Dear friends, Roberto (of the Caligula statue restoration note) has done it again! So happy to have him contributing… Grazie Roberto per l’articolo e per il lavoro che svolgi!
For years the fountain at the Via Bissolati and Via Sallustiana corner of the US Embassy in Rome barely got any attention. Indeed, it is likely that the last time the Maraini designed and sculpted fountain received any attention was in the few years immediately after its unveiling in 1927. Then, with every passing year, weather, seasons, smog, and limescale build-up from Rome’s hard water slowly made the fountain fade into a mere shadow of its former self, its features barely distinguishable underneath the moss and lichen that completely covered it.
Happily, curator Valeria Brunori from the US Embassy’s Cultural Heritage Office did however give it the attention it was due. I was contacted by her office to perform a full restoration based on the in-depth study by specialized technicians from the US Embassy of its condition and after the results came in from cutting-edge scientific laboratory analysis.
The fountain is made of Scabas Rose Siena travertine, and consists of a group of sculptures, depicting two putti (cherubs) supporting a large shell and holding a fishing net in their hands. The net too is of travertine, and it widens outwards at the sides, figuratively capturing two big fish to the sides of each cherub. Other smaller fish and shells are caught in the “net” at the base of the sculpture. The entire composition is symmetrical about the y axis, and it rests on an imitation rock outcropping (actually sculpted travertine), on whose right side the sculptor’s signature is engraved. There are six water spigots: two from the ends of the shell, two from the mouths of the large fish, and two from the mouths of two smaller fish.
The water falls into the lower part of the fountain, a semicircular basin that rests on a base. On both sides, two great pillars of white travertine frame the fountain and extend above the height of the entire composition; they rest on bases of the same material, (carved to imitate natural rock) and are crowned with two circular spheres. Behind the group runs a wrought iron “fishing net”, affixed to the inner sides of each pillar by a crab-shaped metal sculpture. Around the basin, there are four squat stone pillars of light travertine, connected by an iron railing.
Without getting into uninteresting technical details, I will simply say that it required quite a bit of work. This work was incredibly rewarding however, as the fountain was slowly freed of almost a century’s worth of atmospheric agents and pollutants, and slowly came back into itself as it was meant to be. I came to know each detail of the sculptural group, and as I went on spending time with them, I dare say that knowledge turned into affection for them.
I consider myself fortunate to have worked on this lovely piece, and would like to thank the US Embassy for the opportunity, and thank all the collaborators and technicians who worked on it together.