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Home > Water Fountain Information > Paris's Famous Wallace Fountains

Paris's Famous Wallace Fountains

distributed throughout the city, these fountains provide potable drinking water to the public!

Parisís Wallace Fountains (Fontaine Wallace) are the public drinking fountains scattered throughout the city of Paris, small cast-iron sculptures recognized throughout the world as one of the most famous symbols of the city.

Named after the Englishman Sir Richard Wallace, who financed their construction, the Wallace Fountains originally were created in two different models. Later, two more models were added in the same spirit of the successful designs, for a current total of four different Wallace Water Fountain models with simple variations in height and motif.

Wallace directed that the fountains be both useful and beautiful, which lead him to establish several strict design parameters regarding height, form, price, and materials, as follows: 1) The water fountains had to be tall enough to be seen from a distance, while not detracting from the visual harmony of Parisí gorgeous landscape; 2) The forms must be both visually appealing and useful in the practical sense; 3) The price would be affordable enough to install dozens throughout Paris; 4) Materials must be weather-resistant, easily formed, and easily maintained. The resulting four designs are the Large model, the Applied model, the Small model, and the Colonnaded model. They were constructed of cast iron, the most popular material of the age, and also inexpensive and easily molded. To expedite completion of the designs, Wallace commissioned the sculptor Charles-Auguste Lebourg, who improved on Wallaceís sketches, and turned his ideas into art.

Currently there are seventy-seven Fontaine Wallace still standing in Paris, most of which still function in serving potable water to residents, visitors, and the destitute Parisians for whom the fountains were originally intended. Of those seventy-seven, sixty-five are Large models, nine are Small models, two are Colonnaded, and one is the Applied.

The Large models stand nearly nine feet tall and weigh over one thousand three-hundred pounds. They consist of an octagonal pedestal on which four caryatids (representing kindness, simplicity, charity, and sobriety) stand with backs turned, arms supporting a pointed dome decorated by dolphins. The Water trickles from the center of the dome, falling into a basin protected by a grille. Originally the Large model included two tin-plated iron cups affixed with a small chain. These cups were removed by the Council of Public Hygiene in 1952.

The Small models are simple pushbutton fountains found in squares and public gardens, marked with a Parisian seal. They measure just over four feet in height and weigh two hundred and eighty-six pounds.

The Colonnaded model stands just over four feet high, and weighs approximately one thousand one hundred pounds. The general shape resembles the Large model, and the caryatids were replaced with more economically priced small columns. Although thirty models were fabricated, today only two remain.

The Applied model was intended to be installed along the lengths of walls in hospitals and other buildings of humanitarian focus. This plan was never fully realized, and today only one remains in Paris, located at the rue Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire. The Applied model consists of a semi-circular pediment, in the middle of which water trickles from the head of a naiad, into a basin. The original designs included two goblets, which were retired under the 1952 edict mentioned above.

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