BERNINI, Gian Lorenzo
(b. 1598, Napoli, d. 1680, Roma)
Fountain of the Four Rivers1648-51
Travertine and marble
Piazza Navona, Rome
This fountain was executed by a large group of coworkers under the supervision of Bernini. It is debated whether he sculpted personally the rocks, the palmtree, the lion and the horse, but it is generally accepted that his contribution was limited to the final phase of the work. From the remaining sketches it is unambigous that the idea and design are Bernini's. This composition preceded and prepared the great composition of Saint Peter's throne in the San Pietro.
The fountain represents the four continents and their rivers, the obelisk in the center is the symbol of Christ and the triumphing Roman Catholic Church over the whole world. The figure of Nile, sculpted by Jacopo Antonio Fancelli, represents Africa; the Danube, by Antonio Raggi, Europe; the Ganges, by Claude Poussin, Asia; and the Plate, by Francesco Baratta, the Americas, discovered a century and a half earlier.