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FOUNTAINS
 
The Fountains

The Fountains

Peterhof
 
 

The Fable Fountain

Unlike the other fountains of the central area, which are situated in a vast open space, this one is hidden in a little recess behind Voronikhin's Western Colonnade. The Fable Fountain is one of those mechanical amusements which were so much in vogue during the eighteenth century.

Four mottled ducks and a pug, which seems to be trying to catch them, are swimming in a small round pool edged with a raised surround of Reval stone. A tall jet of water rises in the middle; and water spouts from the open beaks of the ducks and the jaws of the dog. The subject of the group was inspired by La Fontaine's fable The Ducks and the Poodle (Les Canes et le barbet;, unlike the other fountains, the sculpture here actually moves.

The Fable Fountain was built in a mere three months from July to September 1725. Designed by Zemtsov, it was constructed by Sualem; the sculptor Pineau made the models from which the ducks and the dog were carved in linden wood; and Forster created an acoustic mechanism which imitated the ducks quacking and the dog barking. Fixed to a trellis screen near the fountain was a small tablet of cartouche shape, bearing an inscription which explained to the viewer what was going on: "The pug chased the ducks in the water: then the ducks said to her: all your efforts are in vain, you may have the strength to chase us, but not to catch us."

In 1730 the wooden sculptures were replaced by copper ones, made to designs of Pineau by the silversmith Lazar Zadubsky. At the same time Zemtsov, together with another architect, Ivan Mordvinov, and Forster, replaced the hand-driven mechanism, which was worked by three men, with a water-wheel hidden under the pool.

During the occupation of 1941-44, the fountain was destroyed. Only one duck and fragments of the water-wheel remained. In 1957 a new stone surround was carved, repeating the design of the first quarter of the eighteenth century; the water-wheel was restored, and figures of the copper ducks were copied from the surviving specimen. A new pug dog was also made in copper after a model by Vorobyov. The fountain, a close copy of the original, was reproduced on its former site. Thus a second life was given to one of the once famous "fable" fountains of Peterhof.


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