Turtle Fountain Rome (Piazza Mattei)

The Fontana delle Tartarughe (Turtle Fountain) in the Piazza Mattei in Rome was constructed in 1581. Like many fountains in those days, it was designed by Giacomo della Porta.

Turtle Fountain Rome

Turtle Fountain Rome (Piazza Mattei)
Fountain of the Turtles

History and description

Originally the fountain was to have been placed in the Piazza Giudea in what used to be the Jewish ghetto. However, the influential Mattei family interfered and had it put in “their” square. The Ghetto did not get its own fountain, in the Piazza Cinque Scole, until 1591.

The Fountain of the Turtles is characterized by four marble shells in the central part of a square basin with concave sides. Four identical ephebes riding dolphins are each holding up a turtle. The turtles seem to be crawling up the shell that crowns the entire structure.

The youths were sculpted by Taddeo Landini. The turtles were added by either Gianlorenzo Bernini or Andrea Sacchi, after a 17th century restoration. It is thought that in the initial project the turtles should also have been dolphins.

Several times in the course of the 20th century, the turtles were stolen. They were always found, however, until, in 1979, one of them was stolen and never recovered. After this, the remaining three were replaced by copies. The originals can now be seen in the Capitoline Museums.

Fontana delle Tartarughe, Roma

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