Fountain of Neptune, Bologna
|Fontana di Nettuno|
The Fountain of Neptune
|Designer||Tommaso Laureti & Giambologna|
|Material||Bronze and stone|
The Fountain of Neptune (Italian: Fontana di Nettuno) is a monumental civic fountain located in the eponymous square, Piazza del Nettuno, next to Piazza Maggiore, in Bologna, Italy Its bronze figure of Neptune, extending his reach in a lordly gesture of stilling and controlling the waters, is an early work by Giambologna, completed about 1567.
An innovation of Giambologna's fountain designs is the fantastic and non-geometrical forms he gave to the basins into which water splashed and flowed, "curiously folded, bulging and elastic in form", as Rosalind Grippi remarked. The fountain is a model example of Mannerist taste of the courtly elite in the mid-sixteenth century: construction of the statue was commissioned by the Cardinal Legate of the city, Charles Borromeo, to symbolize the fortunate recent election of Borromeo's uncle as Pope Pius IV.
The work was designed by the Palermitan architect Tommaso Laureti in 1563, with an over-lifesize bronze of the god Neptune on the top, executed by Giambologna, who had submitted a model for the fountain of Neptune in Florence, but had lost the commission to Baccio Bandinelli. Before the fountain was built, an entire edifice was demolished to make space for it. The fountain was completed in 1565, and the Neptune was fixed in place within a couple of years.
The logo of the Maserati car company is based on the trident in this Neptune statue. In 1920 one of the Maserati brothers, the artist Mario Maserati, used this symbol in the logo at the suggestion of family friend Marquis Diego de Sterlich. It was considered particularly appropriate for the sports car company due to fact that Neptune represents strength and vigor; additionally the statue is a characteristic symbol of the company's original home city.
2 January 2017 the Neptune has appeared in many newspapers to be censored from Facebook. The social network blocked a photo of the statue after estimating it violated its guidelines by being too sexually explicit. Facebook later recognized its mistake, saying in a statement it sometimes incorrectly prohibit ads. This story inspired the social game GuessTheGiant.
Neptune Fountain has its base on three steps, on which it is situated a tank made of the local boulder and covered by marble of Verona. In the centre of the tank, there is a base where there are four Nereids who are touching their breasts. The base is decorated by pontifical emblems, ornaments that - connected to four cherubs - hold dolphins (referred to the Ganges, the Nile, the Amazon River, and the Danube, so the four parts of the world that were in that moment known). In the centre of this base raises the majestic figure of the Neptune, a product of Giambologna’s chisel, who realized one of the most typical expressions of the manneristic theatricality.
The Neptune, who is stretching his right hand right up to the sky, almost as if he wanted to placate the waves, is a symbol of the dynastic exaltation of the Pope Pio IV, becoming then the symbol of the political power of the Church in Bologna: just as the Neptune was the master of the seas, the Pope was the master of the world. The god Neptune, in fact, resend symbolically to the power that gives wealth and fertility all around him; so the reference is to a generous but inviolable administration, with a straight and proud look for sure not directed to the people.
On the four sides of the marble tank there are four inscriptions in Latin that want to illustrate what the fountain was built for.
• Fori Ornamento (to decorate the square); • Aere Publico (built thanks to public money); • Populi Commodo (built for the people); • MDLXIIII (built in 1564; the date is wrong though, since the fountain was officially finished in 1566).
The customers names were also in-scripted:
• Pius IIII Pont. Max; • Petrus Donatus Caesius Gubernator; • Carolus Borromaeus Cardinalis; • S.P.Q.B. (Senatus Populusque Bonononiensis).
The trident of the fountain inspired and it was used by Maserati brothers as emblem for their first car, the Maserati Tipo 26, then it was used as their logo. Plus the sculpture is the symbol of the Excelsa Neptuni Balla, storic order of Goliarda of Bologna. The chief of the order, Pontifex Maximus, has a scepter that illustrate, indeed, a trident.
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- The urbanistic history and quasi-political character of these interrelated civic spaces and structures expressing conflicting connotations of papal and communal-republican instruments of government are discussed in Naomi Miller, Renaissance Bologna: A Study in Architectural Form and Content (University of Kansas) 1989.
- Date in Charles Avery, Giambologna (1987); a description of the fountain appears in the second edition (1568) of Giorgio Vasari's Vite; a collection of essays on the conservation undertaken in the 1980s on the Neptune fountain, Il Nettuno del Giambologna: storia e restauro (Milan) 1989, contains an essay by Richard Tittle on the contracts for it, of 1563, and one by Giancarlo Roversi on its impact on public life in Bologna and changing attitudes towards its display of nudity.
- Rosalind Grippi, "A Sixteenth Century Bozzetto" The Art Bulletin 38.3 (September 1956:143-147) p. 146; the bozzetto Grippi was discussing was not related to the fountain.
- Documents in the State Archives in Bologna were used by W. Gramberg, Giambologna, eine Untersuchung über seine Wanderjähre (Berlin) 1936.