Arnolfo di Cambio, Madonna of the Nativity

Author
Arnolfo di Cambio and workshop
Date
1296-1300
Collocation
Sala del Paradiso
Original location
Cathedral, medieval facade
Material
White marble
Technique
Sculpture
Material
White marble

Fragmentary sculptural group, in white marble carved in high relief, by Arnolfo di Cambio from the end of the fourteenth century and depicting the Nativity of Jesus among angels. The statues adorned the lunette of the left portal of the medieval façade of the Cathedral, and were part of the Marian-themed cycle of statue groups that adorned the three lunettes of the front of the Cathedral. The group was dismembered in 1587, when the ancient façade was dismantled. Of the whole, the extraordinary and very human figure of Mary survives, represented lying on a bed resting on her side, in a long regal dress, tired from giving birth and at the same time in affectionate contemplation of the newborn Child, once depicted in front of her. The figure, conceived to be seen from below, has a powerful plastic monumentality and is defined in natural forms tending towards synthesis, inspired both by the ancient and by the observation of real data.

To give shape to a nativity scene, it was completed, in the center, by a box from which the ox and the donkey peeped out (lost and known only through sources) and, on one side, by a bas-relief depicting the announcement of the angel to the shepherds, of which a fragment survives with a flock of sheep and oxen grazing, in which the marked naturalism of Arnolfo's art can be admired. Finally, from the frame of the upper tympanum, come the two adoring angels positioned at the upper sides, which refer to those described in the Gospel who appeared in heaven and intoned the Gloria.

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Sala del Paradiso