Bernini’s Lead on Fountain Design
Bernini, often considered the “Godfather” of fountain design, took the fountain movement in Rome to an entirely new level. The 16th century fountain concept was completely altered from the earlier version. The idea now was to combine the architecture and the art to create a lively piece that demonstrates movement and fluidity. This creates a stunning combination of content and container as well as waster and stone. Attempts at this synthesis had been attempted before Bernini in the 15th century, usually created for enormous villas, called “rustic fountains”. These estates belonged to the nobility of Rome, and the artist was given freedom to explore his creativity. They would create these rocky surfaces, usually at the end of the avenue, and the water would create a lively piece. Sculptures were still added to the pieces, but were still thought to be purely decorative.
The scope of creativity offered to the architect in the creation of the rustic fountains, was the foundation for Bernini’s synthesis of the new fountain style. Before this style Bernini often repeated his own styles, or copied those of other artists. It was referred to as the “lively monotony” of his work. However Bernini was able to find the harmony and balance between sculpture and architecture, and reform the relationship between the two. Bernini took sculpture, once thought to be purely ornamentation, and made his sculptures the outdoor water features, incorporating them into the production of the actual fountain.
The new concept of a “fountain” was thus born by Bernini, who successful created a formal balance of architecture and sculpture. The concept being defined as “water that springs from a "live" creature, the creature itself rising, but not completely leaving, the naturalistic underworld; or to put it the other way around, formless brutal nature rising into the life-giving element, water, in the shape of a creature that is half man, half beast.”