The Fountain of the Four Rivers, Piazza Navona

Gianlorenzo Bernini
1648-51
travertine and marble



View of the whole

Commissioned by Pope Innocent X, the fountain was designed by Bernini and executed largely by his assistants. A rustic free-form rock occupies the center from which water gushes. The rock form at the bottom has a horse, palm tree, and lion, which had to be carved in situ--and were reportedly carved by the master himself. The fountain is topped by a restored Egyptian obelisk.
 

The Danube

The four rivers of the then-known continents are represented by personifications. The fountain is a favorite haunt of pigeons (as well as tourists). Sorry!
 

The Ganges River, representing Asia

 

The Nile River with covered head--because the source of the Nile was then unknown (at least by Europeans)

 

The Rio della Plata--a Negro with coins on the ledge representing the riches of the Americas

 

The papal insignia

Not only did Pope Innocent X (a Pamphilj) commission the fountain but the Pamphilj family palace was built on this oval piazza. The fountain may have a Counter-Reformation purpose: it proclaims the church's influence on four continents and asserts the triumph of church, papacy, and the reigning papal family.



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