Four cupids and two bowls: One of Moscow’s oldest fountains awaits restoration

February 11

The Moscow Department of Cultural Heritage has included the Petrovsky fountain on Teatralnaya Square into its plan for preserving cultural landmarks. Now the historical fountain is awaiting restoration.

The fountain is one of the five water supply fountains built in 1826-1835 during the reconstruction of the Mytishchi water pipeline. It is called the Petrovsky fountain (Petrovsky Square is a former name of Teatralnaya Square) or the Vitali fountain (after the sculptor’s surname), and is considered one of Moscow’s oldest fountains.

Initially, such fountains performed an exclusively utilitarian function — people filled their buckets with water from the basin. They were built as a pool or a bowl with a pipe in the centre that delivered water from the underground pipe network.

In 1828, it was decided to decorate the fountains. Sculptor Giovanni (Ivan) Vitali was commissioned to do the job. He finished the work in 1835, giving the Petrovsky fountain, among others, a grand look.

“The main bowl sits on a pedestal while the upper bowl rests on a column supported by four cupids. They embody all aspects of theatre art: tragedy, comedy, poetry and music. Indicatively, they were made at one of Moscow’s bell-casting factories. In this way, the fountain further embellished the area near the Bolshoi Theatre. However, the fountain’s artistic features did not take away from its function, and it remained a convenient water supply site. Moreover, it was connected by water pipelines with the nearest buildings. Every day, the fountain supplied Muscovites with about 17,000 buckets of water,” said Head of the Moscow Department of Cultural Heritage Alexei Yemelyanov.

There are arched niches in the pedestal on three sides. One of them has an entrance to the technical room. Round metal console bowls with mascaron water jets are installed on the eastern and western parts of the fountain (water flows to them from the fountain’s main bowl). On the northern side, two symmetrical stone staircases lead to the upper roundabout platform, ringed with a metal fence featuring a geometric pattern.

In the early 20th century, the fountain lost its function as a municipal water supply site. A square was built around it.

The fountain on Teatralnaya Square is a federal cultural heritage landmark.  It last saw comprehensive restoration work in 1995.

According to Mr Yemelyanov, today the fountain is in bad shape. Its cast-iron elements are corroded; its bronze parts are stained by copper corrosion; and its surfaces are dirty.

“This is exactly why we decided to include the fountain into our plan for preserving cultural landmarks. The restoration project will be drafted in 2022,” he specified.

Restoration and preservation of landmarks is one of the main goals of the Moscow Department of Cultural Heritage. About 1,500 cultural heritage sites have been restored in the past eight years, including over 100 in 2020. As a result of this unprecedented programme, the number of dilapidated landmarks has decreased by 5.3 times.


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