Italy, Florence


Period 16th century


White marble of Carrare


Measurements :

Height : 17 in.

Width : 15 in.




From the 14th century, Italy abandoned the Middle-Age to enter in the Renaissance art will evolve until the apogee of mannerism in the 16th and 17th centuries. The "grotesco" grotesque style, characteristic of Italian Mannerism, appears in painting, furniture as well as all forms of decorative arts. At the time, Florence is Europe's largest cultural and artistic center. The art will evolve under the leadership of the Medici and especially the gardens that become an integral part of the decoration of the great Tuscan villas.

Due to this influence, the fountains have become a major ornamenta of Italian gardens. Engineers think the layout and the greatest sculptors, like Giambologna (1529-1608), work on the sculpture of prodigious fountains as the fountain of Neptune in Boboli Gardens. The fountain is not created for the unique purpose of distributing water but designed to enhance the beauty of a garden, a house and a city like Florence.

It is in this context that the fountains are becoming increasingly important and profusely decorated by the most famous artists of the Renaissance. The fountain becomes a true work of art. Historically, it seems that the first fountain called "monumental", was made by a student of Michelangelo, called Montorsoli (1507-1563). He carved the Fountain of Orion in Messina between 1547 and 1551.

Following this realization, Cosimo I de 'Medici (1519-1574) was inspired to imagine the project of the Neptune fountain which is on Piazza della Signoria in Florence.

Another example among the most representative of aesthetic fountains of that time is the fountain Pretoria in Palermo but was originally intended to decorate the gardens of a Tuscan villa.

The most beautiful fountains are decorated with bas-reliefs, many superimposed basins, several macarons, terraces and even stairs. This is the kind of monumental fountain that comes our grotesque mascaron that was used to pour water from one basin to another. Due to its exceptional quality of execution, it is very similar to existing mascarons on the retaining walls of the terraces from Château-Neuf, Saint-Germain-en-Laye.


Bibliography : Le Château-Neuf de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, sous la direction d’Emmanuel LURIN, Edition Les Presses Franciliennes, Saint-Germain-en-Laye, 2010, page 119.