Triton Fountain (Malta)

Triton Fountain
Maltese: Il-Funtana tat-Tritoni
Triton Fountain in 2018 02.jpg
Triton Fountain in 2018
ArtistVincent Apap
Victor Anastasi
Completion date16 May 1959 (1959-05-16)
TypePublic fountain
MediumBronze, concrete and travertine
LocationValletta, Malta
Coordinates35°53′44.3″N 14°30′29.8″E / 35°53′44.3″N 14°30′29.8″E / 35.895639; 14.508278

The Triton Fountain (Maltese: Il-Funtana tat-Tritoni) is a fountain located on the periphery of the City Gate of Valletta, Malta. It consists of three bronze Tritons holding up a large basin, balanced on a concentric base built out of concrete and clad in travertine slabs. The fountain is one of Malta's most important Modernist landmarks.

Designed and constructed between 1952 and 1959 under no less than three governing bodies, and conceived jointly by eminent sculptor Chevalier Vincent Apap and his collaborator draughtsman Victor Anastasi, the fountain became unofficially operational on Saturday 16 May 1959. The fountain was used as a stage for National Celebrations named 'Mill-Maltin għall-Maltin' and is popularly believed that it might have contributed to the dramatic collapse of the sculptural group on Wednesday 1 March 1978. This statement has been technically proven incorrect since the sculptural group contained no structural armature to bear the weight of the water laden basin, which subsequently collapsed due to metal fatigue and creep.

The sculptural group was repaired by Malta Drydocks engineers between January 1986 and April 1987. During this intervention a central sculptural addition consisting of three seagulls and seaweed (also the work of Chev. Apap) was introduced within the sculptural group, however this arrangement subsequently diminished the role of the gigantic Triton figures.

The fountain deteriorated in subsequent decades, until the bronze figures were dismantled and restored in 2017. Works were ready by the end of the year, and the fountain and piazza were officially inaugurated on 12 January 2018.


Close-up of the three Tritons

The fountain consists of three bronze figures of mythological Tritons holding up a platter. Two of the Tritons are sitting, while the third one is kneeling, and they are balanced on a seaweed base. The face of each Triton is visible when viewed from City Gate. Their posture gives a sense of strength as well as spiral movement, which contribute to the monumentality of the fountain. The water jets were also designed in order to convey the sense of movement.[1] The figures of the Tritons represent Malta's links with the sea, and their design was inspired by the Fontana delle Tartarughe in Rome.[2] After the fountain's platter was damaged in the 1980s, a bronze pillar depicting a flight of seagulls was added to the fountain to support its weight.[1] This will not be included once the current restoration is complete.[3]

The fountain was designed to blend in with Kingsgate (pictured in the 1900s), which was demolished in 1964

The base of the fountain was originally designed with a quadripartite plan inspired by Rome's Fontana delle Naiadi, but this was later changed to a tripartite concentric plan. The base is constructed out of reinforced concrete, and it consists of four concentric water basins. The exterior is clad with a total of 730 tons of travertine slabs from Rome. The outer slabs of the vasca intermedia are decorated with a relief representing foliage.[2]

Beneath the structure of the fountain, there are a series of passages and chambers which allow for maintenance and inspection and connect the fountain to the water and electrical services. These underground passages and a pump room cover an area of over 140 m2 (1,500 sq ft), and are accessible through a manhole in the pavement near the fountain.[2]

The fountain was designed so as to avoid contrast with the nearby bastions, as well as to blend with the Victorian-era Kingsgate. The gate was demolished five years after the fountain was completed.[4]