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Triton Fountain: Wikis


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The Triton Fountain by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, in Piazza Barberini, Rome

Bernini's baroque Triton Fountain (Italian Fontana del Tritone) is located in Piazza Barberini, Rome, near the entrance to the Palazzo Barberini (now housing the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica), which Bernini helped redesign for his patron Maffeo Barberini, who had become pope as Urban VIII. It is a few blocks from Borromini's San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane. In the fountain, which Bernini executed of travertine in 1642–43, an over-lifesize muscular Triton, a minor sea god of ancient Greco-Roman legend, is depicted as a merman kneeling on an opened scallop shell. He throws back his head to raise a conch to his lips: from it a jet of water spurts, formerly rising dramatically higher than it does today. The fountain has a base of four dolphins[1] that entwine the papal tiara with crossed keys and the heraldic Barberini bees in their scaly tails. The Tritone, first of Bernini's fountains, was erected to provide water from the Acqua Felice aqueduct, which Urban had restored, in a dramatic celebration. It was Bernini's last major commission from his great patron, who died in 1644.

At the Triton Fountain, Urban and Bernini brought a garden feature familiar from villas decisively to a public, wholly urban setting for the first time. All the previous fountains of Rome had been passive basins for the reception of public water or had garden settings in the suburban villas.

The triumphant passage from Ovid's Metamorphoses book I, evoking godlike control over the waters and describing the draining away of the Universal Deluge, which Urban set Bernini to illustrate, was well-known to all literate Roman contemporaries:

Already Triton, at his call, appears
Above the waves; a Tyrian robe he wears;
And in his hand a crooked trumpet bears.
The soveraign bids him peaceful sounds inspire,
And give the waves the signal to retire.
His writhen shell he takes; whose narrow vent
Grows by degrees into a large extent,
Then gives it breath; the blast with doubling sound,
Runs the wide circuit of the world around:
The sun first heard it, in his early east,
And met the rattling ecchos in the west.
The waters, list'ning to the trumpet's roar,
Obey the summons, and forsake the shore.
—free translation by Sir Samuel Garth, John Dryden, et al..

The Triton Fountain is one of those evoked in Ottorino Respighi's Fontane di Roma. The legend applied to the Trevi Fountain has been extended to this: that any visitor who throws a coin into the water will have guaranteed their return to Rome.

Two finished terracotta bozzetti at the Detroit Institute of Arts,[2] securely attributed to Bernini, reflect his exploration of the fountain's themes of the intertwined upended dolphins and the muscular, scaly-tailed Triton.


  1. ^ The dolphins are represented in their heraldic conventionalization, not as they appear in nature.
  2. ^ Accession numbers 52.218 and 52.219.

External links

Coordinates: 41°54′13″N 12°29′18″E / 41.90361°N 12.48833°E / 41.90361; 12.48833



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