This touching group of statues is probably the most famous work by the sculptor George Minne. The concept dates from 1898. Minne was 32 at the time and had recently moved to Brussels. From 1900 onwards, he made several different versions of the group, in plaster, marble and bronze. This one, in the museum collection, is the only plaster version that has survived. Minne kept it in his studio until his death; the daughter of the artist donated it to the museum in 1982. The final version in marble, executed for the Folkwang Museum in Hagen, can now be admired in the museum of the same name in Essen.
The rhythmic repetition of the five identical nude youths kneeling on the edge of the round basin constitutes both the lightness and the expressive force of this work. Their fragile posture speaks of solitude and longing. They remind one of Ovid's story of the lonely Narcissus who saw his reflection in the water and fell hopelessly in love with himself. But George Minne was a pious Christian, so that we should also consider a religious interpretation of his fountain, connecting it, for instance, with the Fountain of Life, such as depicted by Jan van Eyck on the panel of the Mystic Lamb that is the centre of the Ghent Altarpiece.
SizeH: 169,5 cm
Yearc. 1905 (statues)