When Bartolomeo Ammannati's statue of Neptune was first unveiled in Piazza della Signoria, the good people of Florence were less than impressed by what they saw, if the following ditty is anything to go by, "Ammannato, Ammannato, che bel marmo hai rovinato!" (Ammannato, Ammannato, what beautiful marble you have ruined!)
The year was 1565 and the statue, which was soon nicknamed Il Biancone (the white giant), stood on a high pedestal in the centre of the Fontana del Nettuno, the first major public fountain to be erected in Florence.
To add insult to injury, the public promptly used the fountain as a washbasin for its dirty laundry! In 1720 a plaque was attached to the wall of the Palazzo Vecchio forbidding such use. The plaque is still there.
In her book The Stones of Florence (1959), Mary McCarthy recounts the tale that Neptune, who was the god of the river Arno, had been turned into a statue because, like Michelangelo, he had spurned the love of women.
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