The Fountain of Venus and Adonis, sculpted in white Carrara marble by Gaetano Salomone between 1784 and 1789, stands out in the wonderful frame of the gardens of the Royal Palace of Caserta, a park extending over 120 hectares with English gardens and small woods. The water system was designed by Luigi Vanvitelli, creating a fascinating journey in the company of mythological figures like Diana, Actaeon and of course Venus and Adonis, who are central in the sculptural group on the second-last fountain in the large and majestic basin.
The goddess, having fallen in love with the extraordinary beauty of Adonis, son of Cinyras, King of Cyprus, is on her knees. She holds her lover’s hand, imploring him to be careful while hunting – and he reassures her he’ll be safe, unaware of the destiny that awaits him. Nymphs are lying down around them, but Mars is ready to attack, disguised as a wild board.
The system that brings water to the Royal Palace is the Caroline Aqueduct, named after Charles of Bourbon. Vanvitelli’s approach to this project was to emulate the sumptuous and majestic royal residences in France; unfortunately, he never saw his masterpiece completed. It was indeed finished by his son Carlo, who took his place as the court’s first architect in 1773. The Royal Palace of Caserta itself was completed the following year.