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Image of the sculpture Gloria Victis

Gloria Victis

Date: about 1880

Object number: S58

Artist: Antonin Mercié

The title of this sculpture is in Latin, it means ‘Glory to the Vanquished’. Mercié made the original in 1874 in response to the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, which France lost. This version is one of a number of casts made in the 1880s.

It shows a fallen warrior being carried to heaven by a winged female figure. Mercié probably drew his inspiration from the winged Greek goddess of victory, Nike.  Here Nike has been combined with the traditional image of an angel creating a sculpture with both Classical and Christian elements.

Image shows a bronze sculpture of a naked figure with their face turned away. The figure is holding a large theatrical mask. Sculpture is on a small black plinth base.

Comedy and Tragedy

Date: 1890s

Object number: S26

Artist: Sir Alfred Gilbert

This bronze sculpture by Sir Alfred Gilbert is from the 1890s. The Latin subtitle to this work ‘Sic Vita’ means ‘Thus is life’. Gilbert said the figure in the sculpture represents a prop-boy from Greek theatre carrying the mask of Comedy: ‘He is stung by a bee – a symbol of love. He turns and his face becomes tragic.” It was purchased by the museum in 1905.

The sculpture was selected by the Harris LGBTQ group to feature in the LGBT+ History Month Trail in 2019 and 2020. Cobie, a member of the group, wrote the following interpretation inspired by their response to the sculpture:

“For me this sculpture represents the duality of the queer experience. The naked body seems closed off – head and legs pulling together displaying a shy nature. Despite being so exposed the body also appears recoiling from the mask. At the same time the mask is held up like a shield – an almost crazed visage suggesting a more outgoing nature masking the vulnerability underneath.

Many LGBTQ people will be familiar with the notion of hiding their true selves out of fear, shame and society’s pressures. How many of us live up to a stereotype to fit in with what the world expects of us, whilst no one sees the real person underneath?”