Orestes and Pylades Fountain (1884)

by Carl Johann Steinhauser (1813 - 1879)

Photo Caption: Photo Ashley Lippolis © 2019 for the Association for Public Art
  • Title

    Orestes and Pylades Fountain

  • Artist

    Carl Johann Steinhauser (1813 - 1879)

  • Year

    1884

  • Location

    Oxford Street at 33rd Street Entrance to East Fairmount Park

  • Medium

    Bronze

  • Dimensions

    Height 8' (base 6')

Commissioned by the Fairmount Park Art Association (now the Association for Public Art)

Owned by the City of Philadelphia

At A Glance

  • In 1883, the Fairmount Park Art Association (now the Association for Public Art) purchased a plaster mold of the original and had it cast in bronze by the Bureau Brothers Foundry

  • The fountain is a characteristic example of the German fondness for placing monuments in public places to serve as daily reminders of virtues and ideals

  • The sculptor, Steinhauser, studied in Berlin with Christian Rauch and was later a professor of art in Karlsruhe

The sculptor, Carl Johann Steinhauser, studied in Berlin with Christian Rauch and was later a professor of art in Karlsruhe. One of his students was Herman Kirn, the sculptor of the Catholic Total Abstinence Union Fountain (1876) in West Fairmount Park Park. Kirn had in his possession a sketch in plaster of his master’s Orestes and Pylades Fountain that was originally placed in the palace park in Karlsruhe

That it honors friendship may well be the reason for Kirn’s owning a cast of this particular work by the man who had so influenced him.

The fountain shows the two seated figures of Orestes and Pylades with a bust of Diana on a plinth behind them. Pylades was the son of the King of Phocis and grew up with Orestes who had been exiled to the court to protect him from the vengeance of Clytemnestra and Aegisthus.  The friendship between the two men was as proverbial as that of David and Jonathan. Pylades later became the husband of Orestes’ sister, Electra.

Bronze Orestes and Pylades Fountain in Fairmount Park
Photo Ashley Lippolis © 2019 for the Association for Public Art

The fountain is a characteristic example of the German fondness for placing monuments in public places to serve as daily reminders of virtues and ideals. That it honors friendship may well be the reason for Kirn’s owning a cast of this particular work by the man who had so influenced him. In 1883, the Fairmount Park Art Association (now the Association for Public Art) purchased the plaster for $250 and had it cast in bronze by Bureau Brothers Foundry for $2,550. Instated in 1884, the fountain has been vandalized and no longer works.

In 2019, the fountain underwent extensive conservation treatment overseen by Philadelphia’s Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy.

Adapted from Sculpture of a City: Philadelphia’s Treasures in Bronze and Stone by the Fairmount Park Art Association (now the Association for Public Art) (Walker Publishing Co., New York, 1974).

 

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