The Triton Fountain (Italian Fontana del Tritone) is a seventeenth century fountain in Rome, by the well-known Baroque sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Commissioned by his patron, Pope Urban VIII, the fountain is located in the Piazza Barberini, near the entrance to the Palazzo Barberini (which now houses the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica) that Bernini helped to design and construct for the Barberini, Urban's family.
The fountain was executed in travertine in 1642–43. At its centre rises an larger than lifesize muscular Triton, a minor sea god of ancient Greco-Roman legend, depicted as a merman kneeling on the sum of four dolphin tailfins. His head is thrown back and his arms raise a conch to his lips; from it a jet of water spurts, formerly rising dramatically higher than it does today. The fountain has a base of four dolphins that entwine the papal tiara with crossed keys and the heraldic Barberini bees in their scaly tails.
The Tritone, the first of Bernini's free-standing urban fountains, was erected to provide water from the Acqua Felice aqueduct which Urban had restored, in a dramatic celebration. It was Bernini's last major commission from his great patron who died in 1644. At the Triton Fountain, Urban and Bernini brought the idea of a sculptural fountain, familiar from villa gardens, decisively to a public urban setting for the first time; previous public fountains in the city of Rome had been passive basins for the reception of public water.
Bernini has represented the triton to illustrate the triumphant passage from Ovid's Metamorphoses book I, evoking godlike control over the waters and describing the draining away of the Universal Deluge. The passage that Urban set Bernini to illustrate, was well-known to all literate Roman contemporaries:
Two finished terracotta bozzetti at the Detroit Institute of Arts, securely attributed to Bernini, reflect his exploration of the fountain's themes of the intertwined upended dolphins and the muscular, scaly-tailed Triton.