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Eric Gill’s statue over the front entrance of BBC Broadcasting House. Prospero and Ariel from Shakespeare’s The Tempest

A figure of Ariel sculpted by Eric Gill in the late 1920s for the facade of the BBC building had a peculiar and almost embarrassing history. Lord Reith, then head of the BBC complained that the sculptor had emphasised Ariel's reproductive organ beyond necessity. Gill refused to make any changes. It was decided to submit the matter to arbitration; Sir Israel Gollancz, the noted Shakespearean scholar and editor, and Israel Zangwill, the novelist, were among the Shakespeareans deputed to investigate. After concluding that Ariel's approximate age should be thirteen they called in a doctor, who agreed with Lord Reith that for such a boy the genitals were over-emphasised. The necessary surgery was performed and the statue of Ariel put into the place it still occupies on the building.


Gill, Eric (1882-1940) British sculptor, engraver, typographer, painter and artist [noted for various works and for the 'Gill Sans' and other fonts which bear his name]


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Taken on September 9, 2005