Sir Alfred Gilbert, R. A. (1854-1934)
Bronze, rich, mid and dark brown patination
Height: 14 1/4 inches
Exhibited: Grosvenor Gallery, 1882. [British Sculpture 1850-1914, p. 24.]
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Commentary by Robert Bowman
Gilbert's greatness as a sculptor can be seen in his combination of neo-renaissance and romantic styles, combining the twisting forms of the former, with the charming subject matter, so popular with the pre-Raphaelite painters, of the latter.
The Greek mythology of Perseus is a favourite among poets and artists alike. Perseus was half-man and half-god; his mother was Danae a mortal who was seduced by the God Zeus. His life was full of many brave and exciting stories, including his slaying of the Gorgon, Medusa. Medusa had the ability to petrify anything with her gaze, but Perseus had a polished shield that he brought up in front of his face as protection, looking at her in the reflection. In this way he was able to slay the Gorgon without being turned to stone in the process.
Gilbert's visit to Florence from his base in Rome in 1879, introduced him to the great bronzes of the Renaissance, in particular Donatello's David &nd Cellini's Perseus. His sculpture of Perseus combines his reaction to the sculpture with his own feelings about his life and career. He felt Perseus was a man just about to prove his worth, "He looks back to ensure he has all of the tools he needs." Gilbert claimed that he was "writing my own history by symbol".
Perseus Arming was commissioned by Sir Henry Doulton and was first exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1882; critically acclaimed, it set the young twenty-eight year old sculptor on his path to becoming an A.R.A. in 1886.
Bowman, Robert. Craft and Creation — 2005. London: Robert Bowman Gallery, 2005, pp. 72-73.
Beattie, Susan. The New Sculpture. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983.