SHE left her usual perch atop the Ross Fountain yesterday armless and bottom-less, but the gold sheened statue will return with renewed splendour to Princes Street Gardens by spring next year.
It will be the first time the statue and the fountain have been moved since they arrived at Leith docks in 1869, before installation in the then private gardens in 1872.
The operation is part of the Ross Development Trust’s plans to regenerate the gardens.
The arms and buttocks of the two-tonne statue were removed before it was cut away from the rest of the fountain and then lifted down by a crane.
The rest of the fountain is being dismantled today and will be reunited with the statue before both are transferred to a trailer with built-in hydraulics and transported to Wigan, where conservation experts will carry out the work.
Industrial Heritage Consulting Limited, which also worked with Lost Art Ltd in 2013 to restore the Grand Central Fountain in Paisley, will begin the painstaking restoration.
Managing director of the Ross Development Trust David Ellis said: “To see it finally happen and for it to all go smoothly is just excellent.
“I think, personally, on behalf of the Trust and also for the people of Edinburgh it’s such a loved monument.
“It’s been here for so long and it’s become a massive part of the city for the last hundred odd years and to see it at the first stage of its restoration process, I’m delighted, and can’t wait to see it back in full working order.”
Mr Ellis is also hoping the public will help the Trust maintain the city landmark.
“We are looking for contributions from the general public through our website for the continued maintenance of it, that will be one thing to make sure that this is not just a project for the short term and that this glorious monument will be working in-situ for the next hundred years,” he said.
In 2001, extensive work was done to restore the historical feature on site. But after suffering serious damage caused by water loss through the structure, the fountain has been dry since 2010.
The fountain was crafted in a French foundry in the early 1800s before local gunsmith Daniel Ross, who had ‘inclinations to art and natural science’, saw the fountain at the Great Exhibition of 1862 in London, where it was described as “obtaining universal admiration”. He bought it and gifted it to the city.
But installation was delayed after protests from an outraged minister who said the amount of nudity in the sculptures was “grossly indecent and disgusting; insulting and offensive to the moral feelings of the community and disgraceful to the city”.
The £1.5 million project is being spearheaded by Apex Hotels founder Norman Springford, who is also helping to bankroll a replacement for the Ross Bandstand in Princes Street Gardens.
Mr Springford said: “When you’re dealing with a fountain that’s 145 years old it’s not just a case of giving it a lick of paint. It’s going to be a fairly lengthy process.”