Of all the things you expect cherubs to do in monumental sculptures - look adoring, spout streams of water, gaze wistfully into the distance, that sort of stuff - playing with a toy car is not among them. But here, in London's East End, is a cute, naked, cherubic little figure doing just that.
The cherub is one of four sitting at the feet of angels representing Liberty and Justice - the others have a model boat, a book and a piece of fabric in their hands - at this splendid monument hidden behind market stalls on Whitechapel Road. It's a drinking fountain, complete with granite column - what respectable drinking fountain would be without a granite column, after all? - and on top of it another distinctly elegant bronze angel, who seems to be gently admonishing the cherub: enough of your toy car ....
This was all the work of the sculptor W.S. Frith - and there's more about the fountain and its design here.
The fountain was built as a tribute to the recently departed King Edward VII (he reigned from 1901 to 1910) - and the money was raised by the local Jewish community. Whitechapel Road was the centre of the Jewish East End - a community which has now almost entirely dispersed, their place taken by new generations of migrants, particularly from South Asia.
The inscription reads: In grateful and loyal memory of Edward VII Rex et Imperator [King and Emperor}: erected from subscriptions raised by Jewish inhabitants of East London 1911
And the toy car and other cherub playthings? Well, they apparently represent some of the late king's enthusiasms ... not mini-motors but the real thing
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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