In 1986, the French artist Henri de Miller created a sculpture titled “L’Ecoute” (“Listen”). It was a massive human head lying on the ground with a cupped hand beside it, seemingly listening to the sounds of the metro. It was originally placed it in front of the Saint-Eustache Church in Paris, but today, part of it lives in Belgium.
The city of Antwerp bought de Miller’s work in 1991, but they didn’t want the whole thing, just the hand—and they had a reason for it. A local legend in Antwerp holds that there was once a villainous giant named Druon Antigoon who demanded a toll from those crossing the Scheldt River. If they could not pay, he would cut off one of their hands. According to the story Druon Antigoon carried on this way until a young Roman soldier defeated him, severing the giant’s own hand and throwing it into the river. This episode is said to be the origin of the city’s name, which comes from hand werpen, Dutch for “hand-throwing.”
The sculpture was introduced to the central shopping street of Meir in 1992, with no base whatsoever, in spite of the sculptor’s wishes. Over the years it has become a sort of icon in the area—though not as popular or famous as the Brabo Fountain, which is based on the same legend.