The Fountains of the Monplaisir Garden
These fountains are a dominant feature of the decoration of the Monplaisir Garden. In the centre stands the Sheaf Fountain. A powerful jet of water, four and a half metres high, rises from the top of a tufa pedestal in a round pool eleven metres in diameter and brimming with water. It is surrounded by two tiers of twenty-four parabolic jets, which shower down in a spray of sparkling drops like grains. This jet pattern gives the fountain the appearance of a sheaf shedding its grain: hence its present name.
The centre of each of the four parterre compartments is decorated with a cloche or water-bell fountain, so called because of the shape of the flowing water. Gilded bronze statues surmount the round discs topping the pedestals, which are shaped as fluted columns or vases and adorned with a relief ornament of acanthus leaves. The water, forced into the narrow space between the disc and the plinth of the sculpture, spreads over the disc and flows down its edges in a transparent sheet, forming a figure like a bell cast of clear glass. The Sheaf and Cloche Fountains are skilfully integrated into the garden's layout and suited to the Palace's scale and compositional design. Two more fountains, in the nature of water-jokes, stand at the ends of the side paths. These are small trellised settees with lead masks decorating their backrests. One jet of water suddenly spouts from the mask and another squirts up from a nozzle mounted in the tufa in the seat. At the same time streams of water spurt from pipes hidden in the gravel path in front of the settee, forming an arcade of water.
Between 1714 and 1716, when the garden was being laid out in accordance with the original sketches, a space was left for a central fountain, and four gilded lead sculptures were set up in the parterres. Later, between 1721 and 1723, "Fountain No. I", as the Sheaf was then called, was constructed. Five marble cascade steps were cut into the pool's surround and this created an unusual effect as the water seemed to flow from the pool directly into the ground. The metalworkers Guillaume Belin and Johan Hendrik Trosti, and the Riga gilders Johann Pieter Steinbess and Johann Eberhardt made pedestals for the four statues in copper, embossed and gilded, using designs by Michetti, and this completed the decor of the cloche fountains. In 1723 the settees for the trick fountains were constructed from Michetti's designs, with the lead masks cast by Wassoult.
In their long history the fountains of the Monplaisir Garden have undergone certain alterations. In 1817 the lead sculptures over the cloche fountains were replaced by bronze ones, cast from Martos' wax models. The latter were made from plaster casts of famous classical sculptures, and of statues by Canova and Sansovino, housed in the museum of the St Petersburg Academy of Arts. "Fountain No. 1" was more substantially altered. Between1743 and 1745 the fountain-builder Ryliov made the pool deeper, thus increasing its capacity, and in the 1790s the pedestal was remade, and faced with tufa and shells; the fountain's second name, The Crown, refers to this.
When the war began in 1941, the Museum staff managed to remove the decorative statues from the cloche fountains in time, and one lead mask from a settee miraculously survived; all the other parts of the fountains were destroyed. In 1950 pedestals for the cloche fountains were cast in bronze from a model by Yakov Troupiansky, and a year later all the five Monplaisir fountains were working once more. In 1952 the Settee trick fountains and the path jets were re-created from surviving fragments.
The Sheaf Fountain. (77 Kb)
The Cloche Fountains. (230 Kb)
The Sheaf Fountain.
The Psiche Cloche Fountain.
The Faun and a Kid
The Settee and water Arcade,