Write 15 page essay on the topic Public Art and the Civic Ideal in the Postmodern Age.
The Fountain of the Four Rivers, created between 1648 and 1651, commissioned by Pope Innocent X, is Bernini’s largest and most celebrated fountain. He was asked to erect a monument sufficiently large enough to emphasize the center of the square without upsetting its unity. “At the same time, the fountain – not axially related to the façade of S. Agnese – had to be attuned to the Baroque church that had been planned for the area, but not yet erected” (Wittkower, 1955). It was actually executed by a large group of co-workers who worked under Bernini’s direct supervision, but sketches provide proof that the idea and the design are definitely Bernini’s.
The fountain itself represents the four continents that were recognized in Bernini’s time, which were Africa, Europe, Asia, and the Americas, via the four major rivers that were associated with each of these continents – the Nile, the Danube, the Ganges, and the Rio Plata respectively. The figure of the Nile was created by Jacopo Antonio Fancelli, the Danube by Antonio Raggi, the Ganges by Claude Poussin and the Rio Plata by Francesco Baratta (Kren & Marx, 1996). Each figure can be identified by the objects he holds and the plants and animals that surround him. The Ganges is shown with an oar in his hand, representing his navigability while the Nile is seen with his head covered, perhaps because the origin of the river was not known at that time although other rumors persist that perhaps it was due to a rivalry between Bernini and Borromini, the architect of the S. Agnese.
The Danube River is shown holding his arms up towards the coat of arms of Innocent X’s family with doves and lilies above him, while the Rio Plata is portrayed as a black man holding coins.