S otheby's upcoming sale, The Fine Art Society: 142 Years on New Bond Street on 5 February, features a richly varied collection of British paintings, furniture and sculpture. It includes three fine examples of British sculpture, including versions of famous London monuments: Eros at Piccadilly Circus and Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens. Read on for more information on three of its most magnificent works.
1. Eros by Alfred Gilbert, Estimate £100,000–150,000
Alfred Gilbert’s Eros is one of London’s iconic landmarks. The original was commissioned in 1886 and completed in 1893. It stands at the centre of Piccadilly Circus, a timeless monument to the philanthropist Lord Shaftesbury who campaigned tirelessly to improve workers’ rights. Gilbert’s Eros is the sculptor’s masterpiece.
Initially controversial since many Victorians objected to the figure’s nudity, it quickly became one of Britain’s best loved public monuments. Alfred Gilbert was one of the key figures in the New Sculpture movement, which heralded a rebirth of British sculpture through infusing Renaissance principles with novel and inventive compositions.
It is no coincidence that another of Gilbert’s sculptures, the Jubilee Memorial to Queen Victoria, was included in the Royal Academy’s 2011 Modern British Sculpture exhibition, cementing the artist’s reputation as one of the fathers of modern sculpture in Britain. Like the original in Piccadilly Circus, the Fine Art Society’s monumental cast of Gilbert’s Eros is made from aluminum. It is one of only a few made in 1987 from the original moulds. With its striking metallic patina and Renaissance inspired form, Gilbert’s Eros is a unique fusion of modern and classical.
2. Peter Pan by George James Frampton, Estimate £20,000–30,000
Frampton’s statue of Peter Pan, famous as the boy who wouldn’t grow up, mysteriously appeared in 1912 on the exact spot in London’s Kensington Gardens where the magical boy appears nightly in JM Barrie’s Little White Bird of 1901.
The statue was commissioned by Barrie himself, who announced it in a notice in the London Times on 1 May 1912: "There is a surprise in store for the children who go to Kensington Gardens to feed the ducks in the Serpentine this morning. Down by the little bay on the south-western side of the tail of the Serpentine they will find a May-day gift by Mr J.M. Barrie, a figure of Peter Pan blowing his pipe on the stump of a tree, with fairies and mice and squirrels all around. It is the work of Sir George Frampton, and the bronze figure of the boy who would never grow up is delightfully conceived."
The present cast is a particularly beautiful period reduction which is believed to have been in the hands of the same Scottish family until it was acquired by the Fine Art Society in 2014.
3. Torso by Francis Derwent Wood, Estimate £7,000–10,000
This beautiful bronze embodies the quintessence of human beauty. The female figure stands in elegant contrapposto, her body reduced to just the torso, recalling fragments of ancient statuary.
Francis Derwent wood heralded from Keswick in Cumbria, but studied in Lausanne and at Karlsruhe. He trained at the Royal Academy Schools and became an assistant to Thomas Brock. Remarkably Derwent Wood used his skills as a sculptor to conduct remedial plastic surgery at Wandsworth Hospital during World War One. His most iconic work is the eroticised figure of David for the Machine Gun Corps Memorial at Hyde Park Corner. The present, beautiful bronze, mirrors the David who also stands contrapposto.
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