Arnolfo di Cambio: An Artist You Have Seen Countless Times (But Probably Have Never Heard Of)

The Florentine born artist Arnolfo di Cambio is one of those artists whose work you have probably seen countless times, but you have probably never have heard his name unless you happened to be an art history major with a focus on medieval European art.  Born in Florence and working as an architect and sculptor in the thirteenth century, his designs formed the basis of the ciborium of the Lateran Archbasilica and he is the author of the ciborium of St. Paul Outside the Walls:

Left: Ciborium of St. John Lateran, dervied from designs of Arnolfo di Cambio 
 Right: Ciborium of St. Paul Outside the Walls (ca. 1285)

Keeping our attention fixated on the papal basilicas, the famous bronze statue of St. Peter in St. Peter's Basilica, whose foot it is a tradition of pilgrims to rub, is sometimes attributed to him, however on this point it is worth noting that this matter is debated, with others suggesting that it is of paleochristian origins, coming from the 4th century. We shall list it here for the sake of documenting the 'Arnolfo theory' (though my own leanings are toward paleochristian origins).

In addition to these works, we can also look to the Roman church of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere whose ciborium has likewise been attributed to Arnolfo:

Ciborium of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere (ca. 1293)

However, while his work and design influence in Rome is impressive, his influence was not solely confined to Rome for it can also be found throughout his native Tuscany as well. It is to Arnolfo to whom are attributed the designs for the famed Duomo of Florence, Santa Maria del Fiore, as well as to the second most famous church that illustrious Renaissance city, Santa Croce.

Finally, it is also worth noting that he served as the chief assistant to Nicola Pisano -- in whose workshop Arnolfo first tutored -- in the execution of the stunning ambo of the Cathedral of Siena:

In many ways then, we arguably owe as much to him when we think of the impression he has left on Rome or Florence as we do when we think of Bernini in relation to Rome during the baroque period. It is no wonder then that it was said of him, "Arnolphus de Florentia, subtilissimus et ingeniosus magister" -- Arnolfo of Florence, a subtle and ingenious teacher. 

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