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Sep 12, 2013

The 'X-rated' Fountain of the Naiads in Rome.


No other city celebrates water like Rome! Almost every square is adorned with a fountain more or less monumental!  Arriving by train,  the very first fountain we come across is the modern Fountain of the Naiads, dominating Piazza della Repubblica. 

The square, a step away from Termini station,  is also known as Piazza dell' Esedra, occupying the large curved space of the former baths of Diocletian.  The porticoes designed by Gaetano Koch at the end of XIX century, replace the ancient Roman buildings originally located around the exedra

The Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels is actually an interesting example of converted architecture: one of the halls of the ancient Roman baths, transformed by Michelangelo into a church! Hard to tell from the exterior, since the façade is, simply, the brick wall of what was probably the ancient Tepidarium, respected and maintained by an artist that was so much ahead of his time.

The very first fountain, commissioned by the pope Pius IX in 1870, was dominated by four chalk lions by Alessandro Guerrieri, replaced in 1901 by the Fountain of the Naiads by Mario Rutelli.

Rutelli was a sculptor from Palermo, probably more known for being the great grand-father of Francesco, mayor of Rome twice between 1993 and 2001.  Mario's father was the famous architect who designed the Teatro Massimo Vittorio Emanuele in Palermo: the third largest lyrical theatre in Europe.
Mario Rutelli designed also the statue of Anita Garibaldi on the Janiculum and one of the Victories on the Monument to Victor Emmanuel.

For Mussolini the fountain was ' the exaltation of eternal youth, the capital's first salute to art'.

The Naiads are nymphs, each one alluding to a particular form of water.
They can be identified by their allegorical  animal.



A frilled lizard for the nymph of underground streams.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
When first unveiled the four naked bronze statues of the Naiads, deemed to be 'obscene', were fenced with a railing.  Their 'lascivious' and 'provocative' poses were considered excessive by the prude conservatives of the time!

A horse for the nymph of the Oceans (detail).



The models who posed for Rutelli's sensual naiads were renowned for their beauty:  they came from Anticoli Corrado, a little village perched on a hill, not too far from Rome, known in XIX century for the legendary beauty of local women, apparently so attractive that the little borgo became the village of artists and models, literally colonized by sculptors and painters!



A giant snake for the nymph of rivers.


Fortunately, in spite of the opposition and the initial censorship, the naiads remained in place and the railing was finally removed. 








A swan for the nymph of the lakes.


Rutelli completed the fountain with some sculptures to be placed in the centre:  three human figures, a dolphin and an octopus tangled together. 
The first version in mortar placed in 1911 for the International Exposition was greeted with so much sarcasm, that the final bronze version was never added.
The group nicknamed the fish fry, was replaced by the statue of the sea-god Glaucus which received more positive feedbacks. 
The much criticized concrete fish fry lies abandoned in the gardens of Piazza Vittorio today. 

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