Sculptor: Emma Stebbins 1815-1882 • USA
Gift of New York City
The definitive crown jewel of Central Park, is one of the most famous and universally loved fountains in the world, Bethesda Fountain.
Designed by Emma Stebbins, the centerpiece of the"Angel of the Waters" was the only sculpture commissioned as part of the original design of the Park naming her the first woman to receive a commission for a major work of art in New York City.
Located on the lower level of Bethesda Terrace, this neoclassical winged female figure symbolizes and celebrates the purifying of the city’s water supply when the Croton Aqueduct opened in 1842 bringing fresh water to all New Yorkers. For this reason she carries a lily, the symbol of purity in one hand while her other hand extends outward as she blesses the water below.
The stimulus for the idea of the"Angel of the Waters" comes from the Gospel of Saint John, Chapter 5, the story of an angel bestowing healing powers on the pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem. Beneath the eight-foot gilded bronze statue are four smaller four-foot figures symbolizing Temperance,
Purity, Health, and Peace. The base of the fountain was designed by Calvert Vaux with detail work by Jacob Wrey Mould.
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