In Gian Lorenzo Bernini's Four Rivers Fountain in Rome, the Río de la Plata, representing America, is shown not in the guise of an ancient river god, as is the case with the other rivers, but with a physiognomy increasingly associated with West Africa. This article considers the figure's changing visibility and invisibility, especially how early modern natural philosophy offered transformative modes of interpretation, which, when deployed in the 1651 pamphlets published for the fountain's inauguration, reveal a preoccupation with how the “Ethiopian's” multiple conversions and transitions brought him to the New World.

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