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An old French book discussed that viewing the Coliseum and her enchanting fountains should be done by being faced with the monument all at once instead of taking in the views gradually. This was important because it would create a lasting and unforgettable experience for the viewer. This theory is exactly how the Fountain of the Tortoises should be celebrated in little Piazza Mattei.  It was named for the four creatures that are about to climb in the upper basin. This fountain is easily one of the most favored fountains by the Romans. The first impression of the fountain is full of beautiful character, almost taking you by surprise as you find yourself upon it.


There was a list created in 1570, by the Fountain congregation, detailing the construction of 18 new fountain that were to be supplied by the Aqua Vergine . The fountain in Piazza Mattei was not mentioned on this list. But in June 1581, the officers for the fountain drew up clauses and conditions for a fountain to be constructed in Piazza Mattei. They determined sculptor Taddeo Landini would create the fountain, and he promised "the above-mentioned gentlemen, on behalf of the Roman People as above, to work on the completion of the said fountain in Piazza Matthei throughout the forthcoming month of April in the year 1582 in the manner and style contained in the said clauses".  The change from the previous order of 18 fountains can be explained as a result of conduits being conducted from the Aqua Vergine to the Piazza Mattei, making a fountain in the square necessary, so long as Mr. Mattei had the square paved at his own expense.


The Fountain of the Tortoises was another work of Jacopo della Porta, because most of the fountains in this time period were entrusted to his creation. Also, the ordinances and conditions placed on the fountain were also determined "that all the above measures are to be observed more or less in accordance with the judgment of Master Fountain Maker Jacopo della Porta". Landini had already sculpted a triton as well as a mask for the fountain in the Piazza Navona, but for this fountain, his contributions would be limited to designs and sketches. Landini was also paid to clean the drains of the fountain, but it was the presence of Landini that caused della Porta to deviate from his typical designs seen throughout his fountains in Rome.

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