Gilbert Bayes

Sigurd

exhibited 1910

Medium
Bronze and enamel on marble base
Dimensions
Object: 886 x 483 x 286 mm, 118.5 kg
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1910
Reference
N02739

Display caption

William Morris's poem 'The Story of Sigurd the Volsung' (1877) was based on the Icelandic Sagas. It was well known but rarely the subject of works of art. It is quoted, around the base of this bronze, in Lombardic lettering. The shallow reliefs on the marble show on one side Brynhilde and on the other the death of Sigmund. Older sculptors, notably Alfred Gilbert, had made much in the 1890s of figures in medieval armour. Bayes here extended this interest to a dramatic pose and to decoration, adding coloured enamels to the bronze.

Gallery label, February 2010

Catalogue entry

N02739 SIGURD c. 1910
 
Inscr. around bronze base, ‘He who would win to the Heavens and be as the Gods on high/Must tremble nought at the road and the place where men-folk die’.
Bronze, with enamel on the horse's trappings, 28×19×11 1/4 (71×48×28·5), on marble base carved in relief, 6 7/8×18 1/4×10 1/4 (17·5×46·5×27·5).
Chantrey Purchase from the artist 1910.
Exh: R.A., 1910 (1913).
Lit: National Gallery of British Art [Tate Gallery], Catalogue, 1911, pp.8–9; Herbert Maryon, Modern Sculpture, 1933, pp.152, 173, the other version repr. pl.107 as that in the Tate; Eric Underwood, A Short History of English Sculpture, 1933, p.152.

A slightly altered version of the bronze and enamel statuette exhibited, with a different base, at the R.A. in 1909 (1834; repr. Royal Academy Pictures, 1909, p.113). In this earlier cast Sigurd holds a ring (the Niblungen ring) instead of his sword, which hangs at his side; the other hand is also different and the horse's head is held higher. In other details the two versions are identical which suggests that the artist may have reworked his original plaster.

The Tate version was first exhibited with a quotation from William Morris's Sigurd the Volsung, which quotation is also inscribed in Lombardic characters round the bronze base of the statuette. The reliefs on the two long sides of the marble base show two scenes from the same poem, Brynhilde with the Niblung brothers, Gunnar, Hogin and Guttorm, and their mother Grimhilde, and the body of Sigurd taken to burial; the patterns on the horse's trappings also contain motifs relating to the poem - for a full description see the catalogue cited above.

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, I