The Fontana del Tritone, one of the most delightful fountains in Rome, graces the centre of the frenetically busy Piazza Barberini.
The Fountain of the Triton (1642-3) was commissioned by Pope Urban VIII (r. 1623-44), whose family pile, the Palazzo Barberini, sits a short distance away, and was created by the pope's favourite sculptor, Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680).
Triton, the son of Poseidon and Amphitrite (god and goddess of the sea), was his father’s herald. He is usually depicted as a merman, upper-part human, lower-part fish.
The Triton kneels on an upturned shell, which is supported by four dolphins, and blows water into the air through a conch. The papal coat of arms is prominently displayed at the base of the fountain.
Once upon a time, Bernini's mighty Triton sent a jet of water three, or so, metres high, into the air. Nowadays, the messenger of the sea can manage little more than a metre!
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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