As it can be admired today, Fontana delle Naiadi was completed no sooner than 1912 (the official inauguration was made in 1914). Yet, the plan to build a fountain in Piazza della Repubblica (formerly known as Piazza dell’Esedra) in Rome occurred to Pope Pius IX some 40 years earlier, around 1870. The construction works at the original fountain completed in 1888. The structure featured a statuary consisting of four chalk lions (apparently provisionally carved on the occasion of a visit of Emperor Wilhelm II to Rome).

The lions were realized by Alessandro Guerrieri, but they were replaced in 1901 with works by Mario Rutelli, sculptural representations of aquatic female deities, namely, four Naiads, each of them governing over a certain section of the aquatic world, an idea suggested by the animals which accompany them: the nymph of the lakes holds a swan, the nymph of the oceans rides a horse, the nymph of the rivers lies on a river monster, whereas the nymph of the underground waters rides a dragon-like creature.

Rutelli’s work was later complemented by a centerpiece (work of the same Rutelli) representing Glaucus captured while clenching a dolphin. The sculpture was added in 1911. The symbolism is quite clear: the taming of the reign of waters by the overpowering presence of man.

Fontana delle Naiadi (Fountain of the Naiads)
Piazza della Repubblica, Rome, Italy