Peterhof Samson Fountain
The largest fountain in the Lower Park in Peterhof is the famous Samson Fountain that stands in the center of a bowl in from the Great Cascade. Compositionally it crowns the fountain ensemble. The height of the sculptural group is 3.5 meters, and more than 6.5 meters including the pedestal. The giant Samson is wrenching apart the lion’s jaws from which a twenty-meter-high jet shoots up. Eight gold dolphins send out jets at the giant’s feet.
The decision to build the fountain was made in 1734 when the 25th anniversary of the Russian victory over the Swedes at Poltava was being celebrated. This highly important battle in the Northern War was fought on June 27, 1709, St Samson’s Day, which explains the allegorical representation of the victory in the form of Samson’s victory over the lion. The lead sculpture was made in 1735 by Rastrelli.
Ten years later, however, this lead group was in need of restoration, and by the end of the 18th century it had to be replaced. One of the most distinguished sculptors of the day, Mikhail Kozlovsky, made use of the 18th-century composition to create a new model in Classical form of Samson Wrenching Apart the Lion’s Jaws in which the heroic theme was felt even more strongly. In 1802 Kozlovsky’s work, cast in bronze, was erected on a granite pedestal designed by the architect Andrei Voronikhin. In the niches at the foot of the pedestal are the heads of four lions facing the four points of the compass.
In 1941 there was no time to evacuate the sculpture, which weighed more than five tons. The Nazis stole it and, according to several accounts, melted it down for military purposes. In 1947 the Leningrad sculptor Vasily Simonov recreated Samson from previous drawings and photographs, and on September 14 of the same year the powerful figure again towered over the Lower Park, henceforth a symbol of the victory of civilization over brutality.