The bronze equestrian monument to Ferdinando I of Medici, brother of Francesco, and likewise Grand-Duke of Tuscany, which rises up in the centre of Piazza Santissima Annunziata, was started by Giambologna and later finished by Pietro Tacca.
At the rear of the pedestal supporting the monument, Ferdinando had his own personal “trademark” depicted, a queen bee surrounded by a swarm of worker bees with the motto “majestate tantum”, signifying that he was the sole fulcrum of the Grand-Duchy, in other words, the queen bee, while his industrious and peaceful people all worked and built up around him.
In this graphic representation in fact, the queen bee is effectively in the centre, surrounded by a myriad of smaller bees all arranged in concentric, spiralled circles around her, which makes it extremely difficult to count the exact number of
bees without making a mistake.
Thus the legend was born according to which it was not possible to count the bees correctly as you always count at least two or three twice.
For this reason, whenever young Florentine children were too insistent in asking for something, their parents used to take them to the statue of Ferdinando promising that their desire would be satisfied if they managed to count the exact number of bees. Needless to say the results were always the same.
For the record, there are ninety-one bees.