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Statuette - Comedy and Tragedy: 'Sic Vita'
  • Comedy and Tragedy: 'Sic Vita'
    Gilbert, Alfred Sir, born 1854 - died 1934
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Comedy and Tragedy: 'Sic Vita'

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1891 - ca. 1892 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Gilbert, Alfred Sir, born 1854 - died 1934 (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:


  • Credit Line:

    Presented by Art Fund and Mr. Sigismund Goetze

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This is a model for a bronze statuette produced by Sir Alfred Gilbert, made ca. 1891-2. A naked youth standing on his right leg is holding a grinning mask in both hands and looks down over his left shoulder.

As with the figure of Perseus (77-1904), in his interview given in the Easter Art Annual, Gilbert related this statue to his personal life, as being ' the climax to my cycle of stories...It represents a boy carrying a comic mask. He is stung by a bee - the 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, my love was not sufficient...I was living a kind of double life at that time, enjoying the society of Irving and Toole and other famous and pleasant members of the Garrick Club going to the theatre at night, and with Tragedy in my private life, living my Comedy publicly, if not enjoying it'. A one-act play at the Lyceum called Comedy and Tragedy inspired Gilbert, and he furhter states that ' I conceived the notion of harking back to the old Greek stage upon which masks were always worn, and I conceived a kind of stage property boy rushing away in great glee with his comedy mask, and on his way being stung by a bee. This was the only way in which I could present the hidden pain and passion of the boy'.

Sir Alfred Gilbert (1854-1934) was a famous British sculptor of the late 19th century. He was also medallist, goldsmith and draughtsman. He was known for his inventiveness and characteristically used many different materials in the same work. He epitomised the movement known as the “New Sculpture”, with a new focus on naturalistic forms. His many commissions included for example the celebrated figure of Eros, part of the Shaftsbury memorial.

Physical description

Plaster, model, full size. Comedy and Tragedy. A naked youth standing on his right leg, the left raised; he holds a grinning mask in both hands and looks over his left shoulder to his feet, which was stung by a bee.

Place of Origin

England (made)


ca. 1891 - ca. 1892 (made)


Gilbert, Alfred Sir, born 1854 - died 1934 (maker)

Materials and Techniques



Height: 77 cm including pedestal, Height: 68 cm

Object history note

At the studio of the sculptor at the time of his death. Given by Mr Sigismund Goetze and the National Art Collections Fund with A.88, 89-1936 and 91-99-1936.

Historical context note

According to Gilbert it represents 'A (Greek) stage property boy rushing away in great glee with his comedy mask, and on the way being stung by a bee.'

Descriptive line

Statuette, model, plaster, depicting Comedy and Tragedy, by Alfred Gilbert, English, ca. 1891-2

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Bilbey, Diane with Trusted, Marjorie. British Sculpture 1470 to 2000. A Concise Catalogue of the Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: V& A Publications, 2002, p. 279, cat. no. 426
McAllister, Isabel, Alfred Gilbert London, A&C Black, 1929, p.88
Machell-Cox, E., Commemorative Catalogue of an Exhibition of Models and Designs by the late Sir Alfred Gilbert, R.A. London, 1936, p.17, cat. 8 and pl. V
Butler, R and Glover Lindsay, S et al. European Sculpture of the Nineteenth Century. National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, New York and London, 2000, p.268, fig. 2.
Bury, Adrian, The Shadow of Eros, London, 1954, p. 70



Subjects depicted

Comedy; Boy; Mask; Tragedy


Sculpture; Myths & Legends; Theatre


Sculpture Collection

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