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Sculptor's Muse: Decorative Sculpture

Detail of Lion Masque on the Arcanum Fountain

One often thinks of sculpture as statues standing outside on a plinth, however, sculpture historically functioned hand in hand with architecture. Researching the beautiful fountains and palaces of Europe, decorative sculpture is strewn all over facades, window casements and arches. Inside you find sculptural elements on mantel pieces, ceilings, above doorways, and stair banisters.... And so I began to research this fascinating place that sculpture fulfilled in architectural settings, which led to the inspiration for my Arcanum Lion fountain that now graces the courtyard outside my studio, Arcanum Atelier. Starting with the key element, the lion masque, I poured over lion fountains from the Romans to the Renaissance, Baroque, Neoclassical and even some Art Nouveau. One aspect I wanted early on was a 'gush' of water from the lion's mouth instead of a 'stream'. Having created fountains in the past, I knew that I wanted the most movement and noise from the water.

Arcanum Lion fountain facade view

After drawing out the fountain's blueprints on graph paper, we dug for the footing of 4" concrete and starting building the wall and front columns. A little engineering came in as we dug and created the large hidden basin underground to hold the reservoir of water and the pump. For the top basin we used a birdbath we had and built it in to the wall. Afterwards, I went back to the studio as I researched French decorative reliefs and found inspiration for the elements on either side of the Lion masque and for the top plaque 1852 (which is the date our house, Arcanum, was built).

Detail showing the bottom trough basin and the Arcanum plaque

We used a concrete trough planter for the bottom basin and I sculpted a large plaque for the space underneath the top basin, because, honestly, I was really enjoying creating these decorative elements.

flanking allegorical figures on the columns

For the two columns I sculpted two allegorical figures, one representing Truth and History - the other Beauty and Art - as those are all elements in all of my artwork. Loving languages, and as Arcanum is Latin, I inscribed the plaques in French as a nod to the inspiration drawn from French decorative sculptures.

Lion Arcanum Fountain

With plenty of places for sculptures, planters and even stray cats to sit on, I enjoy seeing a bit of history and Europe that we created. This wall fountain was the perfect result of a love for historic research and my delving into the lost purpose of decorative sculpture.

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