BERNINI, Gian Lorenzo
(b. 1598, Napoli, d. 1680, Roma)
Fountain of the Four Rivers1648-51
Travertine and marble
Piazza Navona, Rome
In 1647 Innocent X was tricked into viewing Bernini's model for a fountain in the centre of the Piazza Navona, which he wished to transform into the grandest public square in Rome. Unable to resist the design, he returned Bernini to papal favour.
The Four Rivers Fountain is Bernini's largest and most spectacular fountain, a masterpiece of engineering and urban planning and a marvel of art. Its travertine base, populated with four giant marble personifications of the rivers Danube, Nile, Ganges and Plate, supports an ancient granite obelisk moved from the Circus of Maxentius. Bernini daringly pierced the base on all sides, thus opening a view through and making the massive obelisk appear to hover weightlessly above the void.