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Perseus Arming: M.22-2015

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Object information

Current Location: In storage


Perseus Arming


Sculptor: Gilbert, Alfred




Nude figure of Perseus in the act of arming himself for future combat

Legal notes

Sir Ivor and Lady Batchelor Bequest through The Art Fund

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Bequeathed (2015-04-27) by Batchelor, Ivor, Sir and Lady


19th Century
Production date: after AD 1883 : Original plaster model: 1880-1; first bronze cast by 1882. This bronze version cast at an unknown date after 1883


In Greek mythology, Perseus was son of Zeus (king of the gods) and the mortal Danaë. His greatest feat was to slay Medusa, the snake-haired Gorgon monster. It was as a mighty athletic victor, holding aloft Medusa’s severed head, that Benvenuto Cellini (1500-71) famously portrayed him in the 1550s. Gilbert spent several years in Italy studying Renaissance art, and Perseus Arming is his deeply personal, autobiographical response to Cellini’s prototype. Gilbert said: 'amazed as I was by that great work, it still left me somewhat cold, insomuch that it failed to touch my sympathies. As at that time my whole thoughts were of my artistic equipment for the future, I conceived the idea that Perseus before becoming a hero was a mere mortal, and that he had to look to his equipment. That is a presage of my life and work at that time.' (Hatton 1903, p. 10). By showing Perseus in the act of quietly equipping himself for future trials, Gilbert emphasised Perseus’ mortal rather than heroic character. Gilbert modelled the original plaster of Perseus Arming in Rome in 1880-1, and had the first bronze of it cast in Italy using the lost-wax casting method. This was exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery, Bond Street, London in 1882 to great acclaim (his marble Kiss of Victory was exhibited at the Royal Academy at the same time) and at the Paris Salon in 1883, where it received an honourable mention. Perseus Arming was a highly significant early work and the first of three important, deeply personal bronzes which Gilbert made during his highly creative period of 1881 to 1892 (the other two being Icarus and Comedy and Tragedy - for a cast of the latter, see M.1-2003). Perseus Arming was one of Gilbert's most popular models. It was reproduced in three sizes: full-scale (c.71-74 cm), which is rare; half-scale (c.36 cm), the most popular size of which the Fitzwilliam has a fine version (M.4-1951); and quarter-scale (c.14.5cm). The dimensions of the present bronze are unusual; it may have been owned by Queen Victoria’s grandson, Alexander Mountbatten, 1st Marquess of Carisbrooke (1886–1960).

Sir Alfred Gilbert RA MVO (1854-1934) was an English sculptor. He studied in London, Paris and Rome, returning to England in 1884. Gilbert was the leading artist in the New Sculpture movement, which revitalised sculpture in late nineteenth-century Britain. He was also a vital force in reintroducing the lost-wax technique for casting works of art in bronze in England (sand-casting had been the norm for bronze sculpture since the 18th century, with lost-wax casting used only for small-scale work and jewellery). His commissions included the jubilee memorial to Queen Victoria in Winchester and the statue of Eros, in aluminium, for the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain in Piccadilly Circus, and in 1900 he was appointed Professor of Sculpture at the Royal Academy. A period of bankruptcy and divorce followed, and Gilbert moved to Bruges. On his return to England in 1926, his fortunes improved, the highlight being the bronze Queen Alexandra Memorial, at Marlborough House, London, 1926-32. He was knighted by George V in 1932. Gilbert died in poverty in 1934.

School or Style

New Sculpture Movement

Components of the work

Base Height 5.7 cm Length 22.5 cm Width 22.5 cm
Figure Height 67.9 cm Length 26.9 cm Width 39.5 cm

Materials used in production

Copper alloy

Techniques used in production

Casting (process) : Bronze, cast, patinated

References and bibliographic entries

Related exhibitions

Identification numbers

Accession number: M.22-2015
Primary reference Number: 201931
Old object number: 18
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Thursday 25 June 2015 Updated: Thursday 12 November 2020 Last processed: Friday 8 December 2023

Associated departments & institutions

Owner or interested party: The Fitzwilliam Museum
Associated department: Applied Arts

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