Fountain of Neptune, Florence
History and museums
The Fountain of Neptune is a fountain in Florence, Italy, situated on the Piazza della Signoria (Signoria square), in front of the Palazzo Vecchio. The fountain was commissioned in 1565 and is the work of the sculptor Bartolomeo Ammannati.
Ammannati (1563–1565) and his assistants, such as Giambologna, were commissioned to design and complete the work on the occasion of the wedding of Francesco I de' Medici with Joanna of Austria in 1565. The assignment had first been given to Baccio Bandinelli, who designed the model but he died before he could start working on the block of Apuan marble.
The Neptune figure, whose face resembles that of Cosimo I de' Medici, was meant to be an allusion to the dominion of the Florentines over the sea. The figure stands on a high pedestal in the middle of an octagonal fountain. The pedestal is decorated with the mythical figures of Scylla and Charybdis. The statue of Neptune is a copy made in the nineteenth century, while the original is in the National Museum.
However, when the work was finished, it was not appreciated in particular by the Florentines, who called it Il Biancone (the white giant).
Work continued on this fountain during the next ten years. Ammannati, with the assistance of the best Florentine sculptors and casters, added around the perimeter of the basin, in a mannerist style, suave, reclining, bronze river gods, laughing satyrs and marble sea-horses emerging from the water. The monumental marble and the dynamic bronzes give nevertheless a coherent impression. The fountain served as an example for future fountain-makers.
The fountain has suffered a great deal of damage during the centuries. It was used as a washbasin for laundry at the end of the 16th century. It was vandalized on January 25, 1580. A satyr was stolen during the carnival in 1830. It was damaged again by the Bourbon bombardments of 1848. Consequently, it has been the object of several restorations and substitutions.
On August 4, 2005, the statue was the target of three vandals who climbed it, damaging one of the hands and the trident of Neptune. The act was recorded by security cameras. The statue was restored by 2007. Since then, security on the fountain has been taken very seriously. In late 2007, the statue was the target of attempted vandalism by four teens. The security cameras and nearby police ensured that no damage came to the fountain again and the four were arrested.
As would be expected, the Sea-God, Neptune is a frequent theme for fountains, and over a dozen Fountains of Neptune exist. In Florence, there is another fountain of Neptune is found in the Boboli Gardens, behind the Palazzo Pitti in Florence. Giambologna sculpted a similar statue for the similar fountain in Bologna in the 1560s. Giovanni Angelo Montorsoli created a nearly contemporary fountain in Messina, Sicily.