Roman Water Fountains: Michelangelo’s Masterpieces

The 16th century saw the construction of the most ancient Roman wall fountains, the products of two celebrated Florentine sculptures, Michelangelo and Ammannati. The fountain in the Piazza del Campidoglio in Rome, which was finalized in 1536 and became part of the façade of the Palazzo Senatorio, was Michelangelo’s first design. A conduit from the Aqua Felice was built later and it carried water to the Capitol making a more impressive water effect possible. Michelangelo, however, had anticipated this which led to choice of a larger basin styled on the forms of the late Cinquecento.

Was the reknowned maestro the first to design wall fountains? wwlhs_ss__00759.jpg Italy’s fountains truly show the effect his designs had on the styles found there. The Fountain of the River Gods at the Villa Lante, Bagnaia 1, and the Fountain of the Mugnone found between flights of stairs on the main axis of the Villa Pratolino are further illustrations of this type of structure.

Rather than creating fountains based on his own genius, Michelangelo was fated to integrating classical elements into Roman-styled structures. A brand-new fountain at the top of the Belvedere in the Vatican was commissioned by Julius III (1550-1555) and it fell to the great sculptor to create a unique structure. A marble figure of Moses striking a rock streaming water was to be built as embellishment for the fountain. Rather than building the Moses statue, which would take too much time to finish, an antique figure of Cleopatra was used in its place, however. Completing a new design by the famed sculptor was thought to be more complicated than placing an ancient figure above the fountain.

Choose from Any Number of Outdoor Wall Fountain Designs

Small verandas or courtyards are a perfect place to set up wall fountains because they add style to an area with little space. Conventional, antique, modern, or Asian are just a few of the styles you can pick from when looking for an outdoor wall fountain to your liking. While there are innumerable prefabricated ones on the market, you may need a custom-built fountain if none of these are pleasing to you.

The two kinds of fountains available to you include mounted and stand-alone models. Mounted wall fountains are small and self-contained variations which can be hung on a wall. Normally made of resin (to resemble stone) or fiber glass, these sorts of fountains are lightweight and easy to hang. Large-sized free-standing wall fountains, often referred to as floor fountains, have their basins located on the floor and a flat side leaning on a wall. Normally made of cast stone, these water features have no weight constraints.

It is a good idea to integrate a custom-made fountain into a new or existing wall, something often suggested by landscape experts. A skilled mason is necessary to place the water basin against the wall and correctly install all the plumbing inside or behind the wall. The wall will need to have a spout or fountain mask built into it. A custom-made wall fountain blends into the landscape instead of standing out because it was a later addition, which adds to a cohesive look.

"Primitive" Greek Artwork: Large Statuary

The initial freestanding statuary was developed by the Archaic Greeks, a recognized achievement since until then the only carvings in existence were reliefs cut into walls and columns. Kouros figures, sculptures of young, good-looking male or female (kore) Greeks, made up the majority of the statues.

The kouroi were believed by the Greeks to typify beauty and were sculpted with one foot leading and an uncompromising stiffness to their forward-facing poses; the male statues were always strapping, brawny, and unclothed. The kouroi started to be life-sized starting in 650 BC. During the Archaic period, a great time of change, the Greeks were evolving new forms of government, expressions of art, and a deeper comprehension of people and cultures outside Greece. But in spite of the issues, the Greek civilization continued to progress, unabated.

Where did Landscape Fountains Originate from?

The incredible architecture of a fountain allows it to provide clean water or shoot water high into air for dramatic effect and it can also serve as an excellent design feature to complement your home.

Originally, fountains only served a functional purpose. Water fountains were connected to a spring or aqueduct to supply potable water as well as bathing water for cities, townships and villages. Used until the 19th century, in order for fountains to flow or shoot up into the air, their source of water such as reservoirs or aqueducts, had to be higher than the water fountain in order to benefit from gravity. Fountains were not only used as a water source for drinking water, but also to decorate homes and celebrate the designer who created it. Animals or heroes made of bronze or stone masks were often times utilized by Romans to decorate their fountains. Muslims and Moorish landscaping designers of the Middle Ages included fountains to re-create smaller versions of the gardens of paradise. The fountains found in the Gardens of Versailles were supposed to show the power over nature held by King Louis XIV of France. The Popes of the 17th and 18th centuries were glorified with baroque style fountains built to mark the arrival points of Roman aqueducts.

