The fountain on the terrace in front of the Villa Medici has been called by a lover of Rome “The Fountain of the Brimming Bowl.” It is a happy surname, for the marble vase beneath the formally clipped ilex trees is nothing more or less than a huge bowl filled to overflowing with the Acqua Felice. The stream gushes upward in a slender column until it reaches the spreading branches overhead. There it returns upon itself in clouds of glistening spray, filling the bowl with circles of gleaming water, ever widening until they brim over the edge and veil the marble in a continuous overflow. The octagonal basin which receives this copious stream
is sunk into the ground and its shadowed waters have all the unobtrusive beauty of a quiet and sequestered pool. There is no sculpture, no decoration. With unerring taste, the artist has made his appeal to the eye through fundamental and universal elements of beauty. Grace of line and of proportion, contrast of solid rock and flowing water, the impression of abundance and perpetuity, symmetry, contrast, suggestion-these are the simple qualities out of which he composed his Fountain of the Brimming Bowl.
Sunlight flickering through the ilex branches overhead and the crumbling shadows of their dense foliage add a poetic charm, while the Italian trinity-Art, Time, and Nature-have given to this modest fountain a background of unsurpassed interest and dignity. The view from the terrace of the Villa Medici might be described almost exactly by Wordsworth’s sonnet on London Bridge, and truly
“Dull would he be of soul who could pass by A sight so touching in its majesty.”
Here in Borne “. . . towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie,” massed together in that famous quarter of the city known in classic times as the Campus Martius; and through this architectural maze, spanned by bridges old and new, the Tiber “floweth at its own sweet will.” On its farther shore the modern Palace of Justice and a network of thoroughfares with names relating to the Risorgimento and to Italy of today crowd against the venerable Castle of St. Angelo. Beyond that lies the densely packed Borgo or Leonine city, surrounded by walls, while the heights of the Janiculum to the left and those of the Vatican Hill and Monte Mario to the right give a background of green to all this masonry. In the very centre of the distance, on the ground once covered by the Circus of Nero, dominating everything and seeming to float against the western sky, rises the dome of St. Peter’s.