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An Offering to Hymen


Sir Alfred Gilbert (British, 1854-1934), An Offering to Hymen, ca. 1886 model
Photo Credit: 

Laura Shea

Not On View
Gilbert, Sir Alfred
British (1854-1934)
Place made: 
An Offering to Hymen, ca. 1886 model
Overall: 11 1/4 in x 2 3/8 in x 3 1/4 in; 28.6 cm x 6 cm x 8.3 cm
Gift of Nicolette Wernick
MH 1985.24

The awkward uncertainty of adolescence is emphasized in this small sculpture by a prominent member of the New Sculpture movement in England. Poised at the brink of adulthood, the figure holds out her offerings to Hymen—the ancient Greek god of marriage. A branch of hawthorn is presented in her right hand while her left contains a miniature statue of Anteros—the god of reciprocal love. Gilbert’s piece is contextualized by the expectations of the Victorian era, a time when early marriage was common if not expected. This sculpture asks you to share the uncertainty of a young girl venturing into adulthood and to consider the uneasiness that accompanies her transition. What conflicts or outside forces might she face in the future?

-Eva Fahey (Class of 2017), University of Massachusetts Amherst
A Very Long Engagement: Nineteenth-Century Sculpture and Its Afterlives (July 29, 2017 - May 27, 2018)