Key to Umbria

Arnolfo di Cambio was born in Colle Val d'Elsa, near Siena.

He worked under Nicola Pisano on:

  1. the pulpit (1255-60) for the baptistry of the Duomo, Pisa, and

  2. the pulpit (1265–8) for the Duomo, Siena.

He is first documented as an independent artist in 1277 in Rome, where he enjoyed the patronage of King Charles I d’ Anjou: the famous statue (ca. 1277) of Charles d’ Anjou in the Musei Capiolini, Rome is attributed to him. 

In 1277, the Commune of Perugia asked Charles d’ Anjou to release him for a period so that he could work on a fountain.  Permission was duly granted, but it seems that he did not arrive in Perugia until early 1281 (see below).  The sculptures commissioned at this time are the earliest of his works for which documentation survives. 

His earliest known signed work is the Monument to Cardinal Guillaume de Bray (ca. 1282) in San Domenico, Orvieto (see below).  He also signed two ciboria (altar canopies) in Rome:

  1. in Paolo fuori le Mura (1285); and

  2. in Santa Cecilia in Trastevere (1293).

Another of his important works from this period was the monument of Pope Boniface VIII (1296-1301), the remains of which are now in the Vatican Grottoes.

He began work as capomaestro on the construction of the Duomo, Florence in 1296.  This work included the execution of the statues that decorated the lower part of the façade. (These were mostly destroyed in 1589, but some survive  in the Museo dell’ Opera del Duomo, Florence.


Monument to Cardinal Guillaume de Bray (ca. 1282)

This monument on what is now the left wall of San Domenico is the earliest surviving signed work by Arnolfo di Cambio.  It was one of four Cardinals' monuments that were erected in the church in the 13th century: the others were later destroyed and this one has had to be re-assembled from surviving fragments (see below). 

Cardinal de Bray died at the court of Pope Martin IV in 1282.  His will gave his executors (who included Cardinals Anchero Pantaleone and Goffredo d’ Alatri) responsibility for commissioning his monument and selecting its location.  They duly commissioned this monument, most probably quite soon after Cardinal de Bray’s death. 

As noted above, Arnolfo di Cambio had worked at the court of King Charles d' Anjou in Rome in the period 1277-80.  The executors' selection of an artist so close to Charles d’ Anjou is interesting, because Cardinal de Bray had offended the king in 1277 by backing the election of Pope Nicholas III against his wishes.  However, the sepulchre once bore the Angevin arms, which suggests a subsequent reconciliation. 

The original location of the monument is unknown.  It was dismembered (probably not for the first time) when the church was remodelled in 1680, and some of its components were damaged or lost.  However, it had been reassembled in its current location by the early 20th century (i.e. before the demolition of the nave).  Its original composition is also unknown and a matter of debate.  However, the surviving parts have been reassembled after a detailed review of all the evidence and the arrangement is as close to the original as current knowledge allows. 

The monument is housed in a Gothic tabernacle, the upper part of which has been lost.  The Cardinal's effigy rests on the sarcophagus, while two acolytes draw back the surrounding curtains.  This seems to have been the first use of this motif in Italy, and it was to be extremely influential. 


Three sculptural elements stand above the sarcophagus:

  1. The Madonna and Child are enthroned at the apex of the composition.  During the recent restoration, it was discovered that the figure of the Madonna is actually a Roman statue (2nd century AD) with a new hand fitted to hold the figure of the baby Jesus.

  2. St Mark on the left presents the kneeling Cardinal to the Madonna.

  3. St Dominic stands to the right.

Inscriptions below the figures identify them, and the longer inscription adds that the Cardinal was the titular of San Marco in Rome. 

The use of two figures of the deceased on a tomb, one in life and one in death was unusual if not unprecedented and proved to be very influential. 

Two censing angels (ca. 1282)

These two marble figures, both of which have lost their heads, were first documented in the Museo dell' Opera del Duomo in 1913.  They are attributed to Arnolfo di Cambio and might have come from the monument to Cardinal de Bray in San Domenico (see above).  However, the balance of probabilities is against this hypothesis, and they have been omitted from the recent reconstruction of that monument. 


Fragments from the Fontana Minore (1278-81)


In 1277, Fra Bevignate, the supervisor of the work on the Fontana Maggiore in Piazza Grande, suggested that Arnolfo di Cambio should be appointed to produce its sculptural elements.  The Commune duly sought and received the permission of King Charles d’ Anjou for his release from work in Rome.  However, it seems that this could not be arranged in time, and the work was given to Nicola and Giovanni Pisani

Arnolfo di Cambio went on to design and decorate the Fontana Minore, which stood “in pede fori” (on the probable site of the Roman forum, in modern Piazza della Repubblica).  This is the earliest work by Arnolfo di Cambio for which documentation survives.  It seems that he did not arrive in Perugia until early 1281, when he was paid for 24 days work.  This suggests that the design of the fountain and the execution of the associated sculptures was carried out in Rome, and that Arnolfo visited Perugia for the installation.   

The fountain ceased to function (possibly through an interruption in the water supply) in 1301 and was demolished in 1308.  The history of the few fragments that survived the demolition is unclear until they were collected together in the period 1872-1968.   These fragments, which are now in the Galleria Nazionale, comprise:

  1. two seated jurists, one of which is headless (and the other is illustrated here);

  2. two reclining figures in deep relief; and

  3. a relief of a thirsting woman at the well (illustrated here).

Read more:

M. Coccia and L. Morozzi (Eds),“Arnolfo di Cambio: Il Monumento del Cardinal Guillaume De Bray dopo il Restauro: Atti del Convegno Internazionale (Rome-Orvieto, 9-11 December 2004)” Bollettino d’ Arte, special edition (2009)

V. Garibaldi and B. Toscano (Eds), “Arnolfo di Cambio: una Rinascita nell' Umbria Medievale”, (2005) Milan

Two relevant articles appear in:

Storia e Arte in Umbria nell' Età Comunale: Atti del VI Convegno di Studi Umbri, Gubbio, 1968”, (1971), Perugia (Volume I):

  1. V. Martinelli, “Arnolfo a Perugia”, pp 1–42

  2. A. Romanini, “Arnolfo di Cambio e Orvieto”, pp 43-72

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Arnolfo di Cambio (died 1302)  

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