Fountain of Neptune, Bologna

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Fountain of Neptune
Fontana di Nettuno
Bologna — Fontana del Nettuno.jpg
The Fountain of Neptune
Coordinates44°29′40″N 11°20′33″E / 44.49444°N 11.34250°E / 44.49444; 11.34250
LocationItaly Bologna, Italy
DesignerTommaso Laureti & Giambologna
MaterialBronze and stone
Completion date1565

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[1] The bronze figure of Neptune, extending his reach in a lordly gesture of stilling and controlling the waters, was completed around 1567 and was an early work by Giambologna.[2]

Detail with a lactating nereid.

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.[3] 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 assembly and design of the fountain was completed by the Palermitan architect Tommaso Laureti in 1563, with an over-life-size 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. To clear space for the fountain, an entire edifice had to be demolished. The fountain was completed in 1565,[4] and the Neptune was fixed in place within a couple of years.


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 holding their breasts, from which jets of water emerge. The base is decorated with pontifical emblems, ornaments that - connected to four cherubs - hold dolphins (which are allegorical representation of major rivers from the then-known corners of the world: the Ganges, the Nile, the Amazon River, and the Danube. In the centre of this base raises the majestic figure of the Neptune sculpted by Giambologna’s; the statue is a typical expressions of the manneristic theatricality.

The Neptune stretches his right hand up to the sky, appearing to be aiming to placate the waves; this posture is interpreted as symbolic exaltation of the new power of the Pope Pius IV: just as Neptune was the master of the seas, the Pope was the master of Bologna and of the world.


On the four sides of the marble tank there are four inscriptions in Latin provide the background to the fountain's construction:

  1. Fori Ornamento (to decorate the square);
  2. Aere Publico (built thanks to public money);
  3. Populi Commodo (built for the people);
  4. MDLXIIII (built in 1564; the date is wrong though, since the fountain was officially finished in 1566).

The four main sources of political power for Bologna then are also inscribed on the base:

  1. Pius IIII Pont. Max (Pope Pius IV)
  2. Petrus Donatus Caesius Gubernator;
  3. Carolus Borromaeus Cardinalis; (Cardinal Carlo Borromeo)
  4. S.P.Q.B. (Senatus Populusque Bonononiensis) (Senate of Bologna)


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.

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.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 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.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ Documents in the State Archives in Bologna were used by W. Gramberg, Giambologna, eine Untersuchung über seine Wanderjähre (Berlin) 1936.
  5. ^ http://www.maserati100.com/history/timeline.html