A male figure with a badly-damaged face holds a barrel in his hands, out of which flows a stream of water creating a little fountain: it is the so-called Fountain of the Porter which was originally sited on the via del Corso and then moved in 1872 to its current position in the nearby Via Lata, to the side of Palazzo De Carolis.
The fountain depicts an “acquaiolo”, that is a water-carrier, in its characteristic 16th-century dress. Water carriers or porters, as they were also improperly called, made a living out of providing fresh water to people’s homes, filling their casks with water taken at night from the Tiber or from the fountains and selling it during the day for a modest fee. Until the end of the 16th century, when the ancient aqueducts began to be repaired, it was a very popular profession in Rome.
Due to its good workmanship and its great popularity, in 1751 the fountain was even attributed by Luigi Vanvitelli to Michelangelo Buonarroti. Perhaps commissioned by the University of water-carriers, it was most likely designed by the Florentine painter Jacopino del Conte, as an ornament of whose palace it was originally located, and sculpted by Florentine workers. It is sometimes said that the man depicted looks similar to Martin Luther, who in 1511 stayed in the nearby monastery of the Augustinians. According to tradition, the porter was named Abbondio Rizio, as recorded by the inscription, since lost, which was located near the fountain in its original position.
From the 17th century the fountain is one of the six talking statues of Rome, belonging to the Congresso degli arguti or the Congregation of Wits.