Cathal and the Woodfolk

1914 (made)

Jagger, Charles Sargeant

Height: 49.5 cm without frame, Width: 77.5 cm without frame, Weight: 34.5 kg without frame, Height: 92.3 cm with frame, Width: 96 cm with frame

A.1-1997 SCP

Relief, bronze in oak frame, 'Cathal and the Woodfolk', by Charles Sargeant Jagger, English,1914

Bronze frieze of Bacchus figures. In the centre an almost nude youth with an upraised arm (probably Cathal), embraces a naked nymph. Also in the frieze is a figure playing the pan pipes (probably Pan), and a centaur.

Object Type This bronze relief is the earliest known work by Jagger, produced and exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1914, shortly before he enlisted in the Artists' Rifles regiment. The piece is in many ways an archetypal academic piece, designed as a work of art to be seen probably in a gallery, and the product of the young sculptor's study of other traditions and styles. It draws on an eclectic range of sources, and has elements recalling the so-called New Sculpture of the late 19th century (with its naturalistic depiction of the human body), Italian Renaissance bronzes of the 16th century (its sensitive treatment of surfaces) and French traditions of bacchic figurative scenes, seen in the paintings of Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665), as well as in the sculpture of Clodion (1738-1814). People Charles Sargeant Jagger (1885-1934) is best known as the artist of monumental memorials commemorating the First World War, and this bronze relief made in his youth is in sharp contrast to the harrowing and moving monuments he was to make during the 1920s. Jagger died relatively young, after a productive and demanding career as a sculptor. Some of his works are in the Imperial War Museum in London; others are outdoor public monuments in London and elsewhere in Britain. Materials & Making This bronze relief was cast, probably from an original wax model (now lost) using the lost wax process, a method of producing bronzes current during the Italian Renaissance. This reflects 19th-century British sculptors' interests in earlier techniques, and their desire to revive certain artistic processes. Bronzes are often produced in series, since they are generally cast from moulds which can be re-used to reproduce other versions. However, in this case no other bronze examples are known, perhaps because Jagger cast directly from his model, destroying it in the casting process. Two other plaster versions survive, which were sold at auction in 1987 and 1992 respectively; their present locations are unknown. They may have served as intermediate models, or more probably have been cast after the present bronze.

Exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer exhibition, 1914 [cat. no. 2073]; sold at Sotheby's London 29 March, 1983, lot 201 [for £950]; Collection David Roderick Kirch; sold Christie's London 2 March, 1995, lot 210 (for £2,600). Bought from Robert Bowman, London, for £7,130 with the funds of a Departmental purchase grant. The figure is closely related to David's statue of St Bartholomew in the Church of S. Maria di Carignano in Genoa (see Ceschi 1949, p. 50). Baker has suggested that the present piece 'is one of the few free-standing sculptures of mythological figures to have been executed by a sculptor working in England in the first half of the 18th century' (Baker 1993, p. 15). Though traditionally thought to represent Prometheus - it is noted as such in Blomefield's entry on Narford Hall in 1781 as, 'on the stair case. A piece of sculpture of Prometheus chained to, a rock, by Cavalier David' (Blomefield 1781, p. 64) - it has more recently been suggested that the figure represents Vulcan. Malcolm Baker has noted that this 'identification [is] seemingly confirmed by the presence of the anvil but leaving the spectator puzzling as to why the god is shown chained with his pincers unused beside him. An explanation is provided by an entry in the diary of Sir Matthew Decker who visited Narford in 1728 and saw the piece in its original setting. Placed on the landing halfway up the main stair, the figure was intended to be accompanied by a further figure of William III, and the sculptural ensemble was to be an allegorical representation of the avoidance of war as a result of William's arrival and The Glorious Revolution. Vulcan is accordingly represented as chained rather than fashioning the instruments of war' (Baker 1993, p. 15; see also Baker 2000 [Figured in Marble], pp. 30-1).

Location: British Galleries, room 122g, case WS

View this object on the V&A website