An intriguing Art History Dilemma: Tuscan, Venetian and Florentine Sink Fountains. Their Origins and Evolution.

There were two categories of Tuscan water fountains known in the fifteenth century: the autonomous or type “isolated”, designed for the center of the town square, courtyard or backyard gardens and the “committed” or as we call them today the wall fountains, that are normally placed against a wall at the end of a square or a courtyard and that are in need of a backing support wall or boulder.Sink-and-Bowl-Fountains-25

The only example of a Florentine wall fountain of this period is the fine structure of ‘Pietra Serena’ in a location called the ‘Orlandini Courtyard’, now owned by ‘Banca Del Monte Dei Paschi’. Sink-and-Bowl-Fountains-7

This is a unique niche crowned by a bow and framed by classical pilasters, water falling from a middle ornamental interior of the niche placed in a half-moon pool at its heel.Sink-and-Bowl-Fountains-9

Similar to wall fountains, sinks wall fountains were abound in churches and monasteries of Florence. Sink-and-Bowl-Fountains-30

These, although provided with running water, are not true fountains; for water, was controlled by a valve which was switched on only when needed.Sink-and-Bowl-Fountains-5

They weren’t used for the display or decorative purposes but served a vital and functional water dispensation value. Sink-and-Bowl-Fountains-15

The sink fountain was the ancestor of our modern day plumed sink with running water. Back then those sinks were used by the priests for religious purposes where celebrants washed their hands before the consecration of the host into the body of Christ. Therefore, the basin was placed much higher than our modern day sinks.Sink-and-Bowl-Fountains-28

Those sink had their secular counterpart inside Venetian Castles and merchants villas inside their ‘acquaio’ or master palatial bathrooms.Sink-and-Bowl-Fountains-10

Few isolated sink fountains of the Fifteenth Century were left intact inside Venetian villas. Sink-and-Bowl-Fountains-33

Museums and private collections contain the bulk of the scattered Venetian basins sink heritage and few documented hand drawing and sketches of those original designs survived in the archives of Venetian and Florentine Museums and private collections.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The contemporary archival and documented art historic studies of Italian engravings, paintings and drawings of those sinks have led us to the rediscovery of this nearly lost art. Sink-and-Bowl-Fountains-26

Ancient Surfaces can successfully re-carved and restore most common stone and marble sink forms and designs. We later made a discovery in that field that was later confirmed with scholars of that period.Sink-and-Bowl-Fountains-22

The smaller sized inlayed wash basin sinks were used only outdoors inside open air private closed garden courtyards.Sink-and-Bowl-Fountains-29
The Florentine fountain figures that survive from this period are mainly variations on the popular theme of the ‘Putto’. However, fountains performances in contemporary Italian art indicates that a wide range of topics, usually based on classical prototypes, were used in the Quattrocento sink fountains.Sink-and-Bowl-Fountains-36

A water jet was often linked in some way with the statue or pedestal bowel.Sink-and-Bowl-Fountains-20

In some instances water flowed from an urn or spouted from a fish, dolphin or a bronze lion head or spigot.Sink-and-Bowl-Fountains-21

Back in the 15th century, wall sinks fountains sculptor’s simply adapted contemporary forms of remnant Roman ruined architraves and columns utilizing the classical scales and orders.Sink-and-Bowl-Fountains-38

They copied altarpieces and Roman wall signage plaques that were recycled from a thousand years before their time.Sink-and-Bowl-Fountains-37

With sink fountains becoming freestanding, however, carvers had to face new challenges. Chief of these was the need for a 360-degree configuration since the ‘Quattrocento’ sink fountains were wall fountain meant for frontal viewing only.Sink-and-Bowl-Fountains-32

It was a difficult technical problem that was not solved overnight. Over time however, the competence of Italian master carvers and designers prevailed as evidenced by the sculptural record from the following period that started in the 17th Century and that is still ongoing today.

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