Face to face with Neptune

Face to face with Neptune

Sunday, September 11th, 2016

There are two symbols of Bologna. One, of course, is the two towers and the other is the statue and fountain of Neptune.

The entire fountain

The entire fountain

The statue itself, designed by a Sicilian, Tommaso Laureti, was completed in 1567 and affixed to the rest of the fountain that had already been completed 2 years before. The height of the statue is 205 mm (about 8 ft 1 in) so here in Bologna he’s often called il Gigante (the giant). Notice the trident which became the symbol for Maserati cars (founded in Bologna) and as a result is a symbol recognized throughout the world.

His head, shoulders and triton

The statue from earlier this year


Anther interesting fact is that since he’s completely nude and, well, anatomically correct there was a bit of public shock when he was unveiled. Also, it seems that the pope thought that the original size of the, um, “member” as originally designed was perhaps too accurately sized and required that it be made smaller. I was told that the fountain has around 90 points where water emerges but the water pressure never was adequate to support all of them. (I especially liked the water that gushed from the nipples of the mermaids but haven’t seen that for years.) An interesting linguistic point is that in Italian the water gushing from various parts of the fountain are called “giochi di acqua”; “water games” in English. The only equivalent that I can think of in English would be “water features” which I think of as applying to landscaping. So there is really no English equivalent in this context unless there’s an architectural term with which I’m not familiar. In any case, during this restoration they are installing a recirculating pump system so that the water from the fountain can be seen in all of it’s originally planned glory.

Being exposed to the environment, the bronze statue and also the marble parts of the fountain have suffered damage over the years, especially from pigeons and from air pollution.

Clear signs of damage to a mermaid

Clear signs of damage to a mermaid

The most recent restoration of the fountain was in the 1990s using the best technology available at the time. The restoration team has extensively studied the fountain to determine how effective the previous restoration has been. In addition to the repair of all of the bronze and marble they are also planning a more spectacular lighting system. I kind of liked the old one which didn’t really light the statue that well at night but resulted in a bit of mystery as well as nice shadows on on the palazzo nearby. I expect that the new lighting will be very good since it has been designed by experts in the field. In all there are 30 or so people involved in the restoration. Unfortunately the restoration is not planned to be completed before the end of this year but I expect to come back in the spring and see it.

So this fall I’ve had to content myself with the tour of the restoration as shown in the photos below.

The covered scaffolding

The covered scaffolding


working on the mermaids

Working on the mermaids


Neptune's legs

Neptune’s legs



His head and triton

His head, shoulders and trident


The lighting from last year

The lighting from earlier this year


The shadow

The shadow




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4 Responses to “Face to face with Neptune”


    WOW! I’m so glad I got to see it last summer before the scaffolding went up. But I am also happy to learn it is being restored. Just another reason to return to Bologna in the future. Good post!

  2. Joe Says:

    I’m glad that you liked it Melinda. I too can hardly wait to see it unveiled but I’ll need to come back in the spring. Tough duty but someone’s got to do it.


  3. Scott Says:

    Wonderful post. Hope you’re enjoying Italy again. Best, S.

  4. Joe Says:

    I’m glad that you liked it Scott. I certainly enjoy yours. I’ll email you before long.


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