On 20 April 1857, the Bordeaux city council decided to hold a competition to create a fountain for Place Quinconces. Frédéric Bartholdi, then aged 23, won the contest. However, the city hall of Bordeaux decided not to carry out his project. After Bartholdi had made the Statue of Liberty in New York in 1886, the mayor of Bordeaux contacted him, but his new project was canceled after much hesitation. It was finally achieved in 1888, but it was deemed as too expensive and therefore was sold to Lyon. The fountain was eventually put at the Place des Terreaux and is currently still there.
The fountain depicts France as a female seated on a chariot controlling the four great rivers of France, represented by wildly rearing and plunging horses, highly individualized but symmetrically arranged, with bridles and reins of water weeds. The fountain weighs 21 tons and is made of lead supported by a frame of iron and was presented at the Exposition Universelle of 1889. It has been classified as monument historique since 29 September 1995.