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When Is A Fountain Artwork? When It Is In Rome, Italy

Sep 9, 2008
Maybe more than any other place, Rome's amazing fountains have a history that is as rich and ancient as Rome itself. There are examples of Fountains that reflect the artistic styles as far back as the first century AD mixed in with wonderful Renaissance fountains and modern ones as well.

Unlike most cities, fountains in Rome are far from plain and utilitarian. Rome differs from anywhere else on earth because just as the city itself is a work of art, the fountains that grace the streets are wonderful displays of artistic talent.

While the Trevi fountain is unquestionably the one that is most well known, it is far from being the only fountain that calls to visitors to enjoy the artistic merit on display.

A great example of the great art in Rome is the Fountain of Triton, or the Fontana del Tritone. Like so many great fountains, it was designed by Bernini in 1642, and it is a classic example of what a Baroque fountain looks like. The main character of the fountain is a male mermaid, or a merman, who is relaxing on a massive clamshell while dolphins keep guard nearly.

Bernini is a dominant artistic influence in outdoor art in Rome, so you can find his first fountain near the Spanish Steps. It is called the Barcaccia and this early example of Baroque outdoor sculpture shows a half sunken ship with the fountain waters pouring out of the holes in the ship.

Bernini's fondness for the sea scenes is also on display at the Fontana del Moro, otherwise known as the Fountain of the Moor. You can find this fountain in the southern section of the Piazza Navona which is a delightful site to spend some time. Here you can stop and admire the mighty sea god Neptune being worshiped by his subjects. Around Neptune, Tritons send streams of water into the fountain while a diverse assortment of sea creatures have fun below them.

A fountain that uses very similar ideas as the Fountain of the Moor but it reflects the style of Renaissance artwork is the Fountain of Neptune which you can also find in the Piazza Navona.

The Fontana dei Tritoni located in front of the Church of St. Maria clearly shows that the artist, Francesco Bizzaccheri emulated the style of Bernini's artistic vision. This beautiful fountain was finished in 1715 and is located between the Temple of Vesta and the Temple of Male Fortune. The dawn of the age of reason is reflected in the design of this fountain which shows two mighty Tritons knelt on the rocks where a basin is the spot from which the water of the fountain flows forth.

But of all of the wonderful fountains in Rome, the Fontana di Trevi or the Trevi Fountain is far and away the most famous example of Roman fountain art. The history of this ancient fountain dates back to the early days of the Roman Empire. But it has been lovingly restored and cared for, undergoing a significant reconstruction between 1732 and 1751 under the direction of Pope Clement XII.

The Trevi Fountain is the largest fountain in Rome at 85 feet high and 65 feet wide and its size is very much part of why it is so beautiful. You can find this not-to-be missed fountain behind the Palace of the Dukes of Poli. Here we again get to see Neptune but this time riding in a chariot made of a clamshell being drawn by two mighty horses. Tritons again are at the bidding of their master, as are the gods of Health and Wealth who are in attendance.

The well known tradition and superstition of throwing coins into the fountain for luck was born at the Trevi Fountain. Be sure to throw your three coins in as legend tells us that this offering will cause Neptune to bless you with a return visit to Rome one day. Don't worry about the coins as Rome wisely harvests them to benefit the charities of the city. It is amusing to note that the encouragement of this tradition not only adds to the culture of the city but amounts to pretty clever marketing as well.

The Trevi Fountain is said to have been designed by Nicola Salvi, not Bernini as you might suspect. Nonetheless, the influence of Bernini is so evident that perhaps it was a joint project. The water for the fountain comes from the Aqua Vergine and there is a legend that goes with that name. The legend is that a virgin drew water from that aqueduct to offer to tired and thirsty Roman soldiers.

When you visit Rome, along with your many other sites you will want to see, taking in one or many of these gorgeous fountains is a must because Rome's fountains are so much of what makes the city a true work of art in its own right.
About the Author
The Vatican Museums are an incredible place to visit, but stick around for at least 2-3 days if you want to get the best out of your visit. Here's some tips on what to see and do while in the Vatican City.
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