The central fountain in Piazza Novona is considered one of Bernini's masterpieces. The fountain took four years to complete with the actual carving done by assistants to Bernini. The four sculptures personify the main rivers of the four continents known at that time: The Danube is Europe, The Nile is Africa (which appears with a veiled head to indicate that its source was still unknown at that time), the Ganges is Asia and Rio represents the Americas. Funds to build the fountain were raised by an unpopular tax on bread. The obelisk was moved from the Circo di Massenzio on the Via Appia Antico. It is interesting to note that Bernini was not asked to submit a design for the fountain as the Pope reproached him for his close connection with his predecessor Urbanus VIII and for the technical failure of his attempt to erect the bell towers on St Peter's. However, Bernini found a way to have his model of the fountain seen by the Pope and he immediately got the commission. The rivalry between Bernini and Borromini is usually mentioned to explain the pose of the figure of the Nile who apparently cringes at the sight of the church of Sant'Agnese built by Borromini adjacent to the fountain. Seven beasts linked to the four rivers populate the fountain and add life to it.
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