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Like gold to airy thinness beat

Like gold to airy thinness beat


Balsa wood, 22 carat gold leaf

Moon Gallery, Nanoracks, Voyager Space

A miniature model of a boat in balsa wood. The sail is tissue paper gilded with fine 22 carat gold leaf. The single square-rigged sail indicates that the ship is a cog, once widely used in north-west medieval Europe.

This tiny ship is naïve, bold and determined.

This piece is inspired by the love poem A Valediction Forbidding Mourning written by John Donne in 1612. He wrote this love poem to his wife in England before his voyage to Europe. The poem assures us that two people who are physically separated will remain spiritually connected. The central simile of the piece is in the sixth stanza:

“Our two souls therefore, which are one,

   Though I must go, endure not yet

A breach, but an expansion,

   Like gold to airy thinness beat.”

According to Donne, though the lovers are separated, their souls will expand like fine gold to maintain their connection across oceans.

“Like gold to airy thinness beat” evokes the fine solar sails which will soon carry new ships across the oceans of space. One day lovers will stand on separate worlds, and these sails will bridge the gulf between them. This is a model for how mankind’s expansion across space can be: the very best of us will expand across vast distances, and yet we can conquer the loneliness of space travel if we stay connected with our own souls and those of others.

Technical information:

Artwork name:

Like gold to airy thinness beat




Justin Donnelly


This work is part of the following collection:

Moon Gallery

Balsa wood, 22 carat gold leaf



1 x 1 x 1 cm



IAAA Art Style:

Launch vehicle / mission:

Antares 230+ / NG-17 Cygnus resupply mission

Host spacecraft / hardware:

International Space Station



Launch location:

NASA Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia

Launch date:

19 Feb 2022

Orbit / space location:

LEO, International Space Station (ISS)

Return vehicle:

SpaceX Dragon 2

End date:

11 January 2023



Client / Agency:

Moon Gallery, Nanoracks, Voyager Space


Justin Donnelly


Justin Donnelly

Gillian Fitzpatrick



Gillian Fitzpatrick


Moon Gallery


Moon Gallery


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