A Fountain in a Grotto

Artist: Giovanni Guerra (Italian, Modena 1544–1618 Rome)

Date: ca. 1598

Medium: Pen and brown ink, brush and brown wash, over traces of black and red chalk

Dimensions: maximum, corners cut to octagonal shape: 10 3/4 × 7 1/4 in. (27.3 × 18.4 cm)

Classifications: Drawings, Ornament & Architecture

Credit Line: Purchase, James A. and Maria R. Warth Gift, in memory of Anne and Peter Warth, 1999

Accession Number: 1999.63


During the 16th century, Italian nobles developed a taste for artificial grottoes in their gardens and sometimes even in their houses. Artists, such as Giambologna and Bernardo Buontalenti became very skilled in inventing landscapes of rocks and shells often inhabited by amphibians, invertebrates and other animals. The aquatic nature of most of these grottoes also lent itself well to the inclusion of fountains and statues of deities connected to water. In this design by Giovanni Guerra, a river god is seated on the rocks. He supports two amphorae from which water falls into the basin below.