Garden Sculpture & Garden Fountains in Roman Gardens
Garden Sculpture & Fountains added much to the decorative effect of the Roman garden. Carved balustrades, benches, tables, bas-reliefs, and statuary were considered the most important part of many gardens, and were beautifully designed. To supply this ornamentation, shiploads of the finest sculptures, statuary, and artistic fountains were exported from Greece to adorn Italian pleasure grounds.
As in Greece, garden statues were usually set up in honor of some appropriate divinity. Accordingly, images of the Graces, the Seasons, Pan, Sylvanus, Flora, Pomona, and Vertumnus were frequently erected. Terminal statues with knobs below the shoulders, from which a votive garland of flowers might be hung, seem especially fit for the open air.
Refreshment being one of the most desirable luxuries for human beings and a necessity for the vegetation, an abundance of water fountains were indispensably connected with out-of-door dwelling-places. In the baths, fish-ponds, and fountains, great ingenuity was displayed to please the eye while the body was being reinvigorated.
From an elaborate chateau d’eau to a slender font of a drinking water fountain, almost every form of ornamental hydraulics with which we are familiar, and many others now unknown, seems to have been employed by the ancients. At Pompeii there are a variety of outdoor water fountains in a good state of preservation. Hardly any main area is without a rectangular basin of water a foot or two deep, either lined with marble or mosaic. Usually they are placed entirely below the level of the pavement, but occasionally the edge of the basin is surmounted by a marble statue rising a few inches above the surface. A marble table or statue was often placed in connection with these fountains.
Many garden courts were also ornamented with brightly colored niches covered with mosaic and garden statuary sheltering a spout of water from the fountains or a miniature chateau d’eau and decorated with garden statues. Masks serving as lamps were placed on each side of these niches.
Fantastically trimmed evergreen trees and shrubs were the principal “vegetate ornament” of the Roman garden. The chief gardener was known as the topiarius, and it was his none too easy task to see that the evergreens were artistically shorn. Under his supervision, pyramids, cones, wild animals, hunting scenes, and even a whole fleet of ships might be shaped by skilful shears.