The History of Fountains
Since the time of the ancient Egyptians, fountains have been a part of daily
life. Egyptian fountains consisted of rectangular fishponds with trees lining the edges. Drawings of these can be found on the walls of ancient Egyptian tombs. But Egyptians used their fountains not only for aesthetic reasons, but also for functionality. The water and the shade from the trees provided a cool place to escape the hot sun for the Egyptian people.
During the time of the ancient Romans, bathing rituals were considered extremely important. There were numerous baths across the Roman empire. Depicted at Pompeii in wall paintings, these public baths were usually found in colonnaded gardens with fountains. Because the empire was so large, the Romans borrowed the idea of the aqueduct from the ancient Assyrians and used it to distribute water. The aqueducts carried water from lakes and the sea to various locations throughout the Roman empire. The Romans built 11 aqueducts, and a couple of them are still in use today supplying water to the baths and fountains in Rome.
The Persians had a different concept of fountains; they designed their fountains to represent paradise. Their fountains were enclosed in rectangular walled formal gardens, irrigated by pools and canals. These intricate fountains and gardens inspired the Persian carpet designs.
Moving on to the time of the Medieval Period in Europe, fountains continue to take on a Persian feel. Medieval fountains consisted of large gardens, divided into four areas with a fountain in the center. This design was intended to enhance meditation.
The Renaissance Period in Italy, the castles that once existed developed into large estates and villas, each with their own expansive gardens. The beautiful gardens included tall trees and vegetation, flowerbeds, sculptures, as well as fountains. There were many beautiful gardens and estates, but a few famous ones are the Garden at Medici in the 15 th century, as well as the more elaborate and formal Villa D’Este and the Villa Farnese during the 16 th century.
During the Baroque Period in the 17 th century, geometric patterns took over the design of the Italian gardens. They evolved into complex shapes, a trait of the dramatic Baroque period. Many of the gardens included not only fountains, but also waterfalls. Prime examples of these geometric beauties are the Villa Giovio and the Isola Bella.
In Spain and France, modified versions of the Italian Renaissance seeped into their gardens. The symmetrical, geometric lines of the Italian gardens continued in Spain and France. However, by the end of the 17 th century, France replaced Italy as the main inspiration for garden designs. With King Louis XIV in power, French gardens became a show of royal grandeur and limitless wealth. One of the best examples is of course Versailles.
And finally, in the Romantic Period, there was an emphasis on untamed, wild emotion. English architects translated this feeling into the gardens, creating them with curving lines, sloping hills, and huge lawns. The straight lines and geometric patterns of the Baroque Period were replaced. Small pools and beautiful fountains decorated the garden, placed informally among the shrubbery with no apparent design. A couple of examples of the Romantic style gardens and fountains are the Blenheim Palace and Chatsworth.
The Romantic influence spread through Europe and North America, including America’s most famous example – Central Park in New York City.