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Roman Carrara Statue of the God Triton Blowing A Conch Shell Spouting Water
Among the statuary in the gardens at the U.S. embassy in Rome is this 300-year-old fountain with a detailed Roman Carrara statue of the god Triton blowing a conch shell spouting water.
The Palazzo Margherita, a grand century-old Renaissance-style palace, was once the residence of Queen Margherita of Savoia, the widow of King Umberto I of Italy. It was acquired by the American government in 1946, and is now the U.S. Embassy in Rome.
Carved in white marble, a figure of Aphrodite, goddess of love, gazes toward the horizon, her hand resting on a dove, a symbol of love. At the center of the large 300-year-old fountain, a richly detailed Roman-period Carrara statue of the god Triton blows a conch shell spouting water. By a garden wall, a figure of Silenus, the ancient, drunken teacher of Bacchus, reclines on a lion skin. Other figures located both in the garden and within the embassy compound include gods and goddesses, Grecian youths and a Roman satyr, emperors and statesmen, some dating back to the 2nd century A.D.
Without funding from FAPE, these treasures might have been lost. By the late 1980s, the statues were no longer aging gracefully. Erosion had badly scarred their surfaces and some figures lacked arms and legs. Others suffered from iron oxide stains, the result of repairs with iron pins which eventually corroded.
In the center of the Grand Staircase at the Palazzo Margherita, stands Giambologna’s Venus. A piece that was long overlooked until the State Department purchased the site in 1946, the statue portrays the goddess of beauty emerging from her bath. With the help of Enrico Bruschini, the Embassy’s Fine Arts Curator at the time and an evaluation of high-value furnishings done by Sotheby’s in 1989, the sculpture (which was once thought of as a Giambologna copy) was identified as an original. After the statue was restored to its original condition in 1993, and was returned from its exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, FAPE raised the funds to purchase a pink Trani marble base for the statue to be displayed on. It is the only Giambologna sculpture in Rome, and is made visible to the public from the Via Veneto by special lighting.
View a film about this project.