The Masks of the Fountain in the Villa Borghese
The fountain in the Villa Borghese, also features other parts from the Fountain of the Moor. In this small square, modestly arranged around a basin, full of water, sits four masks that are the spouts for the fountains. These masks come from the Fountain of the Moor, and are also copies created by Amici.
The masks, in a previous article were also discussed as being used in the fountain beside the Pantheon. Jacopo had ordered eight masks in all, and had used four of them for The Fountain of the Moor, where they would be placed between each of the Tritons. However, there were only four Tritons, and he still needed four more for the fountain on the North side, the Neptune Fountain. The congregation has decided they did not want Tritons for this, so the four remaining masks could not be used on that fountain, and ended up on the Fountain beside the Pantheon.
The odd masks feature a huge head with its hair in a topknot, with two dolphins on either side, and included a dragon. The dragon comes from the Boncompagni coat of arms, a direct and single reference to the Pope who erected so many fountains, Gregory XIII. Besides these unique features, the fountain in Piazza Navonna also features a simple centerpiece which includes a simple group of rocks with water spurting over the top.
Basically this was the fountain as it was to be presented by Jacopo della Porta. The flowing lines of the basin, are mimicked in the two steps and balustrade, the ornate statues and the comical masks, all combine to create a stunning and elaborate fountain. However this is only the beginning stages of the fountain, and it has many more adventures to undergo!
Pope Urban VIII was elected in 1623, and made Pietro Bernini the Architect for the Fountain of the Aqau Vergine. The Pope also granted Gian Lorenzo (Bernini), the son of Pietro Bernini, the position of Superintendent of the cisterns and fountains of the Aqua Felice. The Pope, in 1625, gave Bernini the permanent and lifetime role of “Commissioner of fountains that is Auditor of the conduits of the fountains in Piazza Navona”. These fountains are the two this article addresses. This appointment was unusual because the office has always been filled by the sons of the Conservatori del Popolo Romano, or the Chief Administrators of Rome. Pope Urban was probably intending to give Bernini a special favor by granting him power of the public fountains.
Financially this was a confusing position, especially when it came to his pay. His predecessor had mad 10 scudi a month, and he was only being paid five. So because he oversaw two posts he received 10 scudi a month, along with gifts, which were a customary to give, by law, to employees. He received such gifts as loaves of bread, two biscuits, two donuts, and two jugs of wine each day.
Bernini began his career, bolstered by his gifts, his salary, and his additional income from creating sculptures and building houses. Although already well known, for private fountains, this new opportunity was allowing him to break into the world of public fountains! After all, it was his works in the private sector that procured him his new position from Urban VIII.