In 2003 the Virginia Beach Neptune Festival requested submission designs for a monumental, 16-foot tall statue of Neptune, the ancient Roman god of the sea, that would be permanently sited on the Virginia Beach Boardwalk. Fifty entries were received from sculptors from around the country, but none from artists based in Virginia, which led Cameron Kitchin, then Executive Director of the Contemporary Art Center of Virginia in Virginia Beach, to call Paul DiPasquale, a Richmond-based sculptor with extensive experience with public sculpture, including the Arthur Ashe statue on Monument Avenue, to see if he would be interested in applying. DiPasquale met with Nancy Creech, the Director of the Virginia Beach Neptune Festival and looked at the proposed site, before submitting the winning clay model of King Neptune to the Festival’s sculpture committee. DiPasquale was the only artist to interpret the 16-foot height requirement for the Neptune figure as being from the waist up to the top of his crown. This allowed him to place his sculpture on a 12-foot tall rock base and extend the height of the piece to include the uppermost point of the trident. The combined height, from base to trident, measured 34 feet and thus created a truly colossal image of the Roman god emerging from the sea and towering over the boardwalk.
Holding a trident in his right hand while his left hand rests on a loggerhead turtle, the bearded King Neptune is surrounded in the completed work by various fish, two dolphins, and a lobster and octopus, which swirl around the rock base, as he rises from the ocean. Cast in bronze in China and weighing approximately 12 ½ tons, the sculpture was unveiled on September 30, 2005 at 31st Street and Atlantic Avenue, opposite Neptune Park. Since that time Neptune Virginia Beach, which is better known by its colloquial title of King Neptune, has become a popular and beloved tourist attraction for visitors and residents of Virginia Beach. This 7-foot tall bronze version was donated to VMFA by Aubrey Layne, the Secretary of Finance in Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s cabinet, and his wife, Peggy. Aubrey was King Neptune XXXIX during the 2012 Virginia Beach Neptune Festival. This work, which was cast in bronze in 2004, served as the maquette for the completed statue, which follows its design fairly closely. VMFA was delighted to receive the sculpture as a gift and has installed the Neptune Virginia Beach Maquette in the E. Claiborne and Lora Robins Sculpture Garden at the base of the waterfall, thus allowing visitors to enjoy the sculpture and its references to water and Roman mythology.