exhibitions in florence: duomo museum, arnolfo di cambio (florence cathedral, santa croce, madonna and child, palazzo vecchio)

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 ARNOLFO - Alle origini del Rinascimento fiorentino 

ARNOLFO. Alle origini del Rinascimento fiorentino ARNOLFO.
Alle origini del Rinascimento fiorentino

21 December 2005 - 21 April 2006

Florence, Museum of Santa Maria del Fiore
Piazza del Duomo n. 9
Entrance in front of the apse of Florence Cathedral

Every day from 9.00 to 19.30

This major exhibition of sculpture closes out the season of exhibitions celebrating the VIIth centenary of the artist.

There are more than 100 works, many of which are in Florence, where Vasari and those following him attributed Arnolfo with the major monuments of this period: the church of Santa Croce, Palazzo Vecchio and the new cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, the masterpiece which the artist started to plan from the façade with the French gothic and traditional classic cultural components in mind.

The importance of the exhibition consists essentially in the fact that it is an exhibition of sculpture, an event which is above all rare when it includes works from a major period and of monumental size. Along with other masterpieces on loan from Italy and abroad (the Madonna of the school of Nicola Pisano in Berlin, the Arnolfo-like Annunciazione from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the statue of Charles of Angers from the Capitoline Museum and the frieze from the Annibaldi tomb), which provide an outline picture of sculpture from the second half of the Duecento, there will also be a selection of important paintings, sculptures and goldwork which will resonstruct the extraordinary artistic scene in the city during the years of Arnolfo in relation to the artistic context of central Italy and Europe.

From a technical point of view the exhibition offers some excellent opportunities: above all to be able to admire most works following restoration; finally being able to compare elements from funereal or civic monuments made by Arnolfo during activity conducted in Rome and Umbria with the works which are pertinent to the Florentine period, including those which have been taken to other parts of Europe and overseas and which today are brought together for the occasion; view the relationship between sculpture and architecture in the façade of the cathedral, destroyed in the Cinquecento, also through the exhibition of architectonic and mosaic fragments; highlight the close connection between Arnolfo and the other great protagonist of artistic renewal, Giotto, seeing that it was above all painting that benefited from the immediate heritage left by this sculptor, before, more than a century later, artists like Brunelleschi and Donatello were able to profit from his ideas.

Arnolfo di Cambio
(Colle di Val d'Elsa 1240/50 - Firenze 1302/10)

An architect and sculptor, Arnolfo Di Cambio was born in Colle Val D’Elsa and died in Florence. He was one of the greatest artists of the second part of the Duecento, a contemporary of Giovanni Pisano and he worked at the same time, in sculpture, as the young Giotto.

One assumes that his training took place through contact with the artistic environment of the Cistercians. Upon later entering the atelier of Nicola Pisano, he worked under this artist's direction between 1265 and 1268 on Saint Dominic’s Tomb in San Domenico at Bologna and on the Pulpit of Siena Cathedral, and developed a notable interest in ancient sculpture which was helped on by a stay in Rome (and perhaps in the south of Italy) as well as by his being a visitor to the home of D'Angiò: he is attributed with the statute in honour of Carlo D'Angiò, in Rome at the Musei Capitolini.

She was attached to models created by the ancients, classical sculpture, the Greeks and the Etruscans. Rigour combined with plastic and voluminous construction in the figure appears above all in the sculptures in Perugia at the National Gallery, which we assume to be the remains of the fountain commissioned by the Perugians from this “subtilissimus et ingeniosus magister” and created between 1277 and 1281 and, for those supporting the paternity of Arnolfo regarding this statue, he appears again in the bronzes of the Vatican in Saint Peter's Cathedral around the year 1300, but is also not absent from the Monument to Cardinal De Braye in San Domenico at Orvieto (1282), a work which combines a closeness to classic art (the Virgin Enthroned is actually a readapted ancient statue) with the knowledge of French Gothic art that blossomed around Louis IX.

This opening was borne witness to by the works that Arnolfo later created in Rome: the Ciboria in San Paolo (1284) and in Santa Cecilia (1293), the Hannibal monument in San Giovanni in Laterano (circa 1290), in which the architectonic design disciplines the scultural element: the Crib of Santa Maria Maggiore (1285 – 1291), the complex structure of the Sacellum of San Bonifacio, which he was commissioned to work on around 1296 by Bonifacio VIII as his future funeral monument: once in the counter façade of Sain Peter’s, now dismantled (plastic remains in the Vatican Catacombs).

It was only in Florence however that this architectonic vocation of his, brought up to date on the basis of the gotico rayonnant, was able to acquire a monumental dimension in other buildings partly attributed to him (see the Badia Fiorentina, Santa Croce, Palazzo Vecchio) but, especially, in the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, his work on which, started around 1296, already in 1300 was praised by the Council of the Centre of the city. It was quite likely that Arnolfo had in fact already drawn up a project for the Cathedral substantially very close to the one built (radial chapels, cupola), concentrating himself however on the façade, the first three registers of which he managed to create. This is documented by a drawing made by Bernardino Poccetti (Museo dell’Opera del Duomo) in 1587 when the facade was destroyed, ornate with mosaics and sculptures, based on a Marian iconographical programme.

There are however a considerable number of statues still in existence: in Florence, in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo e and in private collections (Nativity, Madonna Enthroned, Bonifacio VIII, Apostles and Deacons); as well as in Berlin at the Staatlichen Museen (Dormitio Virginis), and Cambridge (Massachusetts) in the Fogg Museum (Angel). They testify to the plastic rigour linked to Nicola Pisano, but is organised mainly by means of an architectonic drive. There is some claim (Romanini) that as a painter he was responsible for the Storis of Isaac in the upper church of San Francesco d'Assisi.

Text from www.arnolfoafirenze.it, Enrica Neri Lusanna.

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