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26. The Turtle Fountain, beauty in small size

By - Giulio D'Ercole. As one walks in Rome, passing by large squares going to big monuments, it is easy to come across small beautiful jewels of architecture, art and style that embellish colorful corners, tiny streets and small places. In between Teatro Marcello and via Arenula, in the heart of the Jewish Ghetto, there is Piazza Mattei, adorned by one of these jewels, the "Turtle Fountain" (la Fontana delle Tartarughe), a fountain of the late Italian Renaissance . It was built between 1580 and 1588 by the architect Giacomo della Porta and the sculptor Taddeo Landini. The bronze turtles around the upper basin, from which the fountain takes its name, were actually added in either 1658 or 1659 when the fountain was restored. The making of those small sculptures is attributed either to Gian Lorenzo Bernini or Andrea Sacchi.

The Fontana delle Tatarughe, like all Renaissance fountains, was designed to supply drinking water to the Roman population. It was one of a group of eighteen new fountains built in Rome in the sixteenth century following the restoration of a ruined first century Roman aqueduct, the Acqua Vergine, by Pope Gregory XIII.

Giacomo della Porta used a design which he repeated in several fountains, which he adapted from earlier ancient Roman fountains. It had a single vasque, or bowl, on a pedestal, from which water spouted upwards and then poured down into polygonal basin. What made the fountain in Piazza Mattei different was the decoration; Mattei commissioned the young sculptor Taddeo Landini, (1550–1596) for his first sculptural commission in Rome, to create statues of four ephebes, or young adolescent men, and eight dolphins. They were originally intended to be of marble but were finally made of bronze, which was more expensive. The Ephebes, in the mannerist style, may have been inspired by eight bronze figures made in 1563-1565 by Bartolomeo Ammannati for the Fountain of Neptune, or di Biancone, in Florence.

From a photographic point of view the small size fountain offers the perfect chance to capture elegance and style inside a characteristic Roman square, usually quite lively, with nice stores and still a traditional lifestyle going on in it. The perfect features of the four ephebes, with water springing on them and drops ricocheting in all directions, also provide the opportunity to catch compelling shots of life frozen in the air or slowly flowing as time goes by. The setting of your camera shutter speed is a choice totally up to you.

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