This article is brought to you by our partners at Milestone Rome, an Italian independent cultural project bringing together digital innovation and art history to share Rome's cultural heritage with accuracy and authenticity. In this article, they examine the enduring icon of Rome's artistic heritage, the Trevi Fountain. One of Manimenti's own artisans, master gilder Maurizio Carletti, participated in its recent restoration efforts.

Nicola Salvi, Fontana di Trevi, 1732, Rome, (C) David Iliff.

Nicola Salvi, Fontana di Trevi, 1732, Rome, (C) David Iliff.

“This fountain is superb, majestic, luxurious and as a whole of astonishing beauty”: these are the words thoroughly chosen by Francesco Milizia in his Memories of 1785 to describe the Trevi fountain, a masterpiece originally designed by the architect Nicola Salvi and deemed as the most magnificent and worthy ornament of the 18th century Rome.

Various events entailed the transformation of the ultimate place where the fountain would have been built in the terminal area of the Aqua Virgo, a Roman aqueduct which had here one of its castelli, the typical hydraulic towers with basins and openings for water distribution. 

The triumph of the project by Nicola Salvi (Rome, 1697 – Rome, 1751) was upheld in 1732 by the patronage of pope Clemente XII, born Lorenzo Corsini (Florence, 1652- Rome, 1740) in harmony with the best cultural spirit of Rome, sensitive to the fruitful contrast between the taste for classical Antiquity and the modern achievements of artistic creation.

An imposing statue of Oceanus driving a shell-shaped chariot dominates the marine environment, sumptuously populated by mythological animals and allegorical figures. 

Nicola Salvi, Fontana di Trevi, Rome (detail of Oceanus by Pietro Bracci, ca. 1759-1762), (C) Mike Gnuckx.

Nicola Salvi, Fontana di Trevi, Rome (detail of Oceanus by Pietro Bracci, ca. 1759-1762), (C) Mike Gnuckx.

The fountain orchestrates and blends elements primarily from the 16th century Renaissance as the balanced articulation of Palazzo dei Conservatori by Michelangelo Buonarroti and the alternate rhythm of the Palladian architecture. A classical inspiration can be particularly recognized in the central structure that appears analogous to an ancient triumphal arch, with a big fornix and two lateral sectors adorned with sculptures and reliefs. Nevertheless, the amplifying of the central arch in the façade of Palazzo di Poli welds this artwork to the grandiose inventions by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Pietro da Cortona. Rising from the water, the Travertine rock converting to architecture is reminiscent of Bernini’s Palazzo Montecitorio. Salvi masterly employed the expressive Baroque means of both sculpture and architecture in order to spectacularly arrange the allegory of water, a suggestive feast of monumental and powerful beauty. 

The strength and the purity of the ancient Aqua Virgo has thus crystallized in an eternal myth, made of the stone, water and light of Rome. 

Milestone Rome is an Italian independent cultural project aimed at spreading the love for the Eternal City and bequeathing the truthful knowledge of its cultural heritage through art historical paths enhanced by digital technologies. For more information on our partners Milestone Rome, and to explore the in-depth art history of the Eternal City, visit and connect on TwitterInstagram, or facebook @milestonerome.


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