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An English bronze group, entitled 'The Broken Shrine'


An English bronze group, entitled 'The Broken Shrine'
Cast from a model by Sir Alfred Gilbert, Circa 1900
A crouching woman enfolding two babes within her arms, seated on the edge of a shrine in ruins with a stoup below, inscribed Alfred Gilbert and The Broken Shrine/six copies were made, this is the 2nd, on original mottled-green marble octagonal socle
16¾ in. (42.5 cm.) high
R. Dorment, Alfred Gilbert, New Haven and London, 1985, fig. 137, pp. 211-5
London, Royal Academy of Arts, Alfred Gilbert, Sculptor and Goldsmith, 1986, no. 99
Sale Room Notice
Please note, this bronze is also inscribed Six copies were made, this is the 2nd.

Lot Essay

Alfred Gilbert modelled The Broken Shrine in circa 1900, it is one of his most revealing and personal works. He had treated the theme of the Mother and Child before, in particular the Mother teaching Child of 1881 (Dorment, op. cit., fig. 17). However, the open composition and innocence of the earlier work is quite distant from the 1900 bronze. The mother is aged, and is shown crouching timorously within a broken edifice; the healthy nurturing of the first is exchanged for a haunting precariousness and isolation in the second. These emotions reflect Gilbert's situation at the time of execution and his depressed outlook on contemporary society.
Though a vision of his most unguarded self, The Broken Shrine has a definate place within the late oeuvre by Gilbert. The subject, traditionally that of Charity, was treated by Gilbert in 1899 in his standing figure of Charity (R.A., op. cit., no. 90). There a similar enshrouded woman closely embraces two infants. Though the woman is younger, the atmosphere is one of equal pathos, and is a natural precedent to the present group. Likewise, a similar fluidity of composition and moroseness of tone is visible in the huddled figure holding a dead infant, monkey and skull on the left of A Dream of Joy During a Sleep of Sorrow, of a few years later (Dorment, op. cit., pl. 162).
The Broken Shrine was first executed in plaster and exhibited at the Clifford Gallery in 1901. It appears that a very small edition of only six examples was cast in bronze, of which the present is the second. The accurate lost-wax casting has captured Gilbert's urgent handling of the modelling, and the reflection of light on the bronze surface highlights the sweeping forms of High Renaissance inspiration.


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