The Bethesda Fountain, the gorgeous focal point of the Bethesda Terrace
is one of the largest fountains in New York, measuring twenty-six feet high by ninety-six feet wide. It is one of the most well known fountains in the world, and the statue at its center was the only sculpture to have been commissioned as a part of Central Park's original design.
This neoclassical sculpture, also known as Angel of the Waters, features an eight-foot bronze angel who stands above four small cherubim representing health, purity, temperance, and peace.
The angel herself carries a lily in one hand while the other remains outstretched, poised in the action of delivering a blessing on the water pouring from around her feet and into the basin at the bottom of the fountain. This is to commemorate the 1842 opening of the Croton Aqueduct, which supplied New York City with fresh water.
Angel of the Waters was designed by Emma Stebbins in 1868 and dedicated in 1873, at which point Stebbins became the first woman to receive commission for a major work of art in the city of New York. Stebbins linked the new, pure city water flowing from the fountain to the healing powers of the biblical pool, and quoted John 5:2-4 at the statue's dedication, saying "Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called... Bethesda... whoever then first after the troubling of the waters stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had."