This charming fountain is in a tiny piazza that’s a pleasant walk-through in the Jewish Ghetto/Portico Ottavia-Teatro Marcello area. Dating from the 16th century, it’s the work of at least three creatives: Giacomo della Porta, Taddeo Landini, with the “tartarughe" - tortoises - usually attributed to Bernini. The four figures that form the pedestal of the upper basin originally supported bronze, water-spouting dolphins but insufficient water pressure caused them to be removed, and the thing looked a little awkward until a 17th-century restoration when the turtles were added to fill in the missing, uplifted elements.
The scrambling little reptiles you see today are replicas; the originals were moved to the Capitoline Museums after falling victim to multiple rounds of thievery.
Somewhat off the beaten path, this fountain is from the 1580's. It is one of the few fountains in Rome built not for a Pope, but for a private patron, Muzio Mattei, from a family of bankers and politicians with ancient roots in Rome.The original design had dolphins on the top rim but the water pressure was insufficient, so the dolphins were removed and substituted with the turtles. It is in a very quiet and picturesque plaza, worth a stroll over from Largo di Argentina.
La Fontana delle Tartarughe ("Fountain of the Tortoises") is one of my favorite fountains in Rome, so it was really big surprise for me to see its copy in Huntington Park at the top of Nob Hill in San Francisco. I was truly surprised, mostly because while living in SF, it was for me only one of many fountains and later when I moved to Rome and I really got to like the original one I needed to come back to SF to noticed that the fountain in front of Grace Cathedral is really special.
La Fontana delle Tartarughe is located on Piazza Mattei, small square which seems to look the same as in 1581 when the fountain was designed for the Mattei Family who wanted to see it out of the window.
The neighborhood of this fountain is also worth a special attention, nearby there is the former Ghetto and Synagogue.
And the winner is...
Probably Rome benign fountain is the
'Fontano delle Tartarughe'.
The family Mattei decided to cheer up their
square a bit and contacted 'Giacomo Della Porta'
to design a fountain. It was a Florentine sculpturer
who did the job - 'Taddeo Landini.'
Four bronze boys sitting on a dolphing ,
(yes that is a dolphin , take a closer look) ,
who are spitting water in a marble shell.
But it was' Bernini ' who added a hunderd years
later the turtles. Tartarugha means turtles.
Those or not the original turtles anymore.
People tried to steel them a couple of times.
The originals can be seen in one of rome's
I would have loved to have one... ;-)
The delightful Fontana delle Tartarughe (=turtles) was commissioned by the Mattei family to decorate their piazza between 1581 and 1588. The design was by Giacomo della Porta, but the fountain owes much of its grace and charme to the four slender bronze youths each restino one foot on the head of a dolphin, sculpted by Taddeo Landini.
This is the fountain in Rome that I love most!
The splendid fountain known as “the Tortoise” is a magical creation by Giacomo della Porta that admirably combines water, architecture and sculpture.
It is also happily inserted into a corner of Rome that has remained more or less the same as when it was built.
In 1570 a fountain should have been placed in the nearby ghetto in Piazza Giudia but on the intervention of the Mattei family it was built here in 1581, whilst the ghetto only got its fountain in 1591 (the fountain in piazza Cinque Scole).
Four large marble shells rest in the centre of a wide basin with a square base and concave sides, above which are four static bronze ephebes with their foot on the head of a bronze dolphin. The ephebes, all in the same position, raise their arm towards the overhanging marble shell.
In the original plans another four bronze dolphins, perhaps the same ones that initially decorated the fountain in Campo de’ Fiori, should have been found where the tortoises are now, but were inserted half way through the 17th century after its first restoration.