The Court of Neptune Fountain

The Court of Neptune Fountain

The Court of Neptune Fountain is a lavishly ornate fountain with a group of bronze sculptures, which was partly inspired by the popular 18th-century Trevi Fountain in Rome, and created in 1898 by American sculptor and painter Roland Hinton Perry. If you look carefully, you can see that the artist’s name and the date he completed the work are inscribed to the right of Neptune, just at the fountain’s water level. On this bike ride I chose the fountain as my destination.  It is located at 10 First Street (MAP) in front of the Thomas Jefferson Building of The Library of Congress in northwest D.C.’s Capitol Hill Neighborhood.

The 50-foot wide Baroque fountain consists of a semicircular granite basin set in a retaining wall flanked by a set of stairs leading into the building behind it. Within the retaining wall, there are three large concave niches which frame the fountain’s statuary of allegorical figures.

Front and center in the middle niche is Neptune, the Roman god of freshwater and the sea. He is the counterpart of the Greek god Poseidon. He is depicted with a long flowing beard, and is sitting on a bank of rocks as if on a throne presiding over a grotto of the sea. The muscular figure of Neptune is large and imposing, and would be approximately twelve feet in height if standing. He is flanked on his sides by his sons, the tritons, who are mythological minor sea gods characterized by figures with the torsos of men and the fins of fishes. They are both blowing on conch shells like trumpets, summon the water deities to Neptune’s presence.

In the niches to the left and right of Neptune are sea nymphs riding wild sea horses. And in the fountain’s basin are a menagerie of real and mythical sea creatures, including a sea serpent, four large turtles, and two giant frogs all spouting water. On the retaining wall, just above the niches, are detailed reliefs of dolphins and stalactites.

This extraordinary and splendid grotto of the sea is worth making the time for. Not only is the Court of Neptune one of the most popular fountains in D.C., it is one of the most elaborate fountains of its kind in the world.

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