The Fountain of Turtles


by Simona Nicolosi

Considered to be a jewel of Renaissance sculpture, the 16th century Fontana delle Tartarughe (the Fountain of Turtles) is one of Rome’s more exquisite and loveliest fountains. Built by Giacomo Della Porta and Taddeo Landini in 1581-1584, it was commissioned by the Mattei family, whose Palazzo is just around the corner, on Via Caetani.

The legend tells that the duke Mattei had the fountain built within one day, in the square where his palazzo stood, to impress the father of the girl he loved. In reality the duke was a man of influence who understood how to use diplomacy in order to have one of the loveliest fountains built in front of his house instead of in Piazza Giudea (now Via di Santa Maria del Pianto) where it was meant to be.

The Fountain of Turtles, fed by the Aqua Virgo (Virgin Water), is a triumph of bronze statues that represent four water-spouting dolphins and four young men try to push turtles up into the basin above their heads.

The bronze statues were made by Taddeo Landini and gave a Fiorentine touch to Della Porta’s concept. Moreover, it was also thought that the turtles were added to the fountain by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, but we don?t know if this is true. Instead, we know that initially, dolphins the same as the dolphins at the bottom, should have decorated the rim, but these were, in the end, transferred to the Fontana della Terrina (now in piazza della Chiesa Nuova, but without the dolphins).

Area: Jewish Ghetto

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