The Pincian Fountain

 larger view

Until quite recently the Acqua Felice fed all the fountains on the Pincian Hill, and the altitude of its source is so nearly the same as the top of the hill, where the public gardens are situated, that the only kind of fountain possible there was a sheet of water; so the sculptor of the chief fountain in the Pincian Gardens, Count Brazza, the elder, made a virtue out of necessity and created a fountain in which any kind of jet d'eau would be distinctly out of place. Brazza's white marble group of the infant Moses and his mother stands, set about with tall aquatic plants, in the centre of a large white marble basin, which is filled with placid yet everchanging water, and it is so happily suited, both in subject and treatment, to its purpose that the absence of action in the water is never felt. On the contrary, plashing water would be a false note in the quiet and legendary harmony of this composition, and the higher jet produced by the recent change of water is no improvement. The biblical story is portrayed with great naturalness and dignity. The mother of Moses has placed the basket containing her sleeping infant among the rushes, which are represented by the living plants. As she rises to move away, she pauses, on one knee, to implore divine protection for the child whom she must abandon to his fate. The heroic size of the figure enhances the strength and dignity of the artist's conception. The design is little in sympathy with the gay and crowded life of the Pincian Gardens, during the afternoon, but all through the morning hours this fountain becomes the centre of one of the world's most tender settings for the comedy of childhood and early youth. The civilization which man has made and kept can show nothing fairer than the Pincian Gardens at that time. The soft Roman sunshine then filters through the ilex branches only upon groups of little children and their nurses, solitary old men who have become as little children, and bands of seminarists or theological students wearing black or scarlet gowns and speaking divers tongues. The little company occupy the benches, or walk demurely in small groups beneath the trees, or play the endless plays of babyhood, in and out of the warm shadows; all of them living in a dreamland as old as life itself, and finding in this quiet garden of the Eternal City a background full of sympathy and significance.

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