Fontana Della Barcaccia

Title: Fontana della Barcaccia
Artist: Pietro Bernini with help from Gian Lorenzo Bernini
Location: Piazza di Spagna
Medium: Marble
Date: Commissioned 1627 completed 1629

Pope Urban VIII commissioned Bernini, who was already working on the aqueduct. Pietro Bernini was also helped by his son, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who probably completed it after his father’s death.

It was the first time that a fountain was conceived entirely as a sculptural work, away from the canons of classical bath geometric shapes.
Bernini designed the fountain to be slightly below street level due to the low water pressure provided by the aqueduct. The issue of the low water pressure influenced the way Bernini designed the fountain in other ways as well. At the center of the boat a short baluster supports a small oblong bowl from which water flows. Water flows from 6 points on the fountain; two points inside of the boat in the shape of the sun with a human face and 4 outside of the boat which look similar to the mouths of cannons that a person would see on a ship. The bow and the stern of the boat are identical in shape with a lower center between them. Water flows over the side of the boat into a small basin where the water is collected. This is another design feature that helps with the inadequate water pressure from the aqueduct. Bernini also included two papal coat of arms on the boat. It appears as the tiara and the bees, the symbol of arms of the pope’s family. (the Barberini) These appear at the outer ends of the boat, between the mouths of the cannons.

There are two common theories on what story the fountain tells. Some believe Bernini designed the fountain to remind people of the flood of Tiber in 1598 in whose memory the pope may have commissioned the work. It is said that when the Tiber overflowed its banks it took a small boat into the Piazza di Spagna and when the waters receded However, more likely, it was built to remind the Romans of there own past as a people. it was called “old tub” that type of boat that, in ancient Rome, was used for river transport of wine barrels, and that, much like the work of Bernini, was indeed very low sides for better ‘ embarkation and disembarkation of the barrels themselves.

Artist biography:
Pietro Bernini was a sculptor and a painter in Italy in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. He was born in Sesto Fiorentino, Tuscany in 1562. He moved to Naples in 1584 where he became known for three works, Charity in the Church of Monte di Pietà, St. Matthew in the Church of Gesù Nuovo, and theVirgin in the National Museum of San Martino. He moved to Rome in 1605 when called invited to work for Pope Paul V, who was pope from 1605 to 1621. He worked in Rome for the rest of his life. Pietro Bernini is also the father of the more well known Gian Lorenzo Bernini and taught his son the art or marble sculpture. Pietro Bernini also provided his son with patrons for his early works.

“Pietro Bernini.”Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2012. Web. 15 Apr. 2012. <a


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