The centre of the fountain is composed of four monumental marble male personifications of the great rivers Danube, Nile, Ganges and Rio de la Plata (River Plate), each representing the four continents that were known at that time.
These figures were executed by Bernini’s pupils Antonio Raggi, Jacopo Antonio Fancelli, Claude Poussin and Francesco Baratta respectively.
At the Schloss Ahlden (25% buyer’s premium) auction in Lower Saxony on May 9-10, three of the four river allegories (the Danube was missing) came up for sale in the form of bronze figures between 8-9½in (20-24cm) high.
They were mounted on marble bases and catalogued as by an Italian sculptor active in the second half of the 17th or early 18th century.
Along with several other bronzes in the auction, they came from the collection of Dr Otto Dettmers (1892-1986), a lawyer and general director of the shipping company North German Lloyd.
International museums, collectors and dealers were attracted by the figures and the cautious guides of €4600 apiece. As a consequence, the River Plate sold for €40,000 (£35,090), the Nile for €42,000 (£36,840) and the Ganges €51,000 (£44,735).
All went to a Parisian dealer, bidding on behalf of an unnamed collector.