“‘Material culture’ has operated as a ‘litmus test’ to what is going on right now and what has gone before, spatially and temporally” (Tolia-Kelly, 2009). The public fountain is an example of this in the 19th century. The style of many fountains is based upon the dazzling and spectacular styles of Baroque which began in Rome and spread throughout Europe over time. The Baroque style of architecture expressed grandeur, exuberance, drama and awe, and the typical ‘modern’ concepts of beauty, control and power, and the connection to the magnificence of the Roman World emphasized this.
In the 19th century city public parks became a popular characteristic feature of modernity all over Europe, and with some of these parks came the public fountain. Fountains were constructed to be the center-piece of many gardens and public parks, to draw the eye of visitors and to create an appropriate space where one can sit with friends and chat or “accept their beauty with a wistful sigh, toss a coin, take a photo, and walk away” (Rinne, 2010). For example, King Louis XIV built fountains as the central pieces in the Garden a la Francaise at the Palace of Versailles, depicting gods and goddess’s from Greek mythology as a way of symbolising his power as a ruler and expressing man’s control over nature (which is another concept of ‘modernity’). From this example a class difference is also visible, as the fountain would be turned on to spray over the French peasants.
Public fountains were not only constructed to create central beautiful spaces for the elite to socialize, they also had another purpose which was to memorialize someone or something. In figure.2, figure.3 and figure.4 each of these fountains were constructed to memorialize important figures, in these cases John Rushworth Jellicoe and David Beatty and Sergeant Walter Berwick. By using a fountain as a memorial symbol it also gave it an air of importance and would be respected by anyone, wealthy or peasant.
- Rinne, K.W. (2010). The Waters of Rome: Aqueducts, Fountains and the Birth of the Baroque City. Yale University Press.
- Tolia-Kelly, D.P. (2009). Material Culture. Elsevier Ltd.