(b. ca. 1245, Colle di Valdelse, d. ca. 1310, Firenze)


Marble, with polychromatic incrustations
San Paolo fuori le Mura, Rome

The ciborium above the high altar of San Paolo fuori le Mura, Rome, is dated 1285 and inscribed HOC OPUS FECIT ARNULFUS CUM SUO SOCIO PETRO. The socius Petrus named on the inscription has been identified as both Pietro Cavallini and Pietro di Oderisio, but there is no supporting evidence for either attribution. The ciborium was donated by Abbot Bartolomeo, who is shown presenting St Paul with a model of the ciborium in the spandrels of the western arch. The Gothic canopy is supported on antique porphyry columns and is richly ornamented with superb foliate capitals, small corner statues in a classicizing style, relief figures and Cosmatesque mosaic decoration.

The ciborium differs radically from the earlier, much simpler Roman ciboria, but its similarity to the ciborium of the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, on which it has been said to have been modelled, is slight. Arnolfo's ciborium is much richer in its figural ornamentation, and the architecture is also more strongly directed towards the accommodation of figure sculpture, in corner niches and on spandrel and gable surfaces. Another distinctive feature is the way in which current Gothic architectural motifs (pinnacles, gable crockets, trefoil arches) are independently articulated and transformed into solid, geometric forms. In both the synthesis of elements drawn from diverse sources and the strict rectilinearity of its architecture, the ciborium is a characteristic early example of Arnolfo's architectural style.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.