In 1894, the sculptor Alfred Gilbert, famous for his highly popular Eros in Piccadilly Circus London, commissioned the painter Arthur Robertson to create an album commemorating the prestigious commission he had received two years earlier from the royal family: the tomb of the Duke of Clarence (1864-1892), the eldest son of the future King Edward VII, who had died of pneumonia at the age of 28. Robertson, therefore, produced this drawing while the monument was under construction; the tomb was erected between 1892 and 1899, and not completed until 1928.
In accordance with the wishes of Queen Victoria, the young duke's grandmother, the sepulchre was placed in the Albert Memorial Chapel in Windsor. The chapel had been magnificently refurbished in a Neo-Gothic, polychrome style twenty years earlier by the architect George Gilbert Scott and sculptor Henri de Triquetti, ready for the tomb of the Queen's husband Prince Albert. Encouraged by this stunning setting to use opulent materials, Gilbert remembered a proposal for this chapel intended to house the tomb of Cardinal Wolsey, drawn up by a Florentine sculptor in 1524 but ultimately never realised. It inspired him to create the very ornate screen surrounding the recumbent figure and its Neo-Renaissance decoration.
The monument also evokes the mannerism of Jean de Bologne, whose work had fascinated Gilbert when he first went to Florence, and also the Neo-Gothic naturalism of Viollet-le-Duc who had a great influence on the artist when he attended the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris.
His references brought the sculptor very close to Art Nouveau, also demonstrated in the significant plant decoration with its opulent curves, and the "coup de fouet" outline of the guardian angel.
Gilbert's album was never finished, but of the few drawings made, this watercolour is the most splendid: it is a majestic representation of the final resting place of the young duke, a fascinating character who led a dissolute life, and Queen Victoria's favourite grandson.