QUERCIA, Jacopo della
(b. ca. 1367, Quercia Grossa, d. 1438, Siena)

Fonte Gaia

Piazza del Campo, Siena

In 1408, Jacopo della Quercia was contracted by the magistrates (signori) of the republic of Siena to execute the Fonte Gaia ("Fountain of Joy"), a great rectangular basin with figural sculptures in marble, intended to replace a previously existing structure on the northwest edge of the Piazza del Campo, the main public space of the town. The damaged original fragments of the Fonte Gaia are today in Santa Maria della Scala, Siena but remained in situ until 1858 when the ensemble was substituted with a facsimile copy by Tito Sarrocchi.

Eleven years in the making, the Fonte Gaia served practical, symbolic, and aesthetic functions, as part of a larger program of public monuments initiated by the fiercely republican government of the comune that rose to power in 1404. It was the principal source of public waters in the centre of Siena (a land-locked hill town), serving as a large cistern with several spouts that was supplied from the vast network of subterranean aqueducts, or bottini, which had been completed with a 25 km expansion at enormous expense in the late fourteenth century. The Fonte Gaia was finished with the last payments to Jacopo della Quercia and the cancellation of the previous contracts for the project, recorded on October 9 and 20, 1419.

The general iconography of the Fonte Gaia alludes to the virtues of good government of the republic of Siena, which are also celebrated in the fourteenth-century frescoes of the Palazzo Pubblico, which faced the original fountain across the Piazza del Campo. The Fonte Gaia occupied a place in the centre of the town, it was designed to illustrate a civil programme, in which the Virgin and Child was flanked by seated Virtues (with the later addition of two narrative scenes of the Creation and the Expulsion from Paradise) and were accompanied by the figures of Rea Silvia and Acca Larentia, mother and foster-mother of Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of the town.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.