Fontana delle Tartarughe by day
February 24, 2012
The original fountain design called for four bronze dolphins on the upper vasque, supported by the upraised hands of the four young men. With the removal of the four dolphins because of the low water pressure, the upraised hands of the statues seemed to have no purpose.
Probably to correct this problem and balance the composition, the four turtles around the edge of the vasque were added during a restoration of the fountain between 1658 and 1659 ordered by Pope Alexander VII. They are usually attributed either to Gian Lorenzo Bernini or Andrea Sacchi. The date of the restoration is recorded on four scrolls of marble around the fountain.
The turtles are very realistic. If their creator was Bernini, he may have used casts of a real turtle, as he did with sculptures he made of other living creatures.
In 1853-54, during a brief period of puritanism in Rome, leaves were placed over the sexual organs of the boys. In 1979 one of the turtles was stolen from the fountain. After the theft the original turtles were replaced by copies. The statue was equipped with a water purification system to prevent the buildup of calcium deposits, which had required the frequent cleaning of the fountain. The water purification system was replaced in 2003 and the marble and bronze of the fountain were extensively restored and preserved in 2006.