The Italian Almanac

statue of Charles of Anjou by Arnolfo di Cambio

Italian Art - January 10

A new exhibition in Florence reveals how Italian sculptor and architect Arnolfo di Cambio shaped the dawn of the Renaissance. Although not as famous as contemporary pioneers such as Cimabue, Giotto and Nicola Pisano, experts say Arnolfo played a key role in dragging Europe out of the cultural darkness of the Middle Ages.

Arnolfo, who was born in the fifth decade of the 13th century and died sometime between 1302-1310, was the foremost architect of his day and the builder of Florence cathedral. He was also the author of many of the first classical-style sculptures to be crafted since ancient times. His statue of Charles of Anjou - made some time before 1277 - is the first modern portrait statue by a known artist.

The exhibition, entitled Arnolfo, Alle Origini Del Rinascimento Fiorentino (Arnolfo, At The Origins Of The Fiorentine Rennaissance), runs at Florence's Museo dell'Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore until April 21 2006. It marks the 700th anniversary of Arnolfo's death and aims to win the maestro the esteem he deserves with the modern public.

The exhibition highlights the influence Arnolfo's work had on Giotto as well. Art historians say Giotto was the first to grasp the importance of Arnolfo's ideas and develop them in painting, a century before Brunelleschi and Donatello did the same thing in the fields of architecture and sculpture respectively. The show is enriched by an array of late 13th-century paintings and gold objects to give visitors a better idea of the artistic context Arnolfo worked in.