Fonticine tabernacle restored

Della Robbia masterwork unveiled in via Nazionale

Editorial Staff
December 12, 2016 - 18:48

Restoration work recently concluded on the Fonticine tabernacle, a monumental Della Robbia masterpiece located along via Nazionale, one of downtown Florence's busiest thoroughfares. Amid the bustle of noonday traffic on December 12, the updated monument was unveiled to a crowd of community supporters, local and regional officials and press.

Costs for the project, which was funded and carried out entirely by the Istituto Lorenzo de' Medici, totaled around 90,000 euro. Professor Lorenzo Casamenti, head of the institute's Restoration department, managed a team of students and expert restorers over an eight-month period. 

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Le Fonticine tabernacle | Ph. Mary Gray

The Fonticine monument dates from the early 16th century and takes its name from its seven "little fountains" shaped like cherub heads, which line a marble basin below the main terracotta section. 

Ph. Sandro Nardoni Ph. Sandro Nardoni


Prior to the restoration, each element of the structure—the marble basin, glazed terracotta relief, covering arch and columns—had been deteriorating. Rain had damaged the arch, while a thick layer of moss and algae had adversely affected the basin. Grout buildup on the terracotta section called for a surface cleaning and touchup work on the stucco, and its protective frame and glass were also replaced.

In addition to the aesthetic denigration, the hydraulic system needed revisiting. The pipes protruding from the cherub mouths, previously made of oxidized iron, were replaced with longer, heavier ones in brass. In the interest of saving water, a timed valve was also installed: when programmed, it will allow for flexibility in turning the fountain on and off. Finally, the worn sandstone slabs on the sidewalk below the monument have been substituted with new ones, complemented by small columns to prevent attempted parking in the area.

At the December 12 ceremony, Florence's Councillor for the Environment Alessia Bettini thanked the Istituto Lorenzo de' Medici, commenting, "The final result is doubly rewarding: from a strictly aesthetic point of view, we've gotten back one of the city's most beautiful tabernacles. And from a cultural perspective, Florentines and tourists can now more fully enjoy Giovanni Della Robbia's depiction of the Madonna and Child with St. John."

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Local and regional authorities and representatives of
Istituto Lorenzo de' Medici

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