Wall Fountains

Adding wall fountains or outdoor garden fountains to your landscaping or garden project can be a great way to enhance your outdoor living space. Historical fountains and water features 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 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. 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.

Solar powered fountains are a wonderful idea. However, 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.

Michelangelo and His Roman Wall Fountains

The wall fountain seems to have been comparatively rare in Florence, where the freestanding form with rich sculptural decoration was always more popular. For the more elaborate development of this type we must turn to Rome. Yet, strangely enough, the earliest Roman wall fountains of the more elaborate sort to be constructed during the sixteenth century were designed by two Florentine sculptors, Michelangelo and Ammannati.

In 1536 Michelangelo designed the present arrangement of the Campidoglio in Rome, with the facade of the Palazzo Senatorio. Ac­cording to his plan, the triangles formed by the stairs on either side were to be decorated with two ancient and recently excavated statues of river gods, while a colossal figure of Jupiter was to fill the central niche. This design was only gradually executed, however. In 1579 a colossal Minerva was placed in the central niche instead of the Jupiter. This figure was replaced in 1591 by the present small porphyry statue of a seated goddess restored as Roma.

In 1587, a conduit from the Acqua Felice was brought to the Capitol, making possible a much richer water effect than Michelangelo had planned and necessitating a larger basin in the style of the late Cinquecento. Did the idea of a wall fountain in the space between converging flights of stairs originate with Michelangelo? At least the placing of the river gods in the angles seems to have been his idea. Certainly the authority of his example did much to establish this type of fountain in Italy. Interesting later instances of this type of com­position are the Fountain of the River Gods at the Villa Lante, Bagnaia,1 and the Fountain of the Mugnone, set between flights of stairs on the chief axis of the Villa of Pratolino.

Michelangelo seemed fated to combine classical fragments into foun­tains in the Roman manner, rather than to design fountains which would afford scope for his own plastic genius. When Julius III (1550-1555) planned to erect a fountain at the head of the corridor of the Belvedere in the Vatican, the Florentine master designed a wall fountain which was to be decorated with a marble figure of his own carving, a Moses striking the rock, from which the water was to flow.

The sculptor doubtless supposed that the substitution of a Biblical motif for the inevitable classical one would appeal to the Pope; but Julius III rejected the design on the ground that it would take too much time to execute it in marble. Instead, the pagan Pope decided to use the ancient figure of "Cleopatra," today known as the Ariadne of the Vatican, in a grotto of stucco work, giving the com­mission to Daniele da Volterra.

Thus the inexhaustible supply of classical statuary at Rome tended to discourage the production of original sculp­ture in that city during the Cinquecento. It was so much easier to erect an ancient figure over a fountain than to order a new work of a contem­porary artist. Besides, the classical figures had the added prestige that always accompanies the antique, never more potent than in sixteenth cen­tury Rome.

However, Michelangelo's idea bore fruit later in the figure of Moses by Prospero Bresciano in the Mostra of the Acqua Felice at Rome, and again in a fountain in a courtyard of the Archiepiscopal Palace at Pisa, by Flaminio Vacca.