Cambellotti’s “One Thousand and One Nights”: Art Nouveau and magic carpets
Around 1913, Duilio Cambellotti (1876-1960) created twenty tempera-on-cardboard paintings to illustrate the Orient’s famous short stories collected in “One Thousand and one Nights”, published in Istituto Editoriale Italiano’s “Biblioteca dei ragazzi” series for young adults.
Antoni Faeti has commented on the book saying the Roman artist “generously spent all the creative joy and stylistic clarity he was capable of in it; Cambellotti didn’t outline figures, and let them come to life simply from the color contrasts he used to divide space.”
His “One Thousand and One Nights” “were the chance to connect Art Nouveau to the world of Scheherazade: to truly implement a connection that emblematically already existed in similar, casual encounters. Throughout the book, qalandars, caliphs, wizards, wild beasts, and dancers renew a fairy tale, intoxicated dance, to which the painter contributed his skill and talent with odd contrasts, unending but perfect volutes, and deform and allusive extras that often come down to compact color blocks set against mottled backgrounds.”
Cambellotti, Faeti concludes, “settles the debt Art Nouveau had with the Orient of magic carpets and sultans: he revisited that world and found the roots of his own style, taking on a specific expressive awareness” (translated from A. Faeti, “Guardare le figure. Gli illustratori italiani dei libri per l’infanzia”, Donzelli, Rome 2011).