An Offering to Hymen
Sir Alfred Gilbert, R. A. (1854-1934)
Bronze with rich brown patination on an ebonized wood socle
11 inches; (29 cm.)
According to Richard Dorment, whose detailed catalogue entry also relates the complex issues involving the dating, multiple versions, and exhibition history of this work, it presents "a pubescent girl [who] presents two gifts to the god of Marriage: a tiny, winged statuette representing Anteros, and a silver goblet (in some casts a sprig of hawthorne). The circular base on which she stands, intrinsic to the statue and decorated with classical grotesques, suggests an altar or the approach to one.
"On one Ievel, the child in An Offering to Hymen should be compared to the more-or-less unclothed ladies who afforded the Victorian public a glimpse of thc high life in ancient Rome in Alma-Tadema's classical genre subjects. Or she might be placed with Burne-Jones's stable of nymphets, who tremble on the brink of sexual awareness (Venus Epithalamia, 1871; the Fogg Art Museum), and even make sacrifices to this very god (The Altar of Hymen, 1874; Private collection). But [it] is much more than that, for unlike Alma-Tadema's or Burne-Jones's sophisticated maidens, Gilbert's shy little girl stands in a pose that is awkward and stiff. The statue is thus more a thoughtful study of innocence and inexperience than an exercise in Burne-Jonesian innuendo" (Victorian High Renaissance, p.178.)
Photograph from Robert Bowman, Sir Alfred Gilbert and the New Sculpture (2008)