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The Neptune Fountain in Piazza della Signoria


The often photographed white sculpture in the middle of the fountain that stands in a corner of Piazza della Signoria is online casino bonus offer one of the “icons” of the square and attracts the attention of thousands of tourists every day.

Many stories and legends surround this work for whose design grand duke Cosimo de’ Medici announced a competition in 1559.

The idea was to create Florence’s first public fountain, and some of the most important sculptors of the day took part in the competition: Benvenuto Cellini, Baccio Bandinelli, Vincenzo Danti, Bartolomeo Ammannati and Giambologna – all world-class artists and rivals who ran into each other daily in their respective Florentine workshops.

In the end, Ammanati’s design was chosen as that which most exalted the glorious maritime ambitions of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, which included capturing Pisa, designing a new port in Livorno and establishing the Order of Santo Stefano to fight the Turks in the Mediterranean and thus ensure the safe traffic of people and goods.

It was decided the fountain would be placed at the corner of Palazzo Vecchio, since this is the focal point of the two wings of Piazza della Signoria.

A cleverly-designed aqueduct was built to carry water to the fountain from the Fonte alle Ginevra at the Porta San Giorgio south of the river. The water ran down from there into the valley, crossing the river Arno at the Ponte Rubaconte (now Ponte alle Grazie) and passing through Piazza Peruzzi and the street of Borgo dei Greci to arrive in Piazza della Signoria.

The fountain was created in 1560-65 and inaugurated with great pomp for the wedding of Francesco I de’ Medici and Grand Duchess Johanna of Austria on 10 December 1565, though it was not fully completed until ten years later.

As mentioned earlier, many stories and legends have arisen around this work, especially as regards the various damages it has suffered over the centuries. It was used as a washbasin in the 16th century, for example, and has been vandalised many times, from 1580 until today. In fact, just recently it was used as a toilet by a tourist who had enjoyed one drink too many.

There even used to be a sign (placed on the wall of Palazzo Vecchio in 1720) expressly forbidding anyone to “dirty it in any way, to wash out inkwells, rags or anything else in it, or to throw timber or any other filthiness inside”!

During a carnival in 1830, one of Giambologna’s bronze satyrs was stolen by a group of masked pranksters who promptly disappeared without a trace, along with their loot…

It was damaged by the bombs of the Bourbons in 1848 and was defaced in August 2005 by a vandal who climbed it late one night and splintered the Neptune’s right hand and trident while trying to grab them as he fell ruinously into the basin below. Passing hoodlums or gangs of revellers have also often used the fountain to take a refreshing summertime dip.

But let’s have a look at the work up close. The guise of Cosimo de’ Medici is portrayed in the face of the Neptune figure, which was carved out of Carrara marble and is an allusion to Florence’s maritime dominance. Neptune rises from a pedestal decorated with the statues of Scylla and Charybdis in the centre of an octagonal basin. Three tritons playing music are positioned at Neptune’s feet. The octagonal basin contains four horses and Neptune’s chariot, whose celestial wheels feature signs of the zodiac to symbolise the passage of time. The sea deities at the corners of the basin (Doris, Thetis, Oceanus and Nereus) are bronze masterpieces by Giambologna.

As mentioned earlier, this famous sculpture is photographed by everyone who stops even momentarily in Piazza della Signoria. According to tradition, however, generations of Florentines have not particularly appreciated it.

It all started the day it was inaugurated. When the sculpture was unveiled, its glaring whiteness predominated and Florentines immediately baptised the Neptune figure “Il Biancone” (the White Giant).

Upon closer inspection, they liked it even less, perhaps because the other famous artists who had lost the competition had already been spreading their negative opinions around town. The fact remains that a common saying was thus born in Florence:

“Oh Ammanato, Ammanato, che bel marmo hai rovinato!” (What lovely marble you’ve ruined, Ammanato!)


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