• Group of the Lovers - Sir Alfred Gilbert, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Group of the Lovers - Sir Alfred Gilbert, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Group of the Lovers - Sir Alfred Gilbert, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Group of the Lovers - Sir Alfred Gilbert, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Group of the Lovers - Sir Alfred Gilbert, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Group of the Lovers - Sir Alfred Gilbert, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Group of the Lovers - Sir Alfred Gilbert, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Group of the Lovers - Sir Alfred Gilbert, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
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Group of the Lovers

Sir Alfred Gilbert

(British, 1854-1934)

Plaster wax and plasticine
Height: 6 1/8'' (15.5 cm)

Conceived and modelled circa 1892


Provenance:

Given by Alfred Gilbert to the sculptor Albert Toft (1862–1949)
Thence by descent to his grand-son

The Group of the Lovers (circa 1890) is a unique, hand-modelled plaster of which no other versions or bronze casts are known to exist. The artist gifted the piece to Albert Toft, another great contributor to the New Sculpture movement and personal friend of Gilbert’s.

The Group of the Lovers is strongly reminiscent of numerous sketches produced by Gilbert as studies for potential gifts, designs for cutlery, pendants and jewelry in silver or gold. In particular, a series of six silver spoons produced between 1893 and 1903 show a similar composition, with a male and female figure embracing at the bottom of the handle. These have been interpreted as Adam and Eve, although little information about the work can be found in the artist’s diary and archives.

At the same time, the piece could equally represent the study for a seal and it might have been conceived as a potential crowning element of the so-called De Vesci Seal, now part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art collection in New York City. The seal was commissioned from the artist on 1 January 1891 by John Robert William Versey, 4th Viscount de Vesci. As was typical with Gilbert’s commissions, the artist took over five years to complete the work, which was delivered only in 1886. Ten years later, the Viscount presented the Seal to his wife (née Lady Evelyn Charteris) as a present for their silver wedding anniversary. Indeed, the figure in armour surmounting the elaborate seal holds two shields marked respectively with the arms of Vesey and Charteris, suggesting the union between the two families.

The Group of the Lovers could have been devised by Gilbert as the crowning element of such a seal, with the two figures representing the union between the Viscount and his wife, only to be replaced by the figure in armour—more in keeping with the heraldic nature of the commission.

We are grateful for Richard Dorment for his assistance in cataloguing this work.

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