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Mythological Sculpture of Albert Gilbert

June 15, 2014

Alfred Gilbert was an exceptional English sculptor who produced a vast amount of work some of which had a mythological theme. I have had the pleasure of seeing three pieces of Gilbert’s mythological work at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. The pieces are kept under glass and as such the photographs are not particularly clear.


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The sculpture of Icarus represents ambition and desire. Icarus escaped from the labyrinth of the Minotaur using wax wings designed by his father Daedulus. However, he ignored his father’s warning and flew too close to the sun, the wax melted and he plummeted to earth, drowning in the sea. It is possible that Icarus’ impending death is represented by the bird at the base devouring a snake.

Athlete Wrestling a Python

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This sculpture represents an athlete battling a python. However, it is possible that there are mythological influences within the piece. Within Greek mythology it is told that Apollo chased the serpent Python from Mount Parnassus to the Oracle at Delphi. Apollo having killed Python at Delphi became the patron of the sanctuary. It would appear that there are distinct similarities between the myth and the representation in this sculpture.

Perseus Arming

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Gilbert represents Perseus preparing for battle. It could be for one of his many mythological fights but I would suggest that he is preparing to travel to fight the Gorgon Medusa. Hermes lent his sandals to Perseus in order that he could travel to the island where Medusa resided and claim her head. It appears in the sculpture that Perseus is checking the sandals having just put them on.

These three pieces are exceptional and if you get the opportunity I would recommend visiting the museum to see them.


From → Art

  1. The helmet on Perseus reminds me of a c.WWI soldier’s helmet ( or slightly earlier). Is that around the time that these were created?

    • Perseus Arming dates to around 1881-3, so it is relatively contemporaneous with WWI. Thank you for the observation. The knowledge I have of WWI battle dress is limited and it is good to have readers who can point out how contemporary style is reflected in mythological representations.

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