Fonte Gaia, in Siena’s Piazza del Campo, was so beautiful that local artist Jacopo della Quercia (1374-1438) became known as ‘Jacopo della Fonte’ after decorating it with reliefs between 1409 and 1419. The people of Siena always loved this fountain: it is said they nicknamed it “Gaia” (“joyful”) as soon as they tasted its water, upon inauguration in 1346.
According to art historian Luciano Bellosi, Jacopo della Quercia’s work “was a great endeavor, comparable to some of the ones carried out in the 1500s – like Michelangelo’s tomb of Pope Julius II – in terms of design and number of life size statues, although they are almost all in relief” (L. Bellosi, “Come un prato fiorito: studi sull’arte tardogotica”, Jaca Book, Milan 2000). The original sculptures by Jacopo della Quercia are now in the Museum of Santa Maria della Scala.
Art critic Cesare Brandi has highlighted the fact that creating this fountain was a “project with conflicts, interruptions, alterations, and new starts […]. The Fonte is unlike any other, and does not resemble any of the Gothic style fountains in Central Italy – Viterbo and Perugia – nor any of the ones in Siena, which are still Gothic but have an Arab influence […] It is like a great seat with a mirror of water in the center, with sacred images all around like in a church” (C. Brandi, “Tra Medioevo e Rinascimento: scritti sull’arte da Giotto a Jacopo della Quercia”, Jaca Book, Milan 2006).
While in Siena, pay a visit to this beautiful fountain: it is one of the most wonderful woks of art in the world.