Design Fragment for the Left Side of the 'Fonte Gaia' in Siena

Artist: Jacopo della Quercia (Jacopo di Pietro d’Angelo di Guarnieri) (Italian, Siena 1374?–1438 Siena)

Date: 1415–16

Medium: Pen and brown ink, brush and brown wash, over traces of leadpoint and ruling, on vellum, glued onto secondary paper support

Dimensions: 7-13/16 x 8-7/16 in. (20.1 x 21.4 cm)

Classification: Drawings

Credit Line: Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1949

Accession Number: 49.141


In 1408, Jacopo della Quercia was commissioned by the city of Siena to execute a fountain decorated with eleven sculptures–figures, foliage, cornices, steps, pilasters, and coats of arms–in the Piazza del Campo, opposite the Palazzo Pubblico. Work on the fountain, which was completed in 1419, did not begin until 1415; the municipal records show that an original project supplied in 1408 had been modified and enriched in 1409 and changed again in 1415. This fountain, traditionally called the Fonte Gaia, has been replaced in the Piazza del Campo by a modern replica, but fragments of the original are preserved in the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena. The present drawing may correspond to a revised draft of the project, possibly done in 1409 at the request of the artist's patrons. A similarly drawn pen and ink design on parchment (London, Victoria and Albert Museum) shows the right section of the fountain monument. The middle section, now missing, probably contained a central niche with a sculptured figure. The fountain as executed differs in many respects from the drawings, though the freestanding figures on the projecting wings representing Acca Laurentia and Rhea Silvia, foster mother and mother of Romulus and Remus, legendary founders of Siena, appear both in the drawings and on the fountain. It is Acca Laurentia and the infant twins who are represented at the left in the Metropolitan Museum drawing.