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Article Teaser: There were two broad classes of Tuscan water fountains known in the 1500's: the freestanding or "isolated" type, designed for the center of a piazza, court, or garden; and the "engaged" or wall fountain, placed against a wall at the end of a square or courtyard.

Keep reading below...

The Types of Fountains Found in Florence, Italy

Copyright (c) 2006-2017

There were two broad classes of Tuscan water fountains known in the 1500's: the freestanding or "isolated" type, designed for the center of a piazza, court, or garden; and the "engaged" or wall fountain, placed against a wall at the end of a square or courtyard.

The only example of a Florentine wall fountain from this period is the handsome structure of pietra serena in the court of the Palazzo Orlandini, now the property of the Banca del Monte dei Paschi. This consists of a single niche crowned by an arch and framed by classical pilasters, the water falling from an ornamental spout within the recess into a basin placed at its foot.

Structures similar to wall fountains, known as lavabos, abound in Florentine churches and monasteries. These, although supplied with running water, are not true fountains; for the water, controlled by a tap, is turned on only when needed, not utilized for continuous display. The lavabo was a lavatory at which the celebrant washed his hands before consecrating the host. Consequently the basin was placed much higher than in the true wall fountain. The lavabo had its secular counterpart in the "acquaio" or lavatory for a private palace.

Few isolated fountains of the fifteenth century have been preserved intact. Museums and private collections contain scattered basins and figures in the style of the Florentine Quattrocento, pierced for the passage of water. With the help of contemporary Italian engravings, paintings, and drawings in which fountains are represented, we can reconstruct the most common forms. From the small size of both statues and basins, it is evident that they were intended for private courts or gardens.

The Florentine fountain figures that survive from that period are mainly variations on the popular theme of the "putto". However, representations of fountains in contemporary Italian art indicate that a wide range of subjects, generally based upon classical prototypes, were common in the 1500's.

In wall fountains (http://www.garden-fountains.com/Categories.bok?category=Wall+Fountains) and lavabos, sculptors simply adapted the forms of contemporary altar pieces and wall tombs. With freestanding fountains, however, they had to face new challenges. Chief of these was the necessity for a 360-degree treatment of figures. In most of the sculpture produced in the 1500's this problem did not arise, since freestanding figures (http://www.garden-fountains.com/Categories.bok?category=Garden+Statuary) of that period were usually given an architectural background, or set within a niche, where a frontal treatment sufficed. A statue decorating the summit of an isolated fountain, in the center of a court or garden, was another matter. It was approached from various angles, and called for a more complex handling which would make it interesting from many points of view. This was a difficult technical problem, and was not solved at a single stroke. Rather, the skill apparently evolved over time, as evidenced in the surviving statuary from that period.

Adding wall fountains or outdoor garden fountains (http://www.garden-fountains.com/Categories.bok?category=Garden+Fountains) of the Florentine style to your landscaping or garden project can be a great way to enhance your outdoor living space. Historical fountains and water features like the Tuscan fountains provide inspiration for many current designers and manufacturers, so adding one of these fountains is a great way to build a connection from your home to the Florentine past. Beyond the design beauty and characteristics of garden fountains, they also add water and moisture to the surrounding environment, which can attract birds and other wildlife, and balance the ecosystem, and this was an added benefit in Florence. For instance, birds that are attracted by a fountain or birdbath are oftentimes the best defense against flying insects that bother both humans and plants.

In a practical sense, most water fountains used in landscaping are self-contained, which means an electric fountain pump moves the water from a lower basin, up the back of the fountain, and then allows the water to spill down the facing of the waterfall. Nearly all these types of fountains rely on a household 110v electrical outlet nearby. Be sure the fountain pump is U.L. listed, and connected to a Ground Fault Interrupt (GFI) outlet.

While they sound like a wonderful idea, solar powered fountains are not yet a good choice. Current solar technology is not sufficient for practical use with water fountains. The size of solar panel necessary to move the water through a moderately sized fountain is very unwieldy, and very difficult to hide in a home application. Also, solar panels for home use have not yet evolved to withstand the pounding by the sun for very long, making frequent (and expensive) replacement necessary. In summary, when it comes to solar powering water fountains, the technology is unfortunately not yet ready.

In the fountains of Florence, a jet of water was usually connected in some way with the statue. At times it fell from some accessory held by the figure, trickling from an urn or spouting from a fish or dolphin. Often it issued directly from the human figure in motifs scarcely acceptable to modern taste, but very popular during the Renaissance.




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Written by Elizabeth Jean for http://www.Garden-Fountains.com where you can find a large selection of garden and wall fountains, as well as garden statuary and planters for container gardens and decor.

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