Comedy and Tragedy: "Sic Vita" Sir Alfred Gilbert, R. A. (1854-1934). As Richard Dorment explains, "a nude youth, helmeted and carrying a comic mask, winces from a bee sting on his left leg. Viewed through the mask, the boy seems to be laughing; seen from the other side, he actually grimaces in pain. Gilbert explained to Hatton that Comedy and Tragedy, a pendant to Perseus Arming, completed "my cycle of stories," the autobiographical trilogy begun with Perseus Arming and continued with Icarus. He described how, in the early 1890s, he led a double life -- at night acting the comedy of a famous man about town, but during the day enduring the tragedy of mounting debts and (although he did not say so) an unhappy home life.] . . . Whereas Perseus and Icarus require a front view, here the spectator is invited to move around the statue, constantly shifting his viewpoint, for his eye never comes to rest, and he never discovers a completely satisfactory angle from which to see it. [Victorian High Renaissance]

Left: The bee stinging the young man (This is a photograph from a cast of Comedy and Tragedy in the Clarke Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts). Right: The mask. Click on images to enlarge them.

Photograph lower left by George P. Landow. Other photographs and text from Robert Bowman, Sir Alfred Gilbert and the New Sculpture (2008). Robert Bowman and the Fine Art Society, London, have most generously given their permission to use information, images, and text from the catalogue named above in the Victorian Web. Copyright on text and images from their catalogues remains, of course, with them. [GPL]


Bowman, Robert. Sir Alfred Gilbert and the New Sculpture. London: The Fine Art Society, 2008.

Dorment, Richard. Victorian High Renaissance. Minneapolis: The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 1978. No. 97.

Created 2008

Last modified 5 February 2020