arp has fashioned an object clearly alluding to the ancient, which we often find referenced in is works, inspired by his frequent visits to Greece.
The present work is executed in one of the mediums Arp was most celebrated for: that of the wooden reliefs, consisting of assemblages of wood pieces screwed together. Art historian Eric Robertson has suggested that Arp’s measured approach to the construction of his reliefs, combined with their ‘high degree of finish’, may seem ‘incongruous’ with the word ‘chance’ appearing in many of their titles (E. Robertson, Arp, New Haven, 2006, p.156). However, the element of chance was manifest both in Arp’s rearrangements of the reliefs, which indicate that he did not have a premeditated plan, and also in the making of the forms themselves: Arp reportedly gave only ambiguous instructions to the craftsman so as to encourage free interpretation.