THE FOUNTAIN IN THE GARDEN (THE CANTHARUS)

 
 

Historical and figurative context

The fountain standing in the center of the garden was erected by Antonio Muñoz in 1913. In it he re-utilized two marble bowls positioned on a portion of fluted column, which he had found in the monastery garden inserted into a circular fountain that still exists today. The two bowls, one inside the other, the lower one adorned with leonine protomes and mascarons, were originally part of a cantharus of unknown origin, which has been controversially dated by experts from the 9th or 12th century. In any case they represent the most ancient Roman remains of a fountain of post-Classical age known today.

Muñoz placed the two bowls with the column below in the center of a square-shaped basin with re-entering corners and a perimeter edged in peperino. Beneath the column he placed a base with protective leaves imitating the bases of the coupled columns of the cloister.

In the 1914 photographs the supporting column appears at the height that it had formerly been in the monastery garden. Later, perhaps during the 1914-1916 restoration works, Muñoz had it lowered, probably judging it to be too much of a visual obstacle.

In the photographs prior to its dismantling and re-erection in the cloister, the bowls already showed substantial signs of deterioration and metal pins had been inserted into them. Muñoz added new copper pins and made extensive repairs in cement.

The fountain has by now become an integral part of the cloister, thanks to its charming location and balanced proportions, and is one of the elements that makes the cloister particularly attractive to visitors.

 

 

 

 

Fig. 1 - View of the cantharus (detail).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

State of conservation

Decay phenomena are largely due to the presence of water and to restoration work carried out with improper materials, such as extensive areas of cement plastering and bronze or iron brackets.

The water is responsible for the thick calcareous deposits, whose removal will require particular caution in that they have become firmly embedded in the marble surface that had formerly been subject to serious disintegration and fractures. Moreover the presence of water has generated severe biological aggression in the form of lichens and algae, which have further jeopardized the aesthetic effect of the sculptural forms.

The damage caused by the brackets is largely of a mechanical nature: the changes in temperature that affect the brackets and their insertion into the cement mortar have resulted in diverse stresses and produced cracking and fractures.

 

 

 

 

Fig. 2 - Cantharus plan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conservation treatment

Any treatment will be carried out in loco. As far as possible Muñozís structural plan for the fountain will be respected, unless this conflicts with any of the operations of conservation.

The treatments proposed are as follows:

  1. Preventive treatment with biocides (preventol) to be carried out several times at intervals some days before continuing any further treatment.

  2. Application of inorganic poultices with the scope of removing surface deposits and black crusts to be applied in two cycles with water saturated with ammonium carbonate.

  3. Mechanical removal with scalpels and micro-drills of any particularly tough deposits.

  4. Removal of all metal elements that, due to their state of conservation, interfere with the conservation of the object itself.

  5. Poultice applications of multiple substances to remove the iron or copper oxide patches to be carried out with EDTA or with other substances after researching into the most suitable product.

  6. Extraction of soluble salts until their total elimination with applications of AB 57.

  7. Treatment to limit the oxidation of metal elements that will remain in place.

  8. Detachment and re-attachment in their original position of fragments at risk using resins and, where necessary, with the support of stainless steel pins.

  9. Aesthetic re-integration with inert fillers selected to improve the legibility of the object.

  10. Final protective layer in several cycles up to total absorption.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© 1999 Coordination Monica Morbidelli
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Fig. 3 - East side of the cantharus.

 

Fig. 4 - South-west side of the cantharus: state of conservation and project.

Fig. 5 - Legend: state of conservation and project.