The Fountain of Tivoli or The Fountain of Ovate is a noted water feature located in the architectural masterpiece, Villa d’Este in Tivoli. Villa d’Este was originally commissioned by Cardinal Ippolito Il d’Este, the son of Lucrezia Borgia. As newly appointed governor of Tivoli, d’Este was given the land and existing manor but he was unsatisfied with the accommodations and had reconstruction begin immediately. By the time he died in 1572 the estate was nearing completion but not entirely finished.
In addition to the lavish manor house, d’Este paid close attention to the surrounding gardens, intent on creating a spectacle that would draw envy for ages. The terraced garden was built in a Renaissance mannerist style which used the sloped land to its advantage but caused some issues with the water supply. To overcome these difficulties new innovations were created using a combination of cascades, water tanks, troughs, pools, jets and fountains. The resulting structures and water features were so spectacular they were oft copies over the next two centuries in Rome and surrounding countries.
At one end of this spectacular garden of fountains and watery delights is The Fountain of Ovate or the Fountain of Tivoli. This fountain, designed by Pirro Ligorio and the oval fountain spills water into the basin below. In the past visitors could walk behind the falls in a concave arcade nymphaeum. The marble nymphas were created by Giovanni Battista Della Porta and above them rest three statues symbolizing the three rivers of Tivoli, Aniene, Erculaneo, Albuneo. Above all is the statue of Pegasus.
Located along with the Tivoli Fountain are more fabulous water features that just must be seen, and heard, to be appreciated. The Water Organ Fountain is the incredible water feature that just must be heard. It is said that the technology of this 16th century fountain actually originated in 1st century Alexandria. Claude Vernard created the Water Organ Fountain at Villa d’Este and it’s a true architectural masterpiece adorned with statues, carvings, arches and the Este’s Eagle perched atop the entire masterpiece.
The Rometta fountain, or Little Rome, reproduces key moments in the myth and history of Rome. Unfortunately, great pieces of this architectural history in water have been lost throughout the ages and the fountain is incomplete.
The Owl Fountain uses hydraulic devices to move an owl through the fountain where he lands on a branch. The owl’s landing appears to terrify the surrounding birds that stop chirping, their twitters are actually controlled by air flow through the beaks being started and stopped by water pressure.
Running from the Rometta to The Tivoli Fountain are The Hundred Fountains, three levels of fountains that create a wall of greenery and water meant to symbolize the three rivers of Tivoli. The fountains themselves are shaped as lilies, eagles, obelisks, and boats.
The Tivoli Fountain is connected to the next by the Fountain of Dragons which commands attention in the center of the gardens. This fountain was built in honor of Pope Gregory XIII for his 1572 visit to the manor estate.
In addition to the gardens and the fountain, what remains of the estate and manor house itself is quite magnificent and one of the most comprehensive and remarkable illustrations of Renaissance culture.
If you’re thinking about visiting Ville d’Este and the Fountain of Tivoli, check to see if they’ll be open and what hours the fountains will be in operation. The estate is typically closed on Mondays and has a liberal holiday schedule. The fountains no longer run constantly and you will need to time your tour so you get to see and hear all of them in their true glory.
The Tivoli Fountain at Villa d’Este has inspired many other replicas, few remain today. A noted replica was the Jardin de Tivoli in Paris. In 1766 the gardens were referred to as the Folie Boutin and quite popular, to draw a greater crowd or to derive a closer association with the masterpiece in Tivoli it adopted the name Jardin de Tivoli or Tivoli Gardens. Unfortunately, the land ended up a victim of the Napoleonic wars and was left in disrepair and closed.
But it was the Jardin de Tivoli and the original Tivoli Fountain that inspired Danish architect Fritz Meyer to create his own version of the fountain to be featured in a new park in Copenhagen Denmark. Meyer’s creation was the focal point of this amusement park and pleasure garden which was originally called Tivoli & Vauxhall. Now known simply as the Tivoli Gardens, the original fountain remains as do many of the sites and amusement rides. Tivoli Gardens officially opened on August 15, 1843, making it the second oldest amusement park in the world.
And as imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, the great fountain of the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen inspired a replica in the State of Washington. This Tivoli Fountain is located on the west campus, alongside Capitol Way. Peter Schmidt made a visit to Tivoli Gardens in 1949 and was quite taken by the fountain and decided that one should be created for the Washington State capitol grounds. Before Schmidt even left Denmark he had already purchased many of the essential parts and even received help from Fritz Meyer himself. The fountain was finally installed and dedicated in 1953 and features an outer ring of 540 jets creating an umbrella of water. Inside the outer ring are two inner rings of vertical spray emerging from large tulip shaped copper pots. But it’s the center of this fountain that is most notable with its 25 foot spout. 600 gallons of water circulate each minute to create this remarkable fountain replica.
It’s true that great art inspires others and it’s not hard to understand how the original Tivoli Fountain at Villa d’Este has driven many other artists to create their own replicas of the great water feat. Countless replicas have been destroyed or lost to time while a few remain and continue to draw raves from visiting crowds today.