ne 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.
He 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 sculptural 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 Saint 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 gothic 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, where work was started around 1296, but for which he was already being praised by the city’s Council of One Hundred in 1300. 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), but where he concentrated 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, which was decorated with mosaics and sculptures planned on the basis of Marian iconography, was destroyed.
There are however a considerable number of statues still in existence: in Florence, in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo 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 are organised mainly by means of an architectonic drive. There is some claim (Romanini) that as a painter he was responsible for the Stories of Isaac in the upper church of San Francesco d’Assisi.
Enrica Neri Lusanna