Comedy and Tragedy (1891 - 1892)
About this artwork
The nude young man holds out a large comic mask in both hands. Its large laughing mouth frames the youth's head when the sculpture is viewed from the left. However, his body twists towards the right and the expression on his own face reveals a surprising contrast to the comic mask as he grimaces in pain. He has apparently been stung by a bee. The half-mask which he wears like a head band emphasises the tragic face. The figure was inspired by the play 'Comedy and Tragedy' by W.S.Gilbert (1836-1911) which the sculptor saw at the Lyceum Theatre, London.
As a gifted sculptor Gilbert received many prestigious commissions. He entered the Royal Academy schools after he had failed to win a scholarship to study medicine at the Middlesex Hospital. Gilbert continued his art education in Paris and Rome and his own work was inspired by the idealised nude figures of the classical tradition. He returned to London in 1884 and produced one of his most famous works, the statue of Eros, the Greek god of love, as part of the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain in Picadilly Circus. Gilbert was appointed Professor of Sculpture at the Royal Academy in 1900.