The Fountain of Neptune is a monumental civic fountain located in the eponymous square, Piazza del Nettuno, next to Piazza Maggiore. 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.
Neptune Fountain has its base on three steps, on which it is situated a tank made of 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, 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.