After my first visit to the Quattro Canti, I walk a little more south, and see a square on my left hand side. Statues of males and females in a circular fountain draw my attention, and I walk to the balustrade. It turns out the gates to the fountain are closed, so I have to be content just walking around it. This is the Fontana Pretoria (Praetorian Fountain). I am surprised to see finely carved statues of naked men and women, in different poses, lined up towards the centre of the fountain. There, three stories are stacked on top of each other, each one of them with another sculpture. The sculptures I see represent the Twelve Olympians and other mythological figures. I also see sculptures of animals, and, of course, water running through and spouting out of the base of the statues in front or through the mouths of animals. Rain chases me away, but I am back several more times to have a closer look at the Fontana Pretoria.
The fountain is surrounded by several imposing buildings. First of all, the Palazzo Pretorio, housing the municipality of Palermo. Giuseppe Garibaldi passed the Piazza Pretoria during the Expedition of the Thousand in 1860, which would eventually lead to the unification of Italy. On the northeastern side of the square, I find the Santa Caterina church, from which steps I get a good view of the Fontana Pretoria. On the northwestern side, I see the Palazzo Guggino Bordonaro, which looks in bad need of restoration. When I come back the next day, the sun is out, and the gates of the square are open, so I can finally walk around in the fountain itself, and get a close-up look at the statues. A good example of how nudist art can certainly be beautiful without any erotic annotations. In fact, I see several families walking around, and the children clearly appreciate the fountain and the beauty of the statues.
It is only later that I read the curious history of this fountain. It was originally built in Florence, by Francesco Camilliani, in 1554, where it adorned the garden of Luigi de Toledo. The famous historic art historian Giorgio Vasari (himself an artist), praised the fountain as a very marvellous fountain without equal in Florence and probably Italy. Despite its beauty, Luigi de Toledo decided to sell the fountain to alleviate his financial problems, and thus it ended up in Palermo, where the fountain arrived in 1574. Some of the sculptures suffered damages, while others disappeared. Assembling the fountain was carried out by Camillo Camiliani, the son of Francesco, the original sculptor. For centuries, the fountain was seen as a symbol of the corrupt municipality of the city, and was dubbed the Square of Shame, probably also because of the nude statues. It has regained much well-earned fame as the beautiful fountain it is in our days.
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Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Fontana Pretoria (Italy). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Fontana Pretoria. Read more about this site.