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A Bishop Saint

  • Object:

    Portrait bust

  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain, UK (made)

  • Date:

    1899 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

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

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Bronze and carved ivory, copper foil and lead foil, with glass beads, on an ebonised wood socle

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Lord Harvey of Tasburgh, in accordance with the wishes of Lady Harvey of Tasburgh, and Lady Jean Makins MBE

  • Museum number:

    A.4-1995

  • Gallery location:

    Sculpture, room 111, case 10, shelf 3

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This is a prime example of Alfred Gilbert’s experimental working methods. The central core is a discarded bronze torso from another statuette. To this he has added a painted ivory head, a bronze cope studded with glass beads and a copper mitre. Though meant as a model for a tomb figure, it was sold as an independent work. It is a model for the tomb of Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence, at Windsor. The tomb was commissioned from Gilbert in 1892, and this bust would have been one of the group of statuettes placed around the effigy. However in the event Gilbert did not include it and sold it separately in 1899.
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. This was made in a novel material, aluminium. Gilbert's masterpiece was however the tomb for the Prince and Princess of Wales's eldest son, the Duke of Clarence, in the Albert Memorial Chapel at Windsor Castle, commissioned in 1892. He became obsessed with this commission and it took him 36 years to finish, causing him financial difficulties, which resulted in his selling copies of individual figures of the saints from the monument.

Physical description

The aged bishop, wearing a mitre and cope looks downwards. His head is carved in ivory and his robes made of copper foil and lead foil with wax. The bust is set on an ebonised wood socle.

Place of Origin

Great Britain, UK (made)

Date

1899 (made)

Artist/maker

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

Materials and Techniques

Bronze and carved ivory, copper foil and lead foil, with glass beads, on an ebonised wood socle

Marks and inscriptions

'Exhibition of Victoriana Manchester. 3. Edward the only Confessor. Bronze and 'ivory. H.12" by Sir Alfred Gilbert. Lender Lady Makins. Cheriton. Nr Arlesford, Hants. W. Wingate & Johnston (South) Ltd.'

Dimensions

Height: 29.5 cm, Height: 12 cm, Width: 12.5 cm, Depth: 11.5 cm, Weight: 2.140 kg, Height: 17.5 cm ivory alone

Object history note

The bust, made by Alfred Gilbert (1854-1934) was conceived as part of the Tomb of the Duke of Clarence (1892-1901) for the Albert Memorial Chapel, Windsor, commissioned in 1892. The combination of materials connects it with the first group of statuettes from the tomb. At one time mistakenly identified as Edward the Confessor, the work was more recently catalogued as A Bishop Saint by Richard Dorment. Gilbert apparently decided not to include the bust in the tomb and he sold it to Robert Dunthorne for £70 in 1899. Dunthorne immediately sold it to William Vivian, a collector that had already acquired several copies of statuettes from the tomb. The bust was passed through the family before being given to the museum by Lord Harvey of Tasburgh.
The bust was given to the museum in 1995 by Lady Harvey of Tasburgh, in accordance with the wishes of Lady Jean Makins MBE.

Descriptive line

Bust, bronze with copper foil and ivory, an aged Bishop Saint, perhaps St Boniface, by Sir Alfred Gilbert, Britain, 1899

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

Hatton, J. 'The Life and Work of Albert Gilbert R.A., M.V.O., D.C.L.', The Easter Art Annual, The Art Journal, 1903, p. 32, illustrated p. 27
Maskell, Alfred. Ivories, London, 1905, pp. 410-411
Maskell recorded A.4-1995 as one of two ivories by Gilbert in the Vivian Collection in 1905, and commented that both were 'repetitions of figures on the Clarence memorial, but not exact copies. The bishop was to have been full-length but Gilbert changed his mind.' However, there is no closely comparable figure on the finished Clarence Tomb and it seems likely that Maskell's statemant is an error.
Dorment, Richard. Alfred Gilbert, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1985, p. 201, fig. 126
Gilbert, C., The Studio Diary of Alfred Gilbert for 1899: The Identities of the Saints on the Duke of Clarence Memorial, Newcastle upon Tyne, 1987, p. 9 and pp. 22-3, note 12
mentions that the bust may be an early study for St Boniface for the Clarence tomb.
Bilbey, Diane and Trusted, Marjorie. British Sculpture 1470-2000. A Concise Catalogue of the Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 2002, p. 282, cat. no. 431
Dorment, R. Alfred Gilbert Sculptor and Goldsmith. (exh. cat.), Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1986, pp. 165-6, cat. no. 74, and illus. on pp. 63 and 165
Williamson, Paul, “Acquisition of Sculpture at the Victoria & Albert Museum, 1992-1999”, in: Burlington Magazine, Dec. 1999, pl. XVII
Trusted, Marjorie, Baroque & Later Ivories, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 2013, cat. no. 161

Exhibition History

Alfred Gilbert, Sculptor and Goldsmith (Royal Academy of Arts 01/01/1985-31/12/1985)
Victorian High Renaissance (Manchester Art Gallery 01/01/1978-31/12/1979)
Victorian High Renaissance (Manchester Art Gallery 01/01/1978-31/12/1979)
Victorian High Renaissance (Manchester Art Gallery 01/01/1978-31/12/1979)

Labels and date

A BISHOP SAINT
Ivory and bronze on an ebonised wood socle
By ALFRED GILBERT
ENGLISH, about 1892
Given by Lord Harvey of Tasburgh, in accordance with the wishes of Lady Jane Makins MBE

This small bust was originally conceived as part of the tomb of the Duke of Clarence in the Albert Memorial Chapel, Windsor. The wax and plaster model for the tomb is also displayed here. The tomb was commissioned from Gilbert in 1892, and this bust would have been one of a group of statuettes placed around the effigy. However in the event Gilbert did not include it, and sold it seperately in 1899. The bust is a fascinating example of Gilbert's use of improvised materials and experimental working methods: the central core of the figure is formed from a discarded bronze torso of a St George statuette, with the ivory head and bronze cope and mitre added on. [January 1996]

Production Note

The bust and two other works in the collection relate to Gilbert's commission for the Tomb of the Duke of Clarence.

Attribution note: The bust reveals Gilbert's spontaneous and experimental techniques. The bust, constructed out of the torso of the St. George figure used for the Clarence tomb, with the cope, ivory head and mitre added on, is more like a working model than a finished work. However, given the circumstances of the bust's origins there is no reason to suppose that there ever was a studio model and the bust is probably a unique work.
Reason For Production: Commission

Materials

Wood; Bronze; Ivory; Copper alloy; Foil; Glass beads

Techniques

Carved

Subjects depicted

Saint; Bishop (prelate)

Categories

Portraits; Sculpture; Religion; Christianity

Production Type

Unique

Collection code

SCP

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Qr_O8861
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