The Trick Fountains
At the end of the eighteenth century two trick fountains - the Firs and the Umbrella - were constructed in the enclosures on either side of the Monplaisir Avenue. Three fountaining fir saplings of metal, painted green, were made in 1784 by the fountain-builders Johann Wilhelm Reiser and Strelnikov. Twelve years later, in 1796, obviously as a result of the influence of the Chinese style introduced by Velten and Vasily Neyelov into Tsarskoye Selo, it was decided to build in Peterhof a trick fountain resembling a Chinese umbrella. The fountain, designed by Brouer, began to operate when visitors sat down on the seats by the stem of the Umbrella: they at once found themselves surrounded by a wall of downward jets, pouring like rain from the edge of the circular awnings. In 1802 another trick fountain was constructed, the Oak Fountain. The gilded oak-tree had been created by Bartolomeo Carlo Rastrelli in 1735 for the Oak Fountain in the Upper Gardens, and remained there until the 1750s, when Strelnikov used the surviving pieces of the dismantled tree to create a new one, which he painted green. At its foot were placed fountaining metal tulips, and on either side two benches, behind which were hidden nozzled pipes. Scarcely had a visitor sat down on the bench to admire at leisure the gushing tree and tulips than he found himself inside an arcade of water.
During the war the trick fountains were destroyed. In 1947 the architect Andrey Oll and his assistants made a design for the re-creation of the Umbrella and the Oak Fountains. In 1949 the four- metre-high Umbrella Fountain was started. Five years later Georgy Simonov carved a finial for it, in the form of acanthus leaves, and also made elbow-rests for the seats and 164 scallops for the fringe, each enclosing a tiny pipe.
The ensemble of trick fountains, comprising the Oak, Tulip, and Bench Fountains, was re-created in 1953. A surviving watercolour of 1828 and a draft of the hydraulic engineer Pilsudski were consulted. Several lead branches with leaves were found, and the joints connecting the fountains to the piping were discovered. Pavel Lavrentyev and his sons, Vladimir and Pavel, all of them excellent craftsmen, made the metal trunk, some 500 hollow branches, several thousand leaves, and five tulips. The water fills the hollow trunk from its roots to its crown and runs into the thin branches, from which 500 jets spurt and envelop the entire sapling.
In 1958, Alexey Smirnov's team of fountain-builders, using documentary and graphic sources, re-created three steel fir trunks with a realistic bark surface, brass twigs, and tin conifer needles. The metal fir saplings, painted to look like real trees, blend perfectly with their natural setting, and can be recognized as fountains only at a short distance.
The trick fountains of the Monplaisir Avenue, those original eighteenth-century water-jokes, are highly popular with the park's visitors of today; they are an endless source of funny situations and general merriment.