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Rudolf Häsler’s Fountain of Neptune

From 1985 to 1990 Rudolf Häsler meticulously painted on his 150 x 265 cm sized canvas depicting the Fountain of Neptune. The spectator tries in vain to reconstruct the alignments of the painting’s vanishing point and soon notices that the artist applied a distorted perspective; framing the entire composition of the monumental fountain Häsler depicts the scenery with a sort of wide-angle perspective. The broad view integrates on the right boarder the stonework of the Palazzo Vecchio’s northwestern corner on the Piazza della Signoria in Florence and on the left the bronze sculpture of Cosimo I. de’ Medici. Florentine Renaissance architecture can be spotted behind the marmoreal fountain.

Rudolf Häsler, «Neptun Brunnen. Florenz», 1985-90

The most important Florentine artists participated in the competition for the fountain’s design in 1559. Bartolemeo Ammannati’s proposal convinced most, since his representation of the sea god Neptune portrayed a matching symbol of power for the sponsor Cosimo I. de’ Medic.

Neptune is standing in Contrapposto position on a chariot carried by four seahorses. The base is decorated with shells, fishes and sea serpents. 

Bronze figures on the fountain

The boarders of the octagonal marble basin encompasses eight symmetrically arranged and elegantly shaped bronze figures in various positions: The sea goddesses Thetis, Doris, Oceanus and Nereus are siting on elevated bases surrounded by Nymphs, Satyrs and Faunes. 

Häsler rejects to incorporate the torso of Neptune’s figure to his composition, yet he manages to capture the figure’s plasticity. The artist imitates the texture of the white Carrara-marble and he even depicts the bronze figure’s oxidized surface.

Precise imitation of the white carrara-marble

An unique artist of Photorealism

Due to Häsler’s Photorealistic style the painting may appear like a postcard at first glance. When taking a closer look the distorted perspective displays a surreal arrangement, which could never be perceived by human vision; the various perspective sights comprised within the painting suggest a synthesis of reality and fiction. It is precisely this discrepancy that distinguishes Häsler’s virtuosity and emphasizes him as a unique artist of Photorealism. 

Photographies of the fountain
Fotografie des Neptunbrunnens in Florenz heute
Fotografie des Neptunbrunnens in Florenz heute
Fotografie des Neptunbrunnens in Florenz heute
About artist
Rudolf Häsler
Interlaken, 1927 — 1999

Rudolf Häsler (1927, Interlaken – 1999, Sant Cugat del Vallès) became a primary school teacher in Interlaken in 1947. During that same time, he took painting lessons and travelled throughout Europe. In 1952, he gave up his teaching profession and devoted himself entirely to art. Travels to the Sahara, Seville, Granada, Italy, Yugoslavia and Andalusia followed. In 1956, he met the Cuban María Dolores Soler in Granada. In 1957, he travelled with her to her hometown of Santiago de Cuba and married her there. Fascinated by the country, Häsler decided to stay in Cuba and started a family there.
While in Cuba, Häsler experienced the climax of the Cuban Revolution, which he was rather enthusiastic about. He wanted to take an active part in this social change and joined a group of artists who devoted themselves to the concept of art in construction. He also developed a concept for the establishment of a nationwide ceramics industry, which was approved by the government. He rose to the position of executive advisor in the newly founded National Institute of Decorative Arts and was promoted to director in 1960. After Argentine revolutionary hero Ernesto "Che" Guevara, then minister of industry, Häsler was the then second-highest ranking foreign-deputy in the Cuban state.