Saturday, March 22, 2008

Anteros, (Eros) Shaftesbury Memorial, Piccadilly.

As Punch so well shows, watch your back Felipe!

Alfred Gilbert who I have mentioned before is one of my favourite sculptors. Not all his work is to my liking; however Eros had a special place in my heart, long before I started my career as a sculptor or considered its aesthetic merits in detail.

He, like most artists, had trouble with critics; none less, than the trouble with Eros, probably the most well known and loved sculpture in the world. Felipe Fernandez-Armesto should do well to remember that.

In 1986, The Royal Academy of Arts laid on an exhibition of Gilbert’s work, strongly supported by The Queen, her government and many others including enthusiastic owners and galleries. The supporting catalogue (no ISBN number) is a mine of information from which I now quote.

Gilbert was, it might appear, a long suffering Sculptor dedicated to producing works of importance in London. The trouble he seems to have had with bureaucratic Londoners in the 1880s would do justice to today’s pedantic planners. The critics at the time make Felipe sound quite tame. It seems that he had committees and county councils interfering in every detail and it is surprising that it was ever built at all. Due to the government reneging on gunmetal for casting Gilbert was forced into debt in an early stage of his career. So much was the design altered from his original that he wanted it scrapped in the end. Thankfully that did not happen and time did tell. What ever you may think of Gilberts’ Anteros (Eros) personally, it is very popular.

The Earl of Shaftesbury was a much loved philanthropist. Anteros (Eros) is one of the first public monuments in Britain symbolic simply of an idea; the virtue of Christian Charity. Gilbert conveyed this first by the monument's form, an overflowing fountain to sugest the abundance of the philanthropist's love of mankind; then in the figure of Eros, or Anteros, as Gilbert himself called it, ancient symbol of selfless love; and finally in the inclusion of drinking cups as the embodiment of one of the seven acts of mercy.

Yes it has bird droppings all over it. I wonder how happy a tree would be there? As for a nightingale singing from its branches to an adoring tourist or a taxi driver awaiting the traffic lights to change, I think it unlikely to be heard Senor.

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