In the case of the Nymphaeum under the Via Annibaldi, the wealthy home-owner was one of ancient Rome’s jet-set–judging from the money that was invested in the fountain! Around 50 B.C., he (or she) sat down with an architect, an interior decorator, and a fleet of landscapers to create a well-manicured garden, complete with the water-feature that still survives.
Its decorations are superb and can be appreciated in the close-up, which shows only a small portion of the fountain. You’ll notice different types of shells. For example, hundreds of murex shells create architectural elements (like columns and a cornice), while large mussels reflect the light thanks to their mother-of-pearl interior. But pebbles give many large round medallions their form, and stones like volcanic tufa and pumice fragments were also applied to the wall to give the fountain a faux-natural/grotto effect.
A large percentage of surviving architecture in and around Rome is from the Empire. It demonstrates that garden art and nymphaeum continued evolving. Tastes became increasingly more expensive, with an emphasis on marble decorations. Given its age, the Nymphaeum of Via Annibaldi is unique. And it helps us document and understand an earlier, more rustic phase of aristocratic gardens.