The end of the 19th century saw the increase in usage of indoor plumbing to provide drinking water, so urban fountains were relegated to purely decorative elements. The creation of unique water effects and the recycling of water were two things made possible by replacing gravity with mechanical pumps.

Decorating city parks, honoring people or events and entertaining, are some of the uses of modern-day fountains.

Keeping Your Large Outdoor Fountain Tidy

Adequate care and regular upkeep are important to the longevity of water fountains. Leaves, twigs, and insects very often find their way into fountains, so it is vital to keep yours free from such things. Another factor is that water that is subjected to sunlight is prone to growing algae. Blend hydrogen peroxide, sea salt, or vinegar into the water to avoid this particular dilemma. There are those who like to use bleach, but that is hazardous to any animals that might drink or bathe in the water - so should therefore be avoided.

A complete cleaning every three-four months is best for garden fountains. To start with you must remove the water. Then use mild soap and a soft sponge to clean the innner part of the reservoir. A helpful tip is to use a toothbrush if there are small hard-to-reach spots. Make sure all the soap is totally rinsed off.

Calcium and fresh water organisms can get inside the pump, so you should disassemble it to get it truly clean. To make it less difficult, soak it in vinegar for a while before cleaning. Build-up can be a big headache, so use mineral or rain water over tap water, when possible, to prevent this dilemma.

And finally, make sure the water level is consistently full in order to keep your fountain running smoothly. Allowing the water to go below the pump’s intake level, can cause major damage and even make the pump burn out - an undesired outcome!

Water Features Common in Japanese Gardens

You will never see a Japanese garden that does not feature a water feature. Since Japanese water fountains are seen as emblematic of physical and spiritual cleansing, they are often positioned in the doorway of buildings or shrines. Since water is supposed to be the focal point of a fountain, you will find that the designs are kept very simple.

You will also notice many fountains that have spouts built of bamboo. Underneath the bamboo spout is typically a stone basin which receives the water as it flows down from the spout. People typically make them look weathered and worn, even when they are new. Natural elements such as plants and rocks are often put in place around a fountain so that it seems more interconnected with nature. Obviously, this fountain is something more than just a regular decoration.

For something a bit more distinctive, start with a bed of gravel, add a stone fountain, and then embellish it artistically with live bamboo and other natural elements. The idea is that over time it will start to look more and more like a natural part of the landscape, as moss slowly grows over the stones.

If you are lucky enough to have a big plot of open land you can create a water feature that is much more elaborate. Charming add-ons include a babbling creek or tiny pool with koi in it.

Water, however, does not have to be used in a Japanese fountain. Beautiful rocks, sand, or gravel are ideal alternatives to actual water, as they can be used to symbolize the water. The impression of a creek with trickling water can also be achieved by putting flat stones very closely together.

The Magificent Early Wonders by Bernini

Bernini's earliest fountain, named Barcaccia, is a breath taking work of art found at the bottom of the Trinita dei Monti in Piaza di Spagna. Roman residents and site seers who enjoy verbal exchanges as well as being the company of others still flood this spot. One of the city’s most stylish meeting places are the streets surrounding Bernini's fountain, which would undoubtedly have brought a smile to the great Bernini. Dating back to around 1630, Pope Urbano VIII commissioned what was to be the very first water fountain of the artist's career. A massive boat slowly sinking into the Mediterranean is the fountain's central theme. According to 16th century texts, a great flood of the Tevere covered the entire area in water, an event which was commemorated by the magnificent fountain. In 1665, France was graced by Bernini's one-and-only prolonged journey outside of Italy.


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