Chapter XI - House of the second Fountain

Chapter 10 Contents Chapter 12

The house of the second fountain of shells is fully equal in interest to the former, and, in some respects, superior. The entrance is from the street of the Mercuries, and the staircase ascends from the vestibule.

There is a second entrance, from the same street, by which a person might arrive at the garden, and the inmost recesses of the house, without passing through the atrium -rather a peculiar circumstance at Pompeii. There is also a second staircase ; but the ornaments of this second entry are, by no means, inferior to the rest of the house, so as to render it probable that it was the entry for the domestics.

The compluvium of the atrium is furnished with two mouths for cisterns, and, from one, the communication with the inner fountain, by means of leaden pipes, is visible, probably receiving the water after it had performed its part at the fountain. We have here only one ala on the right, but, on the left, is the faux, and, in the centre, a small tablinum, the size of which is, however, amply compensated for by a deep inner portico of four columns placed on two sides of a court or garden, at the further side of which is a second fountain of vitreous mosaic and shells, in form, taste, and workmanship, very like that in the house adjoining.

In a line with the tablinum are two other apartments of the same size, one of which was probably the triclinium, and the other an exedra or pinacotheca. There are only two cubiculi in this court, and only three in the atrium, the upper floor probably supplying the other necessary bedrooms.

The step from the atrium to the tablinum is faced with a remarkably pretty sculpture of leaves and flowers. The triclinium is painted within in imitation of brickwork -a taste which continues to prevail in modern Italy.

The other room is decorated with pictures of game and hunting, so that, if it be true that the ornaments were analogous to the uses of the chamber, these would be more appropriate to the dining-room than to the pinacotheca.

Not only do the leaden pipes, but even the brass cocks, called epistomium and papilla by the ancients, remain in this house of the second fountain. By these the water was permitted to play or stopped with the same ease, and, in precisely the same manner, as in the present stage of science and art.

Plate 56 - Commentary

The walls of this court or garden present us with three pictures of a species quite different from any thing at Pompeii. The general effect may be learned from plate LVI ; but, as the pictures themselves are given in the three following plates, it is unnecessary, at present, to notice them more particularly.

Plate 57

Plate 58

Plate 59

If the custodi can be believed, there was found, at the time of the excavation, on the left side of the brink of the fountain, the pretty sedent bronze figure now in the museum at Naples. He had a basket, with a little bronze fish in it, on his left arm. Under his right was an outre, or skin full of liquor, and the hand seemed as if he might have held a fishing-rod of cane. On the little central column in the piscina stood a cupid holding a dove which spouted water. On the right brink was a marble caryatis, of the same size as the fisherman on the left. Water seems also to have fallen from a mask in the centre of the schola or concave of the fountain. The whole mass of the fountain projects five feet seven inches from the wall. It is seven feet wide in front, and the height, up to the eaves of the pediment, is seven feet seven inches.