Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain

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Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain
Fuente Eros, Piccadilly Circus, Londres, Inglaterra, 2014-08-11, DD 159.JPG
The fountain in 2014
Artist Sir Alfred Gilbert
Year 1885–93
Type Fountain, sculpture
Material Aluminium, bronze
Dimensions 1097 cm × 518 cm (432 in × 204 in)
Location Piccadilly Circus, City of Westminster, London
Coordinates 51°30′35″N 0°08′04″W / 51.50984°N 0.13449°W / 51.50984; -0.13449Coordinates: 51°30′35″N 0°08′04″W / 51.50984°N 0.13449°W / 51.50984; -0.13449
The fountain on a Monday evening, 2014

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 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."[citation needed]

Although the statue is generally known as Eros, it was created as an image of his twin brother, Anteros.[1] 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).[2] Fernando Meacci was involved in the moulding of the fountain[3] and it was probably cast by George Broad & Son.[4]

Piccadilly Circus in 1896, with the fountain in the foreground

The memorial was unveiled by the Duke of Westminster on 29 June 1893.[5] Following the unveiling 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,[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

The statue was removed for restoration in the 1980s and resited on its return in February 1985. During the restoration a set of plaster casts was unearthed in the V&A basements which revealed damage to the statue.[6] The statue was also vandalised in 1990 and after radiography and restoration returned in 1994.[7] In May 2012 the statue had a new bow string fitted after it was broken by a tourist.[8]

In the winter of 2013–2014 the statue was covered with a PVC 'snow globe' featuring internal fans blowing the 'snowflakes'. This also had the function of protecting the statue from vandalism and it was planned to return in subsequent years. However strong winds caused the globe to become damaged and deflate and it wasn't subsequently repaired.[9] In winter 2014–2015 octagonal advertising hoardings forming a box for giant Christmas presents had a similar function.[10]

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External links[edit]

Media related to Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain ("Eros"), Piccadilly Circus at Wikimedia Commons