Document Type


Date of Award



Arnolfo di Cambio, 13th century, Sculpture

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Art History

First Advisor

Stanley Ferber

Second Advisor

François Bucher

Third Advisor

Daniel Williman


Arnolfo di Cambio (ca. 1245/50-1301/09) created a new sculptural style based upon the classicism of Nicola Pisano, his teacher, and answering the needs of his powerful patrons, Charles of Anjou and Boniface VIII. This study: presents Arnolfo’s biography, including contemporary documents (in appendix); characterizes Arnolfo’s sculptural style; assembles the critical scholarship on Arnolfo’s sculpture; and arrives at as complete a list of Arnolfo’s oeuvre as possible. Finally this paper assesses the impact of Arnolfo’s massive, authoritative style on his contemporaries.

Each work is examined in the light of the traditional attributions, largely from Vasari and Baldinucci, and modern scholarship. Thereafter each work is evaluated to determine its relationship to Arnolfo’s style and an attribution is made.

The works attributed to Arnolfo are: elements of the Arca of San Domenico, elements of the Siena Pulpit, the tomb of Adrian V, the Annibaldi Tomb, the Perugia Fountain, the statue of Charles of Anjou, the De Braye Tomb (including a new reconstruction), the tomb of Honorius IV, the Presepe of Sta. Maria Maggiore, the ciboria of S. Paolo fuori le mura and Sta. Cecilia in Trastevere, the original facade of the Florence Cathedral, the tomb of Boniface VIII, the bronze statue of St. Peter and its marble companion figure, and the bust of Boniface VIII. Also the production of Arnolfo’s shop is examined and several pieces commonly attributed to Arnolfo are re-attributed to his shop.

Arnolfo created a new sculptural style in Italy responding to the unsettled times in which he lived and to the powerful men who then controlled Italy. It is this style which, for the author, marks Arnolfo as one of the seminal artists of this period. Arnolfo’s sculpture may be characterized by its blocky forms and its monumentality, despite the fact that much of his sculpture is less than three feet in height. Arnolfo combines a sense of classical form, derived from Nicola, with traditional Cosmatesque decoration to reflect the autocratic character of his two principal patrons: Charles of Anjou and Boniface VIII. Most important, however, is the sense of psychological or dramatic intensity created by Arnolfo’s sculpture. The most striking examples of this are the so-called “Thirster” figures from the Perugia Fountain. Arnolfo is the first Italian sculptor to make the psychological motivation of his figures an important part of the composition.

The influence of Arnolfo’s new style may be seen in several areas. The most obvious influence any artist has is on his shop. Pieces such as the Ambry in S. Clemente demonstrate that Arnolfo had a shop which imitated his style closely. In addition there are several other works, such as the wooden Madonna and Child in the Palazzo Vecchio, which show some kinship with Arnolfo’s style, but which are less of a direct imitation than those pieces from Arnolfo’s shop. Arnolfo, who worked extensively in Rome, may well have caused Pietro Cavallini to introduce a massive quality into his frescoes. More readily apparent is the reuse of Arnolfian motives in the frescoes at S. Francesco in Assisi, probably painted by several artists trained in Rome. Arnolfo’s influence may also be seen in the art of Giotto, particularly in the Arena Chapel frescoes. Giotto used Arnolfo’s massive sculptural forms, but more importantly he understood and expanded upon Arnolfo’s psychological imagery.

Arnolfo, then, is not only a sculptor of the first water, but also one of the most important figures for the development of Italian Proto-renaissance art with its emphasis on massive forms and psychological insight.