Naiad Fountain

Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

In the 19th century Sir Richard Wallace was a wealthy English art collector and philanthropist who lived in France. He designed four models of drinking fountains to provide clean drinking water to the citizens of Paris and France. They had to be tall enough to be seen from afar but not overwhelm the landscape; visually attractive; resistant to the elements; and economical.

The Applied model found in the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden (Jardim Botânico located in the Zona Sul of Rio de Janeiro, at the foot of the Corcovado Mountain) was created to be installed on the walls of public buildings such as hospitals and railway stations.

The fountain was manufactured by the Val d’Osne Foundry in France. It consists of an arched pediment with a central panel flanked by two pilasters. The base is extended on each side with a scroll casting containing bulrush bas relief. The foot of the pilasters are decorated with two sea serpents (symbolic protector of all things related to water.) Foliate relief is visible beneath the cornice.

The arch contains a large shell with scrolls surrounding the head of a Naiad. In Greek mythology, a Naiad was a female water nymph who guarded fountains, wells, and other bodies of fresh water. Her hair is braided and her head is bowed. Water falls from her open mouth into a demi-lune basin in the central panel. The original water goblets are missing probably removed with the awareness of public hygiene in the middle of the 20th century. Additional decorative bas-relief below the basin provides the illusion of support.

An identical fountain is located in Paris, on the Rue Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire.


  • Bas-relief, sculpted material that has been raised from the background to create a slight projection from the surface
  • Cornice, a molding or ornamentation that projects from the top of a building
  • Demi-lune, half moon or crescent shape
  • Foliate, decorated with leaves or leaf like motif
  • Pediment, an element in architecture consisting of a gable placed above a horizontal structure supported by columns
  • Pilaster, a column form that is only ornamental and not supporting a structure

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