Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain
The fountain in 2014
|Artist||Sir Alfred Gilbert|
|Type||Fountain with sculpture|
|Dimensions||1097 cm × 518 cm (432 in × 204 in)|
|Location||Piccadilly Circus, City of Westminster, London|
The Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain is located at the southwestern side of Piccadilly Circus in London, United Kingdom. Moved after World War II from its original position in the centre, it was erected in 1892–1893 to commemorate the philanthropic works of Lord Shaftesbury, who was a famous Victorian politician and philanthropist.
The monument is topped by Alfred Gilbert's winged nude statue generally known today as Eros. The statue has become a London icon: a graphical illustration of it is used as the symbol of the Evening Standard newspaper and appears on its masthead. It was the first in the world to be cast in aluminium and is set on a bronze fountain, which itself inspired the marine motifs that Gilbert carved on the statue.
The use of a nude figure on a public monument was controversial at the time of its construction, but it was generally well received by the public. The Magazine of Art described it as "...a striking contrast to the dull ugliness of the generality of our street sculpture, ... a work which, while beautifying one of our hitherto desolate open spaces, should do much towards the elevation of public taste in the direction of decorative sculpture, and serve freedom for the metropolis from any further additions of the old order of monumental monstrosities."
Although the statue is generally known as Eros, it was created as an image of his twin brother, Anteros. The sculptor Alfred Gilbert had already sculpted a statue of Anteros and, when commissioned for the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain, chose to reproduce the same subject, who, as "The God of Selfless Love" was deemed to represent the philanthropic 7th Earl of Shaftesbury suitably. Gilbert described Anteros as portraying "reflective and mature love, as opposed to Eros or Cupid, the frivolous tyrant." The model for the sculpture was Gilbert's studio assistant, a 16-year-old Italian, Angelo Colarossi (born 1875).
When the memorial was unveiled, there were numerous complaints. Some felt it was sited in a vulgar part of town (the theatre district), and others felt that it was too sensual as a memorial for a famously sober and respectable Earl. Some of the objections were tempered by renaming the statue as The Angel of Christian Charity, which was the nearest approximation that could be invented in Christian terms for the role Anteros played in the Greek pantheon. However the name never became widely known and the statue became generally known as Eros, the god of sensual love; quite inappropriate to commemorate the Earl, but just right to signify the carnal neighbourhood of London, into which Soho had developed.
Where the bow was originally pointed is the subject of two urban myths. The first is that the archer is aiming up Shaftesbury Avenue. Sometimes, the story goes that this was a visual pun to commemorate the great philanthropist. If the archer were to release his arrow, its shaft would bury itself in Shaftesbury Avenue. The other is that the arrow is pointing to the Earl's country seat in Wimborne Saint Giles, Dorset. However, an 1896 photograph of the circus taken only three years after the statue's erection clearly shows the arrow pointing in a different direction, down Lower Regent Street aptly towards Parliament. This is proven by the position relative to the statue of Shaftesbury Avenue, the London Pavilion and the Criterion Theatre.
In May 2012 the statue had a new bow string fitted after it was broken by a tourist.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain ("Eros"), Piccadilly Circus.|
- The Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain at University of London & History of Parliament Trust