Peterhof - Neptune Fountain
The compositional center of the Upper Gardens at Peterhof is a large, rectangular fountain called Neptune with semicircles along its short sides. The hole for it was dug in 1721, when the first stage of the Peterhof fountain system was completed. The actual fountain did not appear until thirteen years later, however, when Rastrelli suggested casting a sculptural group called Neptune’s Chariot from a model made by him at Peter the Great’s request in 1723.
Thus, in 1734 a large composition of seventeen gilded lead figures representing Neptune in a chariot drawn by four sea-horses was installed in the Upper Gardens. Naiads and sirens frisked around him. The group was crowned by a ball of gilded bronze raised high on a jet behind Neptune’s back. At the same time a small three-tiered cascade was set up on the south side of the fountain with a gilded lead figure with a brazier case back in 1721. The figure was called Winter. But the lead sculpture began to crack and by the end of the century looked rather dilapidated.
In 1799 a new composition was installed in the central fountain of the Upper Gardens. In 1782 the heir to the Russian throne Prince Paul (the future Emperor Paul I) was travelling in Europe and in the town of Nuremberg purchased a Neptune fountain group made in the middle of the 17th century. When Paul acceded the throne and it was decided to renew the sculptures of the Peterhof parks this purchase was remembered. In the summer of 1799 the new Neptune fountain sculptural composition was installed in the Upper Gardens.
On a high pedestal stands the figure of Neptune holding a trident pointing downwards in his right hand and wearing a crown. The two nymphs below seated on barrels symbolize the rivers Pegnitz and Rednitz that flow through the lands of Nuremberg. Next to them are twin figures of riders on sea-horses and four cupids on dolphins and sea monsters. On the pedestal are coats-of-arms, mascarons and cupids blowing trumpets. When the fountain was installed it was decided not to renew the gilt that had come off most of the figures, but to paint the old gilded figures of dolphins that remained from the Rastrelli fountain the color of bronze.
In place of the figure of Winter that has also survived from the old foundtain, and in keeping with the tastes of the new age, the Belvedere Apollo, so popular in the Classical period, was set up, a copy of the original by the Greek sculptor Leochares.
During their occupation the Nazis destroyed the statue of Apollo, dismantled the sculpture of the Neptune fountain and dispatched it to Germany. It was found after the war, with the exception of a few elements and one of the riders, and returned to Peterhof. The sculptor Vladimir Tatarovich reproduced the lost details, and the fountain was restored.