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Dramatic public fountains fill the busy city center of Rome. Gian Lorenzo Bernini, one of the greatest fountain designers, sculptors, and artists of the 17th century not only designed and conceived these beautiful fountains, but was also responsible for their construction. Not only known for his aforementioned skills as a fountain artist, Bernini was a city architect and much of his life’s work can be seen throughout the streets of Rome.  The offspring of a well known Florentine sculptor, Bernini was mentored at a young age.  The Bernini family eventually moved to Rome to explore their interest in water features. A dedicated worker, Bernini received much praise and patronage from popes and many important artists.  Originally known for his sculpture and fountains, Bernini used his knowledge of ancient Greek architecture combined with Roman marble, primarily derived from the Vatican and inspiration from Michelangelo to create wonderful works of art.

The Barcaccia, known as Bernini’s very first fountain was built in 1630, contracted by Pope Ubano VII, at the bottom of the Trinita dei Monti in Piaza di Spagna. Even today, you will find this area robust with Roman citizens and tourists visiting the center, delighting in one another’s company while taking in the sight and sounds of flowing water.  One would imagine that Bernini would be quite pleased and possibly even surprised at the sights that now surround his fountain.  Many homes and some of the most chic shops can now be found in view of his first piece of art.  Bernini’s first fountain was constructed based on the image of a very large ship slowing sinking into the Mediterranean.  Written word from this era alludes many to believe this fountain was designed to memorialize the citizen lives lost in the great flood of Tevere. This great flood covered the entire area in a sea of water until about the end of the 16th century.

Travel to France in 1665, Bernini’s only known extended stay away from Italy, was a trip made in response to the requests of King Louis XIV.  King Louis XIV’s many invitations were in anticipation that Bernini would design a deluxe royal housing for the French.  At this time in history, Bernini was known to many as a wonderful designer and the streets along each town he passed through were lined with citizens giving well wishes for his journey. Once in France, his constant appraisal of Italian art and architecture and the negative mentions of the architecture and art of France made Bernini become unpopular in the eyes of the privileged French. His designs were soon scorned for inclusion in the Louve museum. While in France, Bernini constructed a large vertical standing portrait statue of Louis XIV.  This statue depicts King Lous XIV, known as the Sun King, watching over his kingdom with the power of a God. Circulating further into history, this large standing portrait set the model for over 100 years of royal portraits.

Completed around 1644, the Fontana del Tritone in Piazza Barberini, is another well known fountain created by Gian Lorenzo Berini. A large shell, in which a large Triton is centered, is surrounded by four dolphins and was designed to display the power of Pop Barerini. Soon after the completion of the Fontana del Tritone was constructed, Berini created the Fontana delle Api.  This fountain was taken down in the late 1880’s but was put back together in 1917 at the intersection  Via di S. Basilio and Via Vento. A popular fountain, there have been many replications and remodel and it is uncertain whether the reconstruction version was accurately reassembled to mimic the Bernini original. Location in the center of the Piazza Navona, the Quattro Fiumi is well known as one of Berini’s most famous fountains.  Completed in 1651, the Quattro Fiumi is said to represent the major rivers of the four parts of the world.  Many believe this is one of the most lovely fountains in all of Rome. The four rivers represented are the Rio, representing the Americas, the Nile a representation of Africa, the Ganges a symbol of Asian and the last river, the Danube, a depiction of Europe. Located near by in the same square, The Fontana del Mono, also known as the Moor’s fountain, recreates the vision of a man with African features fighting a dolphin on the high seas.

The known information about Bernini cannot be ended without the inclusion of his most notorious work, the Trevi fountain. Situated in Piazza Trevi, one of the most popular fountains among Romans, it is notably one of the most revered fountains in the world. Many superstitions and legends plague the Trevi fountain, one of the most well known is the idea that if you toss a coin over your shoulder and into the fountain, you will most certainly return to Rome one day. One important fact many do not know is that Berini never actually finished the Trevi fountain! While he often gets complete credit for the design and construction of the Trevi fountain, Nichola Salvi was hired to finish the fountain and it was not completed until 1751. As a complete work of art, the Trevi fountain features columns, horses, a depiction of Neptune, and  multiple Tritons. Bernini was also the artist of many wall water fountains that can be found in and around Italy.

Celebrated as one of Europe’s greatest Sculptures, Berini passed soon after his 81st birthday. Bernini receive patronage from eight popes and was revered as one of Europe’s greatest sculptors, fountains designers, and men.  As part of the last men with blood lines of Italy’s grand geniuses, Bernini helped to form the Italian Baroque style which became  a worldwide standard.  The death of Bernini also marked the end of artistic dominance for Italian on the European continent. Bernini’s inspiration and fountain design continued on for approximately 100 years in many different parts of Europe and even outstretched into parts of Asia.  Today’s decorative fountains continue to expose our modern day time to the influence of Bernini, great artist and fountain designer.



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