Restoration of Triton fountain: 3,000 nails and 4 tonnes of concrete removed
Work to restore the Triton Fountain is moving at a brisk pace, with a large part of the ‘travertine’ (a form of limestone) which forms the base of the fountain, already looking much cleaner than we are used to seeing it. MCAST students who are being trained in stone restoration are following the work being done o this project, especially the technique and chemicals being used to remove the grime which has accumulated over many years on the surface of the ‘travertine’.
The Triton Fountain, which is located at the entrance to Valletta, is a well-known landmark. The bronze statues, which are the work of sculptor Censu Apap, are now being restored at the artistic foundry Ferdinando Marinelli in Florence. Kenneth Cauchi – a bronze restorer and consultant with the Ministry for Transport and Infrastructure – explained that after they were cleaned, the damage to the Triton figures is now clearly apparent.
He said that during the restoration, around 3,000 nails were removed, which left holes in the sculptures. “These are called chaplets, which is a technical term in the field of artistic foundry, and are used so that the figures do not move,” Cauchi explained. “Normally these are removed after the casting is finished, but in this case of the Triton Fountain, they were left there so we have had to remove them manually one by one… now we obviously have to strengthen the statues.”
Mr Cauchi explained that the statues had to have around 4 tonnes of concrete removed from them, which had been poured inside them in 1959. He said that at the moment the framework which is going into the statues is being studied; a framework which will be built by a specialized factory in Venice, Italy.
Meanwhile, work has also begun on the large plate, with the removal of the parts which have been added over time, with the aim of revealing the original look of the plate. “This was a very delicate operation during which we found that one sixteenth of the plate was still in its original form,”‘
MCAST stone restoration students had a training session on this project, with an emphasis on the travertine material, which froms the base of the fountain.. Federico De Feo minn De Feo, a restorer from Rome, explained the cleaning system in detail as well as the chemicals used to remove the grime which has accumulated on the surface of the travertine and inside its pores.
“There was a lot of deterioration caused by rust that was in the water that used to fill the fountain,” said De Feo. “There were a lot of biological attacks, and the worst part was the damage done by the pollution of the air because this was a bus terminal.”
The project manager for the restoration of the Triton Fountain, engineer Joseph Scicluna,who is working in co-ordinattion with the Ministry for Transport and Infrastructure, said that the project will cost €4 million, and is being financed by the Central Government, with the work expected to be ready by the end of this year.