Bartolomeo Ammanati

Bartolomeo Ammanati, Statue of Faunus, Fountain of Neptune, Florence, Italy

Born in the city of Settignano in June of 1511, Bartolomeo Ammanati was an Italian sculptor and architect. Of his many works, the best known is the Fountain of Neptune located in the Piazza della Signoria, Florence. 

Though private commissions took place in Florence during the early 1500s , public works were not often produced. Commissioning sculptures for exterior, public areas was a tactic the Republic used in order to portray Florence as a reincarnation of Rome, which had a grand tradition of sculptural works for prominent public spaces. By establishing Rome as a predecessor of Florence, the city was seen as a prestigious, conquering city-state, equal to Rome’s glory and  capable of expanding its reach.

The marble and bronze Fountain of Neptune was commissioned by Florence in 1565 with the initial design work by sculptor and draftsman Baccio Bandinelli. He chose the large block of marble which was to be the central figure; however, he died in 1560 before the work stated. From 1563 to 1565 Bartolomeo Ammanati and his assistants sculpted the block, using Grand Duke Cosimo I as model for Neptune’s face. This statue was meant to highlight the Grand Duke’s goal of establishing a Florentine Naval force.

The majority of the design and sculpture was executed by Ammanati. He continued work on the fountain for a decade and added around its perimeter a collection of demigod figures which contained bronze, reclining river gods, fauns and satyrs, and marble sea horses emerging from the water. All these figures were modeled and cast under Ammanati’s supervision by a team of assistants. The female nude statue personifying Ops, the Sabine fertility deity, as well as the general design and character of the lesser gods are examples of the mature style he developed over the years.

One of the Fountain of Neptune’s bronze satyrs is Faunus, who, in the ancient Roman pantheon, was the horned god of the forest, plains, and fields. He eventually became equated with the Greek god Pan, and was also known among herdsmen as Inuus, the god who embodied sexual intercourse. One of the oldest Roman gods, Faunus revealed the future in dreams and voices to those who slept, while lying on the fleeces of sacrificial lambs,  in his precincts.

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