Monday, December 23, 2013


1649/51 Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598/1680) who won the favor of Pope Innocent X Pamphili (1644/55) after a difficult period in his career
The pope was also an admirer of the great Francesco Borromini (1599/1667), Bernini's great rival, but ousted, with this work, from the role of pope's favorite architect
Borromini had directed and designed the work for the pipes that connected the Aqua Virgo aqueduct from the area where the Trevi Fountain is now to Piazza Navona and had been appointed architect of the fountain. He was therefore doubly disappointed at the choice of Pope Innocent X who supplanted him with his rival whom he also blamed for stealing his idea of using allegories of rivers for the fountain
"Nile" (Africa) by Giacomo Antonio Fancelli (1619/71)
The face is covered to indicate that the sources were unknown at the time
"Rio de la Plata" (America) by Francesco Baratta (about 1590/about 1663)
The face of an incongruous black African goes to show the little knowledge of American ethnic groups at the time. The coins symbolize the wealth of the new world. The actual longest river in the world, the Amazon was not chosen because it had become a recent colonial possession of Portugal, a big enemy of Spain which had close relations with the Pamphilj family. In 1640 Portugal had rebelled against a Spanish rule that had lasted for 60 years
"Ganges" (Asia) by Claude Poussin (active since 1644/d. 1661)
The oar indicates that it was almost entirely navigable
"Danube" (Europe) by Ercole Antonio Raggi (1624/86)
His hand holds the papal coat of arms, being the only continent entirely Christian
"The number of fountains created by Bernini is relatively small, but the greater was its effect. Contemporaries were fascinated not only by his new, truly poetic use of realistic elements as rocks, shells and natural products, but also by his revolutionary way of treating the water itself. Because he replaced the traditional thin jets of water with an exuberant and powerful harnessing of the elements. It was the constant movement of water roaring and murmuring, which helped Bernini to fulfill the dream he had long caressed: to create true movement and pulsating life. Throughout the arrangement of the fountain there is a manifest reference to the rivers of Paradise at the foot of the mountain on which the Cross stands. This monument of the triumph of Catholic victory therefore also contains the idea of salvation of humanity under the sign of the cross" (Rudolf Wittkower)
Animals, plants and rocks were painted by Guidobaldo Abbatini (1600/56), the faithful painter collaborator of Bernini, with colors later completely disappeared. This fact makes us wonder about Bernini's continuous interest and research, in this work as well, for an authentic blend of architecture, sculpture and painting in a single baroque phantasmagoria
OBELISCO AGONALE (Agonale Obelisk)
Height 16.53 m (54 feet)
With fountain, base and dove on top it is more than 30 meters (95 feet) high
It is a Roman imitation from the time of Domitian (81/96) of an Egyptian obelisk. Domitian's name is written in hieroglyphics
It was originally placed in the ISIS CAMPENSIS (the Temple of Isis, the Egyptian goddess near the Pantheon) or maybe, some say, in his villa at Albano
Filippo Coarelli and Jean-Claude Grenier believe it comes originally from the TEMPLUM GENTIS FLAVIAE which was located on Via Vittorio Emanuele Orlando, where the Octagonal Hall or Minerva Hall, former Planetarium is now
It was moved by Maxentius in 311 (306/312) to the center of the circus in his villa of the same name
It has been proved that it wasn't originally at the center of the Stadium of Domitian as some say
It was broken into four pieces when it was found

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