• Comedy & Tragedy (Large) - Sir Alfred Gilbert, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Comedy & Tragedy (Large) - Sir Alfred Gilbert, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Comedy & Tragedy (Large) - Sir Alfred Gilbert, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Comedy & Tragedy (Large) - Sir Alfred Gilbert, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Comedy & Tragedy (Large) - Sir Alfred Gilbert, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Comedy & Tragedy (Large) - Sir Alfred Gilbert, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Comedy & Tragedy (Large) - Sir Alfred Gilbert, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Comedy & Tragedy (Large) - Sir Alfred Gilbert, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
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Comedy & Tragedy (Large)

Sir Alfred Gilbert

(British, 1854-1934)

Bronze with a rich dark brown and green patination with lighter brown highlights.
Height: 26" (66 cm)

Conceived and cast circa 1890


Gilbert regarded Comedy and Tragedy as the climax to his trilogy of self-portraits; the first works in the series are Perseus Arming and Icarus. Comedy and Tragedy is reflective of of the sculptor’s state of mind during the early 1890s. By this point Gilbert was a well known sculptor with Royal patronage and a seemingly impeccable career ahead of him. Yet in his private life he was struggling. Mounting debts, problems with his patrons and a sick wife had left the sculptor in a state of anxiety and depression.

The model depicts a theatre-prop boy running with a theatrical mask whilst being stung on the leg by a bee. Through the image Gilbert tells the tale of a double life. On the one hand we see the wide smile of comedy, analogous to Gilbert’s own public persona as he played the role of a successful artist and man about town. Seen from the other side, the work tells a different story with the boy stung by a bee, clearly in pain, reflecting the distress of Gilbert’s chaotic life, both private and professional.

Combining these two images in one work was not easy, and the resulting model is a tour a tour de force in modeling. Whilst Perseus Arming and Icarus had been based on prototypes developed by Benvenuto Cellini and Donatello, here the mannerist twist is more reminiscent of Giambologna, an early master of the multi viewpoint sculpture.

The title for the work was inspired by W.S. Gilbert’s play of the same name. Gilbert had seen the play many times, particularly at the Lyceum theatre where his friend Mary Anderson played the lead.

Works by Sir Alfred Gilbert

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