Sir Alfred Gilbert

Model for ‘Eros’ on the Shaftesbury Memorial, Piccadilly Circus

1891, cast 1925

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Not on display

Sir Alfred Gilbert 1854–1934
Bronze on marble base
Object: 730 × 278 × 670 mm, 31 kg
Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1925

Display caption

This is a model for the well-known statue ‘Eros’ (or ‘Anteros’) which stands in the centre of Piccadilly Circus, London. It crowns the memorial fountain to the Victorian social reformer, Lord Shaftesbury. The sculptor wrote of ‘blindfolded Love sending forth indiscriminately, yet with purpose, his missile of kindness, always with the swiftness the bird has from its wings’. The monument was unveiled in 1893 and was the first London statue to be cast in aluminium.

Gallery label, September 2020

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Catalogue entry

Not inscribed.
Bronze, 24×10 1/2×26 3/4 (61×26×68), on green marble base, 4 1/2×9×9 (11×23×23).
Chantrey Purchase from the artist 1925.
Lit: Hatton, 1903, pp.1–32; Cox, 1936, p.19; Bury, 1952, pp.11, 38, 44, 45, 97.

The commission for the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain was first offered to Boehm, who declined it and recommended Gilbert. Work was begun soon after 1887 and the monument was unveiled in 1893. The expense involved led to the artist's financial ruin and his eventual departure to Bruges. A plaster model for the figure of Eros was found smashed in his studio. This was repaired by Herbert Hampton, cast in bronze and acquired through the Chantrey Bequest (see letter to Gilbert from Sir George Clausen, Bury, 1952, p.97). A replica is at Aldenham School, Hertfordshire. McAllister states (1929, p.168) that the model for this figure was Colarossi, studio boy and valet to Gilbert, and nephew of the Colarossi who established a school of art in Paris. The artist refers to the figure as follows: ‘As to the figure surmounting the whole, if I must confess to a meaning or a raison d'être for its being there, I confess to have been actuated in its design by a desire to symbolize the work of Lord Shaftesbury; the blindfolded Love sending forth indiscriminately, yet with purpose, his missile of kindness, always with the swiftness the bird has from its wings, never ceasing to breathe or reflect critically, but ever soaring onwards, regardless of its own perils and dangers’ (Hatton, 1903, p.16.). A model for the whole fountain is at Perth (repr. Cox, 1936, pl.9, and Bury, 1952, pl.10).

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, I

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