Fountain of The Four Rivers

Next Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers, is one of the most well known and beloved public fountains in all of Rome that even today is beloved by tourists and Romans alike. Originally commissioned by Pope Innocent X, as an artwork to be placed in one of the main squares of Rome called Piazza Navona, to beautify was what at that time a bad part of town. Fountains during that time period were used for two main purposes: one as entertainment and two as a much more convenient source of water for the people.

Made of travertine and marble and completed between 1648-1651, by Bernini and his assistants. This foundation shows what was considered by European Geographers in the seventeenth century, to be the four main rivers of the world as personified as male gods. The first is the Nile in Africa that is shown with his head covered by a large cloth because in this time period, the source of this river was unknown. The source of the Nile was not found until the late nineteenth century when the British explorer John Hanning Speke proved that Lake Victoria a massive lake stretching between Tanzania, Uganda, and into Kenya was the source of the Nile River.

The second river The Ganges River is in India, and his is shown with a long, wooden oar to show that this river was very easy to navigate. Third is the Rio della Plata in South America which represents both the Americas. He is shown as a black man sitting on a large pile of gold to represent the “riches” of the Americas. The fourth and final river is the Danbe located in Eastern Europe, and he is posed touching the papal symbol at the top of the piece because this is the closest river to Rome. The artwork is topped by a restored Eqyptian Obelisk from the year 81 CE and symbolizes the power of the papacy.

Next, this is my personal favorite of all the many Bernini fountains in Rome because of the artistry of the piece and the fact that everyone that sees this piece of art is getting a history and a geography lesson at the same time ,because the artwork shows what Europeans thought were the four main points of the world. This gives the modern historian or art lover a threat for both their mind and eyes.

Cavendish, Richard. “The Nile’s Source Discovered.” History Today 58. 8 (2008): n. pag. Web. 20 Nov. 2013.
“Fountain of Four Rivers (Bernini).” Bernini in Rome. Rome Info. Rome Tourist office 2013. Web. 04 Nov. 2013.
“Lake Victoria.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica. 2013. Web. 20 Nov. 2013.


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