A powerful civic symbol in the middle of the "Campo"

The relocation in Santa Maria della Scala
The restoration work of Fonte Gaia started in 1989 under the supervision of Opificio delle Pietre Dure of Florence. From 2000 to 2010 the work was done in the restoration workshop set inside the Santa Maria della Scala museum. This intervention had become necessary because of the severe degradation of the 15th century fount, due to the characteristics of the material, the marble from the Montagnola senese,and from the outdoor placement of the work in Piazza del Campo and, from 1904, in the Loggia dei Nove of Palazzo Pubblico.

The project of Fonte Gaia devised by Jacopo della Quercia, took a little longer than ten years from start to finish in 1419.Such a powerful civic symbol, placed right in the middle of the Campo, was decorated with relieves picturing Madonna, protector of the city, and flanked by the Virtues, necessary inspiration for the Good Government of the city. On the left and righ sides were placed two female statues.

The frail limestone of the nearby Montagnola senese used to build Fonte Gaia, and the impact of daily life in the Campo have been the causes of its decay. A major damage was caused in 1743 during the Palio horse race by a member of the public who, in the attempt to gain a better viewpoint, climbed up one of the statues and made it fall down in pieces.

In 1859 the decision was taken to replace Jacopo's fount with a copy made of the harder Carrara marble, for which job the sienese purist sculptor Tito Sarocchi was commissioned. However, Sarrocchi did not replicate the two female statues because of their nakedness. The monument, still in its place in the Campo nowadays, was unveiled ten years later and was protected with a railing made by the architect Giuseppe Partini.

Acca Larentia

In the first half of twentieth century the two female statues were identified as the mother, Rea Silvia, and the wet-nurse, Acca Larenzia, of Romolo and Remo. Two figures that therefore represent Siena's discendence from Rome. Acca Larentia is depicted bare-chested with Romolo and Remo. It is an early example of female nude. The figure is characterised by the incredibily tenderness of her naked body and the sense of physical concreteness. The movements in the curved planes of the drapery derives from a naturalistic sensibility of gothic imprint.

Rea Silvia

The figure is identified as Rea Silvia and just like Acca Larentia is represented bare-chested with her children. The figure is characterised by a complex drapery and a melancholic gaze.

Adam's Creation

In 1415 the original draft for Fonte Gaia was extended by adding scenes drawn of the Book of Genesis.
On the left wing is represented Adam's Creation. The scene marks the beginning of the man's path to salvation through the figure of Christ.

The Virtues: Wisdom

The construction of the fountain was intended to expand the nobling significance to the frame surrounding the water. The Virtues, including Wisdom, evoked the good government which reigned over Siena. An urbanistic and political propaganda axis runs from Palazzo Pubblico to Fonte Gaia: Lorenzetti's Buon Governo, Taddeo di Bartolo's frescoes and the Virtues of the Fonte are intended to strengthen a sense of civil pride.

The Virtues: Hope

The Virtues: Fortitude

The Virtues: Prudence

The central group: Adoring angel on left side

The central group: Madonna and child

The representation of the Virgin in Fonte Gaia was not only a devotional picture but also Siena's official emblem, of which the Virgin Mary is protector.

The central group: Adoring angel on right side

The Virtues: Justice

The Virtues: Charity

The Virtues: Temperance

The Virtues: Faith

The exile from Eden

On the right wing is represented the Exile from Eden. The scene is the first stop on the hard path to salvation and to the pursuit of a righteous life, emboided by Fonte Gaia's eight Virtues and by the one which represents the sum of all: the Virgin Mary.

Credits: Story

Santa Maria della Scala, servizio programmazione culturale musei
Redazione di Chiara Nencini
Fotografie realizzate dagli alunni della 3D-AM, A.S 2017-2018, del Liceo Artistico "Duccio di Buoninsegna" di Siena.

Credits: All media
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