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The Fountains

The Fountains


The Neptune Fountain

The Neptune Fountain, the central feature of the Upper Gardens' decor, is the largest of the fountains in the parterre. Its pool, ninety-two metres long and thirty-three metres wide, with its figured surround of yellowish-grey Saaremaa dolomite, bordered by a green strip of lawn, is like a giant mirror in a richly wrought malachite frame. In the centre of the pool, on a three-tiered granite pedestal, there stands a bronze statue of Neptune; below it are masks spouting water, clusters of shell and coral, figures of trumpeting putti, escutcheons and garlands. The base is decorated with sculptures of two horsemen on hippocampi and figures of women with oars (allegories of the Rednitz and Pegnitz rivers which flow through Nuremberg), and four fountain groups of infant tritons on dolphins, a sea lion, and a dragon. At the southern end of the pool there is a miniature three-stepped cascade with a statue of Apollo Belvedere, surrounded by low fountains with jets of exquisite shape.

In 1721 Tuvolkov, the hydraulic engineer, built a basin for a future fountain to a design by Le Blond, approved as early as 1718. In 1737 a fountain was installed, adorned by a gilded lead sculptural group, cast from a model by Bartolomeo Carlo Rastrelli and depicting Neptune in a chariot; it was known then as Neptune's Cart. At the same time, Rastrelli built an extension to the pool in the form of a three-stepped cascade with the sculpture Winter.

Sixty-two years later the lead sculpture was replaced by the bronze group of Neptune, purchased in Nuremberg for 66,000 guilders. This sculpture was made in the 1650s and 1660s from models by Christoph Ritter III and his assistants, Georg Schweigger and Jeremias Eisler. The casting was carried out by the founder Wolf Hieronymus Herold, and the chasing executed with the assistance of the medallist Johann Jakob Wolrab. In 1799 this fine German sculpture, which had lain in the storehouse of the Nuremberg town council for over thirty years, was set up in the Upper Gardens of the Peterhof ensemble. The group was assembled by the coppersmith Naum Semionov and the pipes for the fountain were laid by the fountain-builder Fiodor Strelnikov. It is interesting to note that almost a century later plaster casts of the group were made at the request of the German government, and a copy of the Neptune was installed in the market place in Nuremberg, its home town.

During the war of 1941-45, the occupying forces dismantled the composition and removed it to Germany; it was recovered in 1947 (all but one of the sculptures) and brought back to St Peterburg. In 1956 and 1957, eight dolphins were cast after surviving eighteenth-century specimens to replace the destroyed originals; the statue of Apollo Belvedere was repeated from the plaster cast preserved at the Academy of Arts in St Peterburg; and in 1973 Vladimir Tatarovich recreated the figure of the horseman in the western part of the pool.

The Neptune Fountain, with its sculptural and water decoration, including thirty-six whole figures and ornamental details in bronze and lead, and some forty jets of varying patterns, is, after the Great Cascade, the richest and most impressive in the Peterhof ensemble. Despite its strongly marked national features, this unique creation of the German Baroque tradition fits organically into the composition of the eighteenth-century Russian formal garden.

See also:
· the Mezheumny or
Midway Fountain;

· the Oak Fountain;
· the Fountains of
the Square Pools

mpeg The Neptune Fountain ( 800 Kb)

The Neptune Fountain

Man Riding a Hippocampus.

The Neptune Fountain

Allegory of a River.


Boy Riding a Dragon.


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