Collections Sale / A NORTH ITALIAN ISTRIAN MARBLE WELLHEAD Venetian and probably 15th or 16th century
The shape of a Venetian wellhead is no coincidence, with early examples made by hollowing out ancient capitals from fallen columns; a shape that continued as the demand for fresh water in Venice increased. In 1797 it is understood that 6000 wells were recorded in Venice and, during the Grand Tour, they became desirable objects for aristocratic souvenir hunters who would ship them back to their gardens. Many are still in place, including at Iford Manor, Hearst Castle, California, Fullbeck Hall and Hever Castle. Comparative examples can also be found in the Metropolitan Museum (Accession Number: 14.134.26a, b) and an example carved with lion masks in the Victoria and Albert Museum (Accession Number: 88-1882).
The majority of Venetian wellheads were made of Istrian stone, a dense, non-porous variety of limestone that was shipped to Venice from Istria (formerly part of the Venetian Republic, now Croatia).