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Gallery Text

One of the grandest building projects in early Renaissance Florence was the construction of a new cathedral in 1296. It was a civic as much as a religious undertaking, and the monument captured the ambition and spirit of the city. The building and its impressive marble facade were designed by Arnolfo di Cambio, Florence’s most celebrated sculptor and architect at that time. Although work progressed quickly, Arnolfo died with barely a third of the facade realized.

A sixteenth-century drawing indicates that this sculpture, essentially a high relief, was placed above the main entrance of the cathedral, flanking a large statue of the Virgin and Child that was at the center of the tympanum. The skillful handling of the marble, the deeply undercut drapery, and brilliant drill work, especially in the angel’s hair, reveal the close observation of, and renewed interest in, ancient sculpture that was an essential underpinning of the Renaissance. This marble is the only sculpture from the original facade that exists outside Europe.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Arnolfo di Cambio, Italian (1232 - 1302)
Censing Angel
Work Type
sculpture, figurine
c. 1294-1302
Persistent Link
Level 2, Room 2460, East Arcade
View this object's location on our interactive map
Physical Descriptions
115.6 x 25.5 x 50.5 cm (45 1/2 x 10 1/16 x 19 7/8 in.)
310 lb.
Paolo Paolini, (Rome?), sold; to [Leopoldo Aretini, Florence] sold; to Arthur Kingsley Porter, February 5, 1921, Cambridge, MA, by descent; to Lucy Wallace Porter, 1933; gift to Fogg Art Museum, 1957.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Mrs. Arthur Kingsley Porter in memory of her husband
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art
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Publication History

Pietro Toesca, "Marmi della scuola di Nicola Pisano", Rassegna d'Arte (1917), IV, pp. 93-6. p. 96, fig. 5

George Vitzthum and W. F. Volbach, Die Malerei und Plastik des Mittelalters in Italien (Wildpark-Potsdam, 1924), pp. 159-60, fig.121

Raimond Van Marle, "L'Annonciation dans la Sculpture monumentale de Pise et de Sienne", Revue de l'art ancien et moderne (1934), LXV, pp. 11-26. p. 121

Hagen Keller, "Der Bildhauer Arnolfo di Cambio und seine Werkstatt", Jahrbuch der Preussischen Kunstsammlungen (1935), LVI, pp. 22-43, 35-38. p. 38, n. 1

Georg Swarzenski, "The Arts of the Middle Ages", Art News (1940), XXXVIII, p. 12

Martin Weinberger, "The First Facade of the Cathedral of Florence", Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes (1940-1941), 4, pp. 67-79; p. 69, fig. 14b

Arts of the Middle Ages, exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Boston, MA, 1940), no. 156, repr. in b/w as pl. XXII

Piera Bettini, "Tre sconosciute sculture arnolfiane", Rivista d'arte (1950), XXVI, pp. 185-192; p. 187, fig. 2

Felton Lewis Gibbons, "Arnolfo di Cambio Censing Angel", Fogg Art Museum Annual Report 1955-1957 (1956-1957), pp.18-24. cover (detail of head), p. 19

Stefano Bottari, "Arnolfo di Cambio", Dizionario biografico degli italiani (Rome, 1962), IV, pp. 289-290. p. 290

Angiola Maria Romanini, Arnolfo di Cambio e lo "stil novo" del gotico italiano (Milan, 1969), pp. 108, 138 n. 144

John Pope-Hennessey, Italian Gothic Sculpture (London, 1970), p. 183

"Gothic Sculpture in American Collections: The Checklist: I: The New England Museums", GESTA, ed. Dorothy W. Gillerman (1980), vol. XIX, no. 2, no. 66, repr.

Kristin A. Mortimer and William G. Klingelhofer, Harvard University Art Museums: A Guide to the Collections, Harvard University Art Museums and Abbeville Press (Cambridge and New York, 1986), no. 143, p. 126, repr.

Anita F. Moskowitz, "Censing Angel", Gothic Sculpture in America: The New England Museums, ed. Dorothy W. Gillerman (New York - London, 1989), I, pp. 168-69

Anita F. Moskowitz, Gothic Sculpture in America, I: The New England Museums, ed. Dorothy W. Gillerman, Garland Publishing, Inc. (New York, 1989), no. 134 pp. 168-169, repr.

Karen Christian, "Arnolfo di Cambio's sculptural project for the Duomo facade in Florence. A study in style and context" (1990), pp. 14, 164-65, 220 fig. 20

Anita F. Moskowitz, "A Neglected Tuscan Figure in the Medieval Collection", The Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art (1994), 81, p. 369, 370 fig. 11

Enrica Neri Lusanna, "La decorazione e le sculture arnolfiane dell'antica facciata", La cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore a Firenze (Florence, 1995), II, pp. 31-72. pp. 39-40, figs. 39 and 40

Joachim Poeschke, Die Skulptur des Mittlealters in Italien, Hirmer (Munich, Germany, 1998-2000), vol. 2, p. 100, repr. in b/w as abb. 28

Anita F. Moskowitz, Italian Gothic Sculpture c. 1250 - c. 1400, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, U.K., 2001), pp. 64-66, p. 65, fig. 80, repr. in b/w

Mario Scalini, L'arte a Firenze nell'età di Dante (Florence, 2004), p. 129, n. 37

Enrica Neri Lusanna, "'Venustius et honorabilius templum'", Arnolfo alle origini del rinascimento fiorentino (Florence, 2005), pp. 201-223. pp. 205, 206, 210 fig. 15, 211 fig. 19

Stephan Wolohojian, Arnolfo alle origini del rinascimento fiorentino, exh. cat., ed. Enrica Neri Lusanna (Florence, 2005), pp. 254-255; ill. as cat. no. 2.13

Max Seidel, "Arnolfo e il suo rapporto con Nicola Pisano", Arnolfo di Cambio e la sua epoca. Costruire, scolpire, dipingere, decorare, ed. Vittorio Franchetti Pardo (Rome, 2006), pp. 57-64. pp. 58 fig. 3, 59, 60 fig. 7 (detail), 61

Margaret Haines, David Friedman, and Julian Gardner, ed., Arnolfo's Moment: Acts of an International Conference, Florence, Villa I Tatti, May 26-27, 2005, Leo S. Olschki (Florence, 2009), p. 44, repr. in color as plate IX and in b/w p. 21 as fig. 21

Exhibition History

Arts of the Middle Ages, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, 02/17/1940 - 03/24/1940

Arnolfo alle origini del rinascimento fiorentino, Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Florence, 12/21/2005 - 04/21/2006

Re-View: S422-423 Western Art of the Middle Ages & Renaissance, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 08/16/2008 - 06/18/2011

32Q: 2460 East Arcade, Harvard Art Museums, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

Google Art Project

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of European and American Art at am_europeanamerican@harvard.edu