Basle, ca. 1380
Red sandstone, originally painted, overall height 10.6 m, height of Madonna 128 cm
The fountain at the Fischmarkt (fish market) in Basle was commissioned at approximately the same time as the oldest and most famous of Gothic city fountains, the Schöner Brunnen in Nuremberg. Its early date, ist size and the quality of its sculpture reflect the self confidence of the up and coming civic community of Basle. Rising more than 10 metres, the pinnacled column together with its figures was moved into the Museum in 1910 and was replaced at the Fischmarkt by a copy. The column develops from a round base to a square to bold interlocking triangles, crowned by tracery canopies over the main figures. These are the Madonna, St John the Evangelist and St Peter. On a smaller scale, Sts Agnes, Barbara and Catharine are set above the columns supporting the canopies. Prophets and angels playing musical instruments complete the sculptural programme. In architectural and sculptural form the fountain represents a South west German version of the Parler style (the style of the Parler family of stone masons); comparable examples can be found in Thann, Strasbourg and elsewhere in Basle. We owe the oldest description of the fountain to the Venetian Andrea Gattaro, visitor to the Council of Basle (1431-48): he mentions "the very big fountain with Our Lady and two saints on it, in which the fishermen put their boxes when it is their market day". A spring in the nearby grounds of the Haus zum Sessel provided the water supply.