The Limited Powers of Salvi on the Trevi Fountain

“…I know that as Mr. Maini will forever be responsible to the world for everything, good or bad, that results from his execution of this group he should be completely at liberty to act according to his own mind and his own knowledge, without my claiming to restrict him in any way; but I know equally that if I am to receive the praise, or the blame, for the good or bad result of what I have done with the water for the rocks, I must also satisfy myself (and not blindly accept his sole authority, or that of others who he asserts have approved his model) until I have compared my principles with those reasons – which I shall give shortly – that will also be approved or rejected (as appropriate) with other contrary and convincing [reasons] in order to persuade me to change my mind and agree willingly with their opinion as one that will enable me to achieve greater perfection in my work. Apart from flattering myself that I can easily be absolved of any kind of accusation, and that I am free of any reproach that could be made toward me, if [Your Eminence] will reflect impartially and with an unbiased mind that as this work is the child of my loins – whatever the idea of the whole may be – I should and must take the liberty of suggesting to Mr. Maini that he express what I have designed without my being liable to a charge of wanting only to restrict his own work and that, not having been given any reason to persuade me otherwise, there is nothing that could absolve me from doing what I do, this being a work which concerns the glory of my Prince, Your Eminence, who with paternal kindness deigned to command me to [do] it and to whose graciousness in assisting and protecting me I must respond with all my heart and soul.”

Therefore, even though this project was Salvi’s baby, he was forced to work with Maini as the sculptor for the project, or at least for the center grouping. It was also demanded that they were to work as equals to create this center arrangement. From the letter, we are also able to discern that Maini refused to listen or even discuss the plan Salvi had for the arrangement of the statues, and if the statues were not arranged as designed by Salvi, it would cause him to alter a large portion of his rocks. A plan that is undoubtedly by Maini portrays a completely different composition than what Salvi wanted. In this design, featuring the same number of figures, Neptune was still in his chariot with two horses and Tritons being swept away by the water, making this arrangement much more powerful, and much more in the spirit of Bernini. 

Salvi, however modest, was unwavering when it came to his design. He clung to his rock design with no plans of altering them, partly to make the cardinal understand that by spacing the figures out over more space, it would allow the entire arrangement to be in harmony with the entire façade, rocks, and the pool. Fortunately for him, he got his own way. There has been a lot said over the years about this central group, where the formality is typical of the 18th century, ever since Fraschetti published a drawing he attributed to Bernini in 1900. Arguments have been made as to why Fraschetti maintained that Salvi’d central grouping was derived from this drawing, and were rejected because it was not fully accepted that Bernini was the actual artist.