Sigurd with Ring
Signed: Gilbert Bayes 1909
Enamelled bronze with a rich brown and green patination
On a carved marble base
Height 28 inches (71 cm)
Entitled on the bronze base: 'He Who Would Win To The Heavens & Be As The Gods On High Must Tremble Nought At The Road & The Place Where Men Folk Die.'
Conceived and cast 1909
Five examples of the model are known. One of which is in the Gilbert Bayes Trust and another is in the collection of the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool. A further two casts of the model incorporating a sword, rather than a ring, are in the collections of the Tate and Ashmolean museums.
Gilbert Bayes was born into an artistic family in London. He was the son of the painter and etcher Alfred Walter Bayes and brother of the painter Walter John Bayes. He studied at the Royal Academy Schools under the sponsorship of George Frampton and in 1899 won the gold medal and travelling scholarship, which enabled him to study in France and Italy.
He exhibited at the Royal Academy between 1905 and 1952 and was president of the Royal British Society of Sculptors between 1939 and 1944.
Bayes specialised in reliefs and statuettes (often incorporating enamelling) modelled after the antique or derived from folklore, Biblical subjects and mythology. Some of his most well known works include the Great Clock or The Queen of Time at Selfridge’s in Oxford Street, London, the Offerings of Peace and War, a pair of heroic equestrian statues, that stand outside the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney and The Destiny War Memorial in Albion Gardens, Kent.
The present work is one of the sculptor’s most dramatic and is based on Wagner’s Opera The Ring of the Nibeling (Der Ring des Nibelungen). The opera was in turn inspired by the Nordic legend of Siegfried (Sigurd) and Brunhilde.
According to the legend, Brunhilde, a Shieldmaiden (female warrior), had been condemned to sleep for eternity, trapped in a ring of flames unless any man could rescue and marry her. Siegfried, slayer of dragons, managed to reach Brunhilde and the pair fell madly in love. Siegfried gave Brunhilde his ring as a symbol of his devotion and in return, she gave him her helmet of invisibility and horse.
After leaving Brunhilde, Siegfried was then given a love potion by Gutrune, sister of Gunther, Lord of the Gibichungs, and agreed to marry her instead of Brunhilde. In her grief at Siegfried’s betrayal, Brunhilde tells one of her many suitors of Siegfried’s weak point and Siegfried is killed. However, in his dying moments the love potion wears off and he again proclaims his true love for Brunhilde.
At his funeral pyre, Brunhilde, distraught at her misfortune and the loss of Siegfried, rides her horse into the flames and is consumed along with her lover’s body.
In addition to the bronze and enamelled figure of figure of Siegfried, the hand carved marble base shows Brunhilde, leading her horse Grane, followed by Siegfried, two soldiers and Gutrune. The reverse shows the body of Siegfried carried by soldiers to his funeral pyre. The inscription along the base of the bronze instructs mankind that if they wish to be like the gods, they too must not fear death.