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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.

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

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  • 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

Lisburn’s Wallace Fountains

Location: Lisburn, Co. Antrim, Ireland

Sir Richard Wallace was a wealthy English art collector, philanthropist and Member of Parliament for Lisburn, Northern Ireland from 1873 to 1885 before retiring in Paris, France. When the Franco Prussian war damaged many of the aqueducts in Paris there remained little access to clean water for many of the most needy Parisians. His solution to this problem was the erection of public drinking fountains.

The famous Caratyd drinking fountains were manufactured by the Val d’Osne Foundry from a work of art by the French sculptor, Charles-Auguste Lebourg, in 1872. A stamp is visible on the fountain: Ch. Lebourg SC 1872.

Sir Richard donated five fountains to his former parliamentary constituency at Lisburn in 1876. Each was to be placed in a working class district of the city.

  1. at the junction of Market Place and Bow Street;
  2. in Market Square;
  3. in the Castle Gardens, which remains in its original position;
  4. at the junction of Seymour Street, Low Road and Millbrook, in front of the Seymour Street Methodist Church;
  5. in the Wallace Park, main walk.

During the war years three of the fountains were dismantled to accommodate the demand for metal to make armaments. Numbers 2 and 3 are the only remaining fountains.

The fountain at Market Square was relocated to Wallace Gardens circa 1922 to allow for the erection of a monument to General John Nicholson. Vandalised in the 1970s and 1980s it was returned to Market Square where the monument and fountain resided in a sunken garden. In 2013 the fountain was returned to its previous home in Wallace Park.

The Castle Gardens and its Wallace fountain were restored by Lisburn City Council with a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The base of the famous forest green fountain (the colour chosen to blend in with parks and trees) is a Greek cross plinth with canted corners from which the pedestal arises. An elaborate scroll and shell separates four column panels on which is the image of a water serpent coiled around a trident. The trident is associated with the mythological Poseidon who struck the earth and water sprung up. A cornice contains the name of the manufacturer, Val D’Osne, and another records the name of the sculptor, Ch. Lebourg SC / 1872.

Four caratytids, each subtly different in posture and dress, stand with raised arms to support a fish scale dome with fleur-de-lys cornice. The statues in feminine form represent kindness, simplicity, charity and sobriety (at a time when the Temperance Movement was very active.) A stream of water descended from the interior of the dome into a basin. Tin cups were originally chained to the fountains until public hygiene became a prevalent social issue.

The four dolphins with entwined tails at the apex are a symbolic protector of all things related to water.


  • Canted corner, an angled surface which cuts of a corner
  • Caryatid, a sculpted female figure serving as an architectural support taking the place of a column or a pillar supporting an entablature on her head
  • Cornice, a molding or ornamentation that projects from the top of a building
  • Pedestal, an architectural support for a column or statue
  • Plinth, flat base usually projecting, upon which a pedestal, wall or column rests.

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Barcelona Caratyds Fountain

The Wallace Fountains, France