Although drinking fountains were cast from specific designs, regardless of the manufacturer, substitution of decorative elements and customization was offered.
Lamps and crowns were the most commonly used apex finials, and a variety of flat panels, fish scale panels and open filigree domes were offered as a canopy.
Medallions (or shields) were a common medium to allow for dedications, Coat of Arms, or Friendly Society crests. The arches between the pillars also offered space for dedication or a request to KEEP THE PAVEMENT DRY.
If you get the opportunity to view one of these fountains, take note of the many decorative elements present such as Cranes, Eagles, Flowers, Puttos/Cherubs, Salamanders/Lizards, Swans, Water Lilies, and Winged Griffins. All elements are symbolic and may have been a form of Memento Mori.
- Aladdin’s Lamp is the source of all souls
- Alligators/Crocodiles: The crocodile was a symbol of evil. They were hung from the ceilings of cabinets as a reminder of the mortality of humanity.
- Cranes are a recognised symbol of vigilance
- Crowns are a symbol of honor and glory (Imperial crowns have a cross at the top)
- Dolphins are a guardian of all things water related
- Eagles symbolize immortality
- Elephants are a sign of peace
- Griffins are acknowledged as guardians of treasure and priceless possessions
- Heron is a symbol of renewal
- Heron holding an eel symbolizes vigilance
- Lamps symbolized knowledge and immortality of the spirit
- Lions are acknowledged as guardians
- Mural Crown represents city walls or towers
- Owls are guardians of the afterlife.
- Pineapple is a symbol of hospitality and welcome
- Salamanders display bravery and courage that cannot be extinguished by fire
- Samson signified strength
- Shells are a reminder that the individual is not forgotten.
- Snakes are potent guardians of sacred spaces
- A stork holding a snake is a symbol of vigilance
- Winged Horse: the winged horse’s connection with water derives from the myth thateverywhere Pegasus struck his hoof to the earth, an inspiring spring burst forth
Note: The custom of water pouring from a lion’s mouth is derived from Egypt. The Egyptians depended on the rising of the River Nile for their prosperity. This annual event occurred when the Sun was in the constellation Leo (the lion). The Egyptians celebrated by carving statues of a lion and decorated fountains with lion heads. This practice spread to other countries.