The first sections of Edinburgh’s Ross Fountain have returned to their rightful berth in the city’s West Princes Street Gardens, with the iconic structure sporting a brand new bluish-green and copper coloured coat.
Work began on removing the A-listed fountain last summer as part of a wider project spearheaded by the Ross Development Trust to regenerate the gardens.
Since then the Ross Fountain’s many constituent parts have been painstakingly repaired in a multi-million pound restoration by specialists Industrial Heritage Consulting Ltd and Lost Art Ltd.
Earlier this month a number of sections were finally transported back to the gardens and are now in the process of being re-assembled piece by piece.
The parts in situ show the fountain’s new bluish-green and copper colour scheme which project chiefs say “pays homage” to the French ornamental work of the 19th century.
Officially called ‘verdigris bronze’, a similar combination of colours can be seen on two 19th century fountains at Place de la Concorde in central Paris.
The new colours may come as a surprise to locals who expected the fountain to return with the familiar all-gold finish it had previously.
A spokesperson for the Ross Development Trust explained the reasons behind the colour choice: “Research has eliminated any real clues to the original colour but we believe it had originally undergone a process called bronzing. It is now accepted that this mix of linseed oil and bronze powders was short lived; first tarnishing then failing, leaving a dark rust coloured finish; more by default than design.
“However in homage to that bronze finish we have aimed to create a verdigris bronze effect, in the French style of the time, when there was a transition from bronze to cast iron in public monuments. This effect was first used on a number of French fountains, which have recently been restored in the same manner.”
They added, “Our fountain uses a colour that suggests the subtle verdigris effect of bronze; less green than copper. The detailing suggests the ‘polished’ effect on worn surfaces.
“The gold detailing pays homage to the colour the fountain took on in recent years and the brown on the skin tones and other animal-like parts, suggests newly patinated parts, treated traditionally with liver of sulphur.”
The Ross Fountain dates from the early 1860s, its parts forged at the renowned Antoine Durenne foundry near the Val d’Osne in the northeast of France.
Gunmaker Daniel Ross spotted the French-made fountain on show at the London International Exhibition of 1862.
In an act of philanthropy Mr Ross purchased the fountain for the benefit of the people of Edinburgh, where it was erected ten years later.
When it was first installed, the fountain provoked the wrath of Dean Ramsay, minister at nearby St John’s Episcopal Church, who labelled its nude female figures “grossly indecent and disgusting”.
Having failed to spout water since 2010 due to leakage, a full-scale restoration of the Ross Fountain got underway in July last year.
The extensive £1.6 million revamp involved repairing internal damage to the iron fountain’s substructure and even recasting whole parts anew.
With each piece now repaired and painted, work to reassemble the Ross Fountain is expected to be completed over the next couple of months.
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