FLORENCE — After two years of work and a total investment of 1.5 million euros, Salvatore Ferragamo unveiled the restored Fountain of Neptune in central Florence on Monday.
“I’m thrilled, we have been waiting for the reopening of this fountain for many years,” said chairman Ferruccio Ferragamo during a press conference held in the richly frescoed Leone X hall in the city’s Palazzo Vecchio, which is next to the restored monument.
His sister Giovanna and brother Leonardo Ferragamo, as well as the company’s chief executive officer Micaela Le Divelec Lemmi, were also in attendance.
“On behalf of all the Ferragamo family, it was an honor to take part into this restoration, but also a [duty] that, considering the great recovery of the monument, really paid off,” continued the chairman, adding that the investment was “a way for our family to return to Florence all the things this city offers every day to our company and its citizens. This is a unique city and our family has always been in debt with it.”
Ferragamo’s 1.5-million-euro investment was favored by the Art Bonus law, introduced by the Italian government in 2014 to encourage the patronage of the arts. As part of the program, tax deductions are granted to private institutions making donations to restore, support and develop cultural activities.
“Art Bonus is a great law, it represents a fantastic opportunity given to private [institutions] to contribute in the life of this city,” said Ferruccio Ferragamo.
“This is the most important contribution received by the city of Florence since the Art Bonus has been introduced in 2014,” said the Mayor of Florence Dario Nardella, after thanking the Ferragamo family for “having showed great insight and sensitivity in partnering with us for a project that is a genuine act of love for our city.”
In the last five years, Florence has invested the record amount of 66.4 million euros in the maintenance of the cultural patrimony, 27 percent of which was provided by private institutions. “A kind of art patronage has reborn in our city, also thanks to this law and a renovated trust of the companies and families,” added Nardella.
The mayor also wanted to dedicate the unveiling of the restored Fountain of Neptune to the late Wanda Ferragamo, widow of the founder of the fashion house and honorary president of the company. “She was very close to this project and had always loved Florence so much. We all miss her a lot,” he said, revealing that the bureaucratic procedures to name a square after Salvatore and Wanda Ferragamo in Florence have been completed. A date for the unveiling of the site was not available yet.
Started in February 2017, the restoration works lasted 3,200 hours and included the makeover of the fountain’s sculptural elements as well as of the water supply system, which was not functioning with continuity since 1987.
Located on the central Piazza della Signoria, the fountain was commissioned in 1565 by Cosimo I de’ Medici and is the work of sculptor Bartolomeo Ammannati. The city’s first public fountain, it is a symbol of Florence and points to the city’s power over the seas during the Renaissance. Made with Carrara marble, the figure of Neptune stands on a high pedestal in the middle of an octagonal pool. Each corner is decorated with groups of sea gods surrounded by bronze sculptures of nymphs, satyrs and fauns.
Over the decades, maintenance and repairs works were carried out but over time the white marble turned yellow due to ferrous substances and chemical additives used for water treatment. Additionally, dark patina due to deposits of atmospheric particles and algae and thick limescale appeared on the marble surfaces where the water flowed.
The restoration work cleaned these deposits and included stuccoed applications to repair cracks and breaks in the sculptures. The bronze elements were also treated as they presented similar discoloring effects due to pollutants, atmospheric conditions and water corrosion.
A key part of the work was the rebuilding of the fountain’s water supply system, that is now made of stainless steel and features a water recycling and pumping system. Additionally, a surveillance system was implemented to control and trace eventual vandal actions that in the past caused damages to part of the sculptures.
Throughout the works, guided tours of the worksite were offered along a protected path, allowing about 2,000 people from 90 different countries to see the various stages of the restoration.
To further celebrate the relaunch of the Fountain of Neptune, a special 30-minute event will be staged this evening by the Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. The performance, dubbed “E nel marmo e nel bronzo mise acqua e fuoco”, or “Marble and fire in water and bronze” in English, will combine theatrical monologues and acrobatics pieces with projections, choreographic jets of water, lights and sounds effects.
For the Salvatore Ferragamo Group this is just the latest step of giving back to the city housing its headquarters, as the company has financed other major restoration projects over the years, including the allegorical statues on Ponte Santa Trinita, in 1996, the Column of Justice in Piazza Santa Trinita, in 1998, and the eight rooms in the Uffizi Gallery, in 2015. In addition, it has established the Museo Salvatore Ferragamo at Palazzo Spini Feroni, headquarters of the brand.