Who was Duilio Cambellotti?

Duilio Cambellotti was an Italian artist, illustrator, sculptor, ceramicist and designer. He played a significant role in the Arts & Crafts movement and was also influential in the political and social spheres. Cambellotti was very widely recognised for his interest in agrarian themes (often employing an ear of corn motif in his designs) and for an incredible versatility across a huge range of disciplines.

Duilio Cambellotti was born in Rome on the 10th May 1876. He also died in Rome almost 84 years later on the 31st January 1960. After initially training as an accountant, Cambellotti joined an applied arts programme at the Industrial Artistic Museum in Rome to learn metal engraving. Like William Morris, Cambellotti believed fervently that craftsmanship needed to be restored to the visual arts and was very drawn to Art Nouveau designs. He was acutely aware of the social importance of the decorative arts and became a leading international figure amongst artists who were endeavouring to maintain the continuity of the Arts & Crafts movement. where the traditional nature of handmade objects might prevail over the perhaps more perfect products fabricated by the machines of the new industrial age.

Cambellotti’s career, rather like that of Morris, spanned a wide range of media. He produced many illustrations for books and magazines and went on to master the traditional medium of tempera. He designed furniture, ceramics and stained glass and was involved in theatre and set design. In 1901 he won the Alinari Prize for his illustrations for Dante’s Divine Comedy. Many of Cambellotti’s works are on display in various Italian museums, most notably in the Palazzo dell’Acquedotto in Bari and the Museum Civico Duilio Cambellotti in Latina.

We have an interesting example of work by Cambellotti. This is one of 1,000 copies of I Fioretti di S Francesco published to mark the seventh centenary of the death of Saint Francis. In addition to the trade binding, Cambellotti experimented with various bindings for the book. This copy is quite probably unique. It is bound in two different types of hardwood and the central front panel is inset with a gilt bronze semi-relief of the Saint with the stigmata. The front and rear pastedowns also bear an image of the stigmata printed in red and black, an image also used for the book’s chapter headings. The book is profusely illustrated by Cambellotti and is a fine example of a significant Arts & Crafts book by a true master of various media.

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