The original bronze version of this sculpture is traditionally attributed to Lysippos, the court sculptor of Alexander the Great. The original once stood in a major sanctuary of Eros in Thespiai.
The subject was immensely popular with the Romans, as evinced by the number of surviving copies, including one now in the Capitoline Museum, Rome (acc. no. 410), one in the Archeological Museum in Venice (Mus. Arch. 121), one in the Musée du Louvre (acc. no. MR 145) and another in the British Museum (see C. Augé and P. L. de Bellefonds, 'Eros', Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologicae Classicae III, Zurich und München, 1986, pp. 637 ff). According to F. Johnson (Lysippos, 1968) Eros is said to be the most interesting and charming work out of his creations and that the Eros is straightforward to replicate since the bow supports the child's outstretched arms.
Here we see the young god, in the form of a very young teenager, probably 13 or 14 years old, unstringing his bow, in a characteristically dynamic use of space, crouching slightly forward, arms outstretched and reaching across his lower chest with his left arm to better wrangle with the weapon he grasps in his right. Traces of the bow can be see on his right leg. The head, is positioned almost in profile, his hair styled into a braid at the centre of his head and escaping to the sides in thick curly locks. For a similar head in Parian marble now in the British Musem (BM 1680), cf., M. Bieber, The Sculpture of the Hellenistic Age, New York, 1967, fig. 89. Although not orginal to the body, the ancient head is a sympathic addition, and the plaited hairstyle can be seen on the majority of this statue type.
There are many origin stories surrounding Eros, the young god of sensual love and sex, who bears sway over the inhabitants of Olympus as well as over men and all living creatures. Some relate the boy as being the child of Aphrodite and Ares, others, including Hesiod's Theogony, being one of the first written accounts of Eros, describing him as a cosmogonic primordial god.
His arrows are said to be of differing powers: some are golden, and kindle love in the heart they wound; others are blunt and heavy with lead, and produce an aversion to a lover.Given the beguiling nature of the present Eros and the prestige of musems housing its parallels, it is unsurprising that the sculpture took pride of place in the collection of diplomat and writer Roger Peyrefitte (1907-2000). In his own words, a trip to Athens awakened Peyrefitte's "inner passion for antiquitiy and timeless beauty" (Prometheus Bulletin, Nr. 121, 2007), resulting in a lifelong ardour for antiquities. This passion was strengthened further still by his renewal of the Order of Alexander the Great for Science and Art in 1990.
"He spoke, and striking the air fiercely with beating wings, he landed on the shady peak of Parnassus, and took two arrows with opposite effects from his full quiver: one kindles love, the other dispels it. The one that kindles is golden with a sharp glistening point, the one that dispels is blunt with lead beneath its shaft. With the second he transfixed Peneus’s daughter, but with the first he wounded Apollo piercing him to the marrow of his bones" (Ovid, Metamorphosis, Bk i. ch. 468).
"Happy are they who find the goddess come in moderate might, sharing with self-restraint in Aphrodite's gift of marriage and enjoying calm and rest from frenzied passions, where the Love-god, golden-haired, stretches his charmed bow with twin arrows, and one is aimed at happiness, the other at life's confusion. O lady Cypris, queen of beauty! far from my bridal bower I ban the last. Be mine delight in moderation and pure desires, and may I have a share in love, but shun excess!" (Euripedes, Iphigenia in Aulis, lines 543-557).