Everyone knows that the statue in Piccadilly Circus is the statue of Eros – mostly that’s because it’s the name to which it’s commonly referred.
Well, the truth is that it’s not a depiction of Eros, but Anteros, his twin brother. Londonist explains why our confusion over the name,
Gilbert [the sculptor] spent a long time considering how to celebrate the life of Shaftesbury, a philanthropist and social reformer. Lord Shaftesbury campaigned against many injustices, such as child labour conditions, limiting child employment in factories and mines.
For five years Gilbert considered various ideas to celebrate the charitable life of the Earl. He eventually decided on a fountain, topped with the winged figure of Anteros, the ancient Greek symbol of Selfless Love.
Gilbert described Anteros as portraying “reflective and mature love, as opposed to Eros or Cupid, the frivolous tyrant.”
But the English, with our unhelpfully generic singular word for ‘love’, whether its love for your grandma, your hot new boyfriend or your baby niece, struggled with this idea. The boy with the bow and arrow was Eros, and neither explanations nor re-branding exercises were going to change that.
It was the first sculpture in the world to be cast in aluminium and is set on a bronze fountain.