The Fontana dell' Acqua Felice (1585-88), better known as the Fontana del Mosè (Fountain of Moses), was commissioned by Pope Sixtus V (r. 1585-90) and designed by the aptly-named Domenico Fontana (1543-1607).
The fountain was supplied by the Acqua Felice, the first aqueduct to be built in Rome since the days of antiquity, which was named in honour of Pope Sixtus V, who was born Felice Peretti. The Acqua Felice was not built from scratch, but used parts of three ancient aqueducts to transport water from the source at Pantano Borghese.
In the centre of the fountain stands Moses, the work of Prospero Antichi (1555-99). The bas-relief to the left is by Giambattista della Porta (1535-1616) and depicts Aaron offering the Israelites water to drink. The other relief is by Flaminio Vacca (1538-1605) and depicts Joshua leading the Israelites across the river Jordan to defeat Jericho.
The four lions are copies of ancient Egyptian works; the originals having been removed by Pope Gregory XVI (r. 1831-46), who wanted them for the Egyptian museum he had set up in the Vatican.
The fountain is surmounted by the coat of arms of Pope Sixtus V. The long inscription proclaims: 'SIXTUS V PONT MAX PICENVS AQVAM EX AGRO COLVMNAE VIA PRAENEST SINISTRORSVM MVLTAR COLLECTIONE VENARVM DVCTV SINVOSO A RECEPTACVLO MIL XX A CAPITE XXII ADDVXIT FELICEMQ DE NOMINE ANTE PONT DIXIT COEPIT PONT AN I ABSOLVIT III MDLXXXVII' ('Sixtus V , Pontifex Maximus, native of Ascoli Piceno, by the gathering of many rivulets brought water by a winding channel from the Colonna territory to the left of the Via Praenestina, twenty miles from the reservoir, twenty-two from its source, and called it Felice from his name before his pontificate. He began it in the first year of his pontificate and completed it in the third, 1587').
Blogging about Rome,
its art, history and culture.
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
small-group walking tours
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