Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Fontaine du Fellah, Paris

The Fontaine du Fellah (or Fontaine du Porteur d’Eau, Fontaine Egyptienne, Fontaine des Incurables) was designed by Francois-Jean Bralle (1750–1832) the chief engineer of the water supply for the city of Paris, who also was responsible for several other Parisian fountains. 
Drawing from: Amaury Pineu Duval, Les Fontaines de Paris, anciennes et nouvelles (Paris 1828) page 19.

The sculptural decoration was created by Pierre-Nicolas Beauvallet (1750-1818) between 1806 and 1809. Because of the deterioration of the original work, the statue of Antinous was replaced by a copy made by Jean-François-Théodore Gechter (1795-1844) in 1844.


The Fontaine was one of the fifteen constructed by decretal order (May 2nd 1806) by Napoleon to provide Paris of fresh drinking water. It was also to commemorate Napoleon’s military campaign in Egypt. The fountain was constructed against the wall of what was then the hospital for incurable patients (Hospice des Incurables, now Hôpital Laënec).
The fountain is to be found in the Rue de Sèvres, number 42. It was in working order until 2005, when it was shut down because of leakage into the nearby Vaneau Metro Station.

The title refers to an Egyptian fellah, or peasant. The statue is a copy of a Roman work of Antinous which was discovered in the excavation of Hadrian's villa in Tivoli in 1739. The statue was removed by the French Army from the Capitoline Museum in Rome in 1798 and brought to the Louvre. It was returned in 1815 after the fall of the First Empire. The Antinous statue is now in the Vatican Museum.

Antinoüs, around  135 AD, white marble, Height 241cm, Museo Gregoriano Egizio inv. number 22795, Vatican City
The water-bearer with nemes head dress holds two amphorae, one in each hand instead of the cylinders in the fists of the original Antinous. Water poured from the amphorae into a semi-circular basin below, then through a bronze masqueron in the form of a lion's head. The roof of the fountain is decorated with a low-relief of the Napoleonic eagle.
Sources:
Amaury Pineu Duval, Les Fontaines de Paris, anciennes et nouvelles (Paris 1828) 17-19.
Bernard Champigneulle, Paris, de Napoléon à nos jours (Paris 1969) 38.
Christiaan Janssens, Egyptomanie in België (Antwerp 2011) 42.
Dominique Massounie, Béatrice de Andia, Daniel Rabreau ed., Paris et ses fontaines: de la Renaissance à nos jours (Paris 1995) 111.
Jean-Marcel Humbert, L’Égyptomanie dans l'Art Occidental  (Paris 1989) 50.
James Stevens Curl, Curl, The Egyptian Revival: Ancient Egypt as the inspiration for design motifs in the West (Abingdon 2005) 226-227.

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