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Europeans in the 16th century divided the world into four continents: Africa, America, Asia, and Europe.[1] Each of the four continents was seen to represent its quadrant of the world—Africa in the south, America in the west, Asia in the east, and Europe in the north. This division fit the Renaissance sensibilities of the time, which also divided the world into four seasons, four classical elements, four cardinal directions, four classical virtues, etc.

The four continents, plus Australia, added later.

The four parts of the world[2] or the four corners of the world refers to Africa (the "south"), the Americas (the "west"), Asia (the "east"), and Europe (the "north").

Depictions of personifications of the four continents became popular in several media. Sets of four could be placed around all sorts of four-sided objects, or in pairs along the façade of a building with a central doorway. They were common subjects for prints, and later small porcelain figures. A set of loose conventions quickly arose as to the iconography of the figures. They were normally female, with Europe queenly and grandly dressed, Asia fully dressed but in an exotic style, with Africa and America at most half-dressed, and given exotic props as attributes.[3]

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