8 June 2006
SIR ALFRED GILBERT, M.V.O., R.A. (1854-1934)
Comedy and Tragedy (Sic Vita)
bronze, dark-brown patina, on verde antico marble socle and later marble plinth
overall: 15 3/8 in. (39 cm.) high
By repute, Sir Edgar Bertram MacKennal, K.C.V.O., R.A. (1863-1931).
with the Fine Art Society, London, 1981.
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R. Dorment, Alfred Gilbert, Sculptor and Goldsmith, London, Royal Academy, exh. cat., 1986, pp. 116-8.
R. Dorment, Alfred Gilbert, New Haven and London, 1985, pp. 131-4.
Begun in February 1891 and inspired by W. S. Gilbert's play of the same name, then in revival at the Lyceum, Alfred Gilbert's Comedy and Tragedy represents the final work in his series of autobiographical bronzes. Using as his metaphor a prop boy stung by a bee as he carries a mask of Comedy, Gilbert's message is one of a sculptor whose professional, financial and domestic difficulties are concealed behind a mask of success and contentment. A polychromed plaster version of the model was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1892 and bronzes casts in three sizes (the present bronze being an example of the smallest) were subsequently produced by the Compagnie des Bronzes, Brussels.
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