• An Offering to Hymen - Sir Alfred Gilbert, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • An Offering to Hymen - Sir Alfred Gilbert, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • An Offering to Hymen - Sir Alfred Gilbert, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • An Offering to Hymen - Sir Alfred Gilbert, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • An Offering to Hymen - Sir Alfred Gilbert, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • An Offering to Hymen - Sir Alfred Gilbert, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • An Offering to Hymen - Sir Alfred Gilbert, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • An Offering to Hymen - Sir Alfred Gilbert, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • An Offering to Hymen - Sir Alfred Gilbert, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • An Offering to Hymen - Sir Alfred Gilbert, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • An Offering to Hymen - Sir Alfred Gilbert, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • An Offering to Hymen - Sir Alfred Gilbert, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
Click image to enlarge

An Offering to Hymen

Sir Alfred Gilbert

(British, 1854-1934)

Bronze with red, dark and light brown patination
Height: 11 5/8'' (29.5 cm)

Conceived and cast circa 1884-1886


Conceived in 1884, while Gilbert was still in Rome, this small statuette depicts a naked young woman offering two gifts to Hymen, the god of marriage and the attendant to Venus. The work was highly acclaimed by public and critics alike during its first ever exhibition at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1886. Gilbert first met the pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones at this venue: this chance meeting developed into a lasting friendship between the two artists.

In the present, rare version of the model, the young girl holds a miniature winged figure of Anteros (the Greek god of requited love) in her left hand and a sprig of hawthorn in her right one. In another variation of the model the hawthorn is replaced with either a goblet or a rose. The beautifully-preserved silvered patination of both offerings on this piece adds to the rarity of the model.

The figure stands on a richly-decorated pedestal, which is heavily adorned with repeated, miniature grotesques. As the art historian Susan Beattie pointed out, these decorations ‘suggest the hieroglyphics on a pagan altar’ and thus echo ‘the symbolism of the statuette’.

In another reading of the work, the model can be placed alongside Gilbert’s Perseus Arming (1881) and Icarus (1884), completing a triad of works concerned with the transformation from youth to maturity. In Gilbert’s Perseus, the hero glances towards his winged sandals, questioning whether they will be fit for the daunting task of fighting the monstrous Medusa. Likewise, in the present model, Gilbert depicts the uneasiness of the young woman as she proceeds to the altar and the ceremony that awaits her, displaying the figure’s nervous, almost trance-like demeanour, through her stiff posture and focused expression.

Other versions of this model can be found in the collections of the City of Manchester Art Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum (London), National Museum of Wales (Cardiff) and the Ashmolean Museum (Oxford).

Works by Sir Alfred Gilbert

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