The Fontana della Barcaccia (1626-9) enjoys one of the best backdrops of any fountain in Rome, sitting, as it does, at the foot of the Spanish Steps.
The fountain was commissioned by Pope Urban VIII (r. 1623-44), but the jury is still out as to the exact roles played by Pietro Bernini (1562-1629) and his much more famous son, Gianlorenzo (1598-1680), in its creation.
The motif of a waterlogged and sinking boat was conceived in response to the low head of water, which put paid to the creation of eye-catching jets or sprays. The Romans immediately nicknamed the fountain La Barcaccia. Barca is Italian for a boat and Barcaccia translates as something like 'rotten old tub'.
The fountain is emblazoned with the pope's coat of arms, on the prow and stern, and, at either end, his personal device of a radiant sun.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private and
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