Fountain of the Naiads

Title: Fountain of the Naiads
Artist: Alessandro Guerrieri. Completed by Mario Rutelli
Location: Piazza della Repubblica
Medium: Marble
Date: 1888 originally completed in 1901 with addition in 1911

Background and Design:
The fountain one of the largest in Rome was designed and constructed in many stages. The base of the fountain dates back to before Italian troops took Rome in 1870. Pope Pius IX originally had the fountain built to commemorate the construction of a new aqueduct named Acqua Pia-Marcia after the ancient Aqua Marcia built in 144 BC and also named after the pope himself. A few years later the new Italian government decided to refurbish the whole area. The fountain was increased in size and moved about 80 meters to its current location. At this time the fountain had no statues decorating it and was a simple structure with a series of basins at different levels. The fountain was generally thought to be missing something and when German emperor William II visited Rome four plaster lions were created by Alessandro Guereieri to decorate the four corners of the fountain. Many citizens of Rome were displeased by this so-called fake solution and the city council of Rome decided to commission real statues to decorate the fountain. For this purpose in 1901 they commissioned Mario Rutelli, a Sicilian artist, to design four statues to decorate the corners of the fountain. Rutelli designed the four statues that can now be seen at the four corners of the fountain. The figures now represent four water nymphs: the Naiad of the Oceans, the Naiad of the Rivers, the Naiad of the Lakes and the Naiad of the Underground Waters, each one featured with an animal that represented their respective environments. The Naiad of the Oceans is represented with a sea horse, the Naiad of the Lakes is represented with a swan, the Naiad of the Rivers is represented with a water snake, and the Naiad of the Underground Waters is represented with a reptile. Rutelli caused quite a stir by basing the model of the Naiads on two famous twin prostitutes in Rome. He also sculpted the figures nude causing a major controversy in more conservative circles in Rome. However, the city council decided that the figures would stay. This still left the center of the fountain bare. Rutelli set out to prepare a figure for the center piece of the fountain. He prepared a rather bizarre group that featured three human figures, a dolphin and an octopus, tangled together in a wrestle. During Rome’s International Exposition, the first model made of mortar was set on top of the fountain, waiting to be replaced by the final version in bronze. However, the group received many sarcastic comments, and was nicknamed “the fish fry of Termini.” Rutelli was then asked to design a new figure and the result was the single male figure embracing a dolphin. This received a much warmer welcome than his original model. With the addition of the final bronze figure in the center, the fountain had reached its final and current design.

Naiads come from Greek mythology. They were nymphs of bodies of fresh water and were one of the three main classes of water nymphs. The Naiads of Greek mythology presided over rivers, streams, brooks, springs, fountains, lakes, ponds, wells, and marshes. They felt a powerful connection with the body of water they were responsible for taking care of. Their origin varies greatly from location to location and literary source to literary source. Some said Naiads were daughters of Zeus. Others said they were daughters of various river gods. Others simply part of the vast family of the Titan Oceanus. Like all the nymphs, the Naiads were the female sex symbols of the ancient world and frequently played the role of both the seduced and the seducer in classical stories. Classical literature is full of stories of the Naiad’s love affairs with gods and men and with the stories of their children. The Naiads represented in the figures of the fountain would represent each of the four major water sources in the ancient world. One of the Naiads is actually an Oceanid, a nymph of the ocean.

Lown, David. “Fountain of the Naiads.” A Guide to Rome. Google Sites, Web. 10 Apr 2012.

“Naiads.” Encyclopedia Mythica. 2012. Encyclopedia Mythica Online. 15 Apr. 2012 .

Pollett, Andrea. “A Naughty Fountain the scandal of the naked Naiads.” Virtual Roma. 2008. Web.
08 Apr 2012. .


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