http://www.nove.firenze.it/vediarticolo.asp?id=a5.12.20.16.25

The great architect who revolutionised scupture

Florence - At 700 years from his death, Florence celebrates the genius
of Arnolfo di Cambio, among the most important and innovative of
artists, with an exhibition of sculpture which is as unique as it is
extraordinary. Arnolfo was a cosmopolitan architect-sculptor who, with
Cimabue in painting, contributed to the laying of the foundations of the
Renaissance by creating a modern artistic language which, through Giotto
also, has spread across Europe from that time on, and up until the
recent past.

Arnolfo, at the origins of the Florentine Renaissance closes the group
of exhibitions in celebration of Arnolfo. Promoted and produced by the
Ente Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze together with the Ministry of Culture
(General Headquarters for Libraries and Institutes of Culture), the
Comitato Nazionale, and the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, this
exhibition has been curated by the art historian Enrica Neri Lusanna
(University of Florence). The layout and organisation of the exhibition
was designed by the architect Adolfo Natalini with Guicciardini & Magni
Architetti, while Polistampa produced the catalogue.

There are approximately 100 works on show, which amounts to the greater
part of Arnolfo’s production kept in Florence, together with those that
it is possible to transport from other parts of Italy and abroad. There
has never before been seen such a concentration of masterpeices by the
great Tuscan artist as this: sculptures in wood and marble (the Madonna
of the school of Nicola Pisano on loan from Berlin, the Annunciazione
attributed to Arnolfo, from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London,
the statue of Charles d’Anjou from the Musei Capitolini, the frieze
around the tomb of the Annibaldi, etc.), decorative elements, fragments,
casts from the originals and much more. The exhibition is enriched by
sculptures, paintings and goldwork from the late Florentine Duecento
with the intention of supplying an overall idea of the city’s general
artistic production during the years when Arnolfo was working.
Besides the possibility of being able to see for the first time brought
together those few works by Arnolfo that have survived until the present
day, and which are now spread among both private and public collections
all over the world, the exhibition allows us finally to attempt a
reasonable recomposition of the lost façade of the cathedral of Santa
Maria del Fiore, Arnolfo’s unfinished masterpiece, dismembered and
dispersed at the end of the Cinquecento. Given that the mainspring of
the event is the reconstruction of the lunettes and squares of the
basilica adorned with figures, the absolute novelty consists in a
restitution of portions of the facade with the elements of its
decorative marbles and mosaics reassembled, thanks to rediscovered and
contextualised fragments.

Arnolfo di Cambio (Colle Val d’Elsa 1240/45, Florence 1302/10) was
active in Siena, Rome, Orvieto, Perugia and Florence. He fully
incarnated the figure of the international artist who managed to fuse
the many and complex products of the Italian artistic tradition with
French gothic novelties, and respond with the invention of amazing
figurative typologies to the requests of very powerful commissioning
parties. He sculpted statues that celebrated Anjou sovereigns and popes,
and in papal Rome produced the decorations of the great cathedrals (San
Paolo, Santa Cecilia, Santa Maria Maggiore, San Pietro, Ara Coeli).
In Florence he worked on the most important monuments: the Franciscan
church of Santa Croce, the city hall (Palazzo Vecchio) and most of all
designed the new cathedral, starting with the facade which he structured
with the imposing gothic structures of France in mind: rich in statues
linked to a grandiose iconographic design, covered in marbles and
mosaics with unusual chromatic efects for Florence. Santa Maria del
Fiore consacrated the fame of Arnolfo to the point where the government
of the city exonerated him from paying taxes, thereby conferring upon
him one of its maximum signs of appreciation.

The exhibition amongst other things highlights the close relationship
between Arnolfo and Giotto. It was in fact the art of painting which
benefited from the immediate heritage of the sculpture before
Brunelleschi and Donatello put his to good use.