BERNINI, Gian Lorenzo
(b. 1598, Napoli, d. 1680, Roma)

Fontana del Tritone

1624-43
Travertine, over life-size
Piazza Barberini, Rome

The fountain was commissioned by Pope Urban VIII. It is Bernini's first work of this genre but it already shows the characteristics of his later fountains.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini brought the fountain sculpture from the villa to the city, from the natural to the social setting. With him, the sculpture is conceived in relation to the water, to its ceaseless flow, to its shape and course, and thus it becomes one of the "symbolic forms" of the Baroque.

The Triton Fountain is composed of four dolphins whose tails mesh together to support an enormous shell on which stands a muscular triton blowing for all he is worth into a conch. The intention behind the fountain was to create a water display that would provide an architectural reminder of the water supply provided by the Acqua Felice acqueduct commissioned by Urban VIII. What the Pope needed was a water supply for his new residence and the surrounding area. Bernini invested this practicality with a symbolic dimension.