Essay on Bernini 's Fountain Of Four Rivers

Essay on Bernini 's Fountain Of Four Rivers

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Bernini’s Fountain of Four Rivers constructed from 1648 to 1651 in the Piazza Navona in Rome for Pope Innocent X. The whole building consisted of two parts: the horizontal fountain and the rising Egyptian obelisk. The massive fountain is made of travertine, supporting the four river gods above and also serving as the foundation of the obelisk. Danube represents Europe. The Ganges refers to the continent of Asia. The Río de la Plata represents America, the New World, and the Niles is Africa. A certain amount of the allegory and metaphors also surround the four river gods respectively. On the slim body of Roman made obelisk (Curran 284), hieroglyphics are displayed in sequential, and a dove and an olive branch, the pacific symbol of the Pamphili family, are on the top of the obelisk. Considering the holy light and papal government the obelisk represented, the four river gods have different responses for the Catholic churches. Since the Niles is the only god who has less visible appearances, therefore, this article argues about the submissive representation of non-western cultures in Bernini’s work of art. At the time, since both the Egyptian obelisk above the fountain and the Nile coming from the same region, the different representations of two objects would be compared to further elaborate the visibility of invisibility of other cultures in the western religion.
The Niles
The river Niles, representing Africa, sits on one side of the fountain. The torso the Niles is composed of two different parts. The upper part of his body is falling backward. His exposed chest and the bent arms are drastically against his invisible head that is covered with a cloth. The tensed muscle on the legs reveals the existence of an unbalanced strength...


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...y, compared with the other river gods, the ancient Egyptian river god does not even have a dignified face in Rome only because of its unknown origins to the churches. For the Western, Egyptian culture, to some extent, is one of the evidence proving their superiority in the seventeenth century.
Dominic Montserrat once comments on the Western’s obsessions with Egypt in one word: the Egyptian afterlife, which means “the desire of finding an antecedent for one’s self or one’s beliefs in Ancient Egypt” (279). The hybrid creations of two cultures usually obtain distinctive appearances, and they are intended to be special among the other creations. At the same time, it is also necessary to consider the impacts of two cultures in one product seriously. There is no inferiority or superiority between either party. Otherwise, the invisible qualities would be easily ignored.

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