Sir Alfred Gilbert
Comedy and Tragedy: ‘Sic Vita’ c.1890–2

Artwork details

Sir Alfred Gilbert 1854–1934
Comedy and Tragedy: ‘Sic Vita’
Date c.1890–2
Medium Bronze
Dimensions Object: 349 x 152 x 140 mm
Acquisition Bequeathed by Frederick Harrison 1936
Not on display

Display caption

The Latin subtitle to this work means 'Thus is life'. Gilbert explained that the sculpture represents a prop-boy carrying the mask of Comedy: 'He is stung by a bee - a symbol of love. He turns and his face becomes tragic. The symbol is in reality fact. I was stung by that bee, typified by my love for my art, a consciousness of its incompleteness'. While outwardly successful, Gilbert was trapped in a spiral of debt, disputes over uncompleted commissions and anxiety about his sick wife. He saw this sculpture as 'the climax to my cycle of stories' begun with Perseus Arming and Icarus. From a certain angle the face of Tragedy can be seen through the grinning mouth of Comedy.

February 2010

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