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).

Duilio Cambellotti, illustrazioni "Le mille e una notte" - "One Thousand and One Nights"

"The Second Voyage of Sinbad the Sailor"

Duilio Cambellotti, illustrazioni "Le mille e una notte" - "One Thousand and One Nights"

"Tale of the Fisherman"

Duilio Cambellotti, illustrazioni "Le mille e una notte" - "One Thousand and One Nights"

"Tale of the Fisherman", detail

Duilio Cambellotti, illustrazioni "Le mille e una notte" - "One Thousand and One Nights"

"The Story of Beder, Prince of Persia, and Giahaure, Princess of Samandal"

Duilio Cambellotti, illustrazioni "Le mille e una notte" - "One Thousand and One Nights"

"The Story of Beder, Prince of Persia, and Giahaure, Princess of Samandal", detail

Duilio Cambellotti, illustrazioni "Le mille e una notte" - "One Thousand and One Nights"

"The Barber's Tale of his Third Brother"

Duilio Cambellotti, illustrazioni "Le mille e una notte" - "One Thousand and One Nights"

"The Barber's Tale of his Third Brother", detail

"The Story of the Blind Man, Baba Abdullah"

Duilio Cambellotti, illustrazioni "Le mille e una notte" - "One Thousand and One Nights"

"Aladdin and The Wonderful Lamp"

Duilio Cambellotti, illustrazioni "Le mille e una notte" - "One Thousand and One Nights"

"Aladdin and The Wonderful Lamp", detail

Duilio Cambellotti, illustrazioni "Le mille e una notte" - "One Thousand and One Nights"

"The Third Kalandar's Tale"

Duilio Cambellotti, illustrazioni "Le mille e una notte" - "One Thousand and One Nights"

"The Third Kalandar's Tale"

Duilio Cambellotti, illustrazioni "Le mille e una notte" - "One Thousand and One Nights"

"The Enchanted Horse"

Duilio Cambellotti, illustrazioni "Le mille e una notte" - "One Thousand and One Nights"

"The Enchanted Horse", detail

Duilio Cambellotti, illustrazioni "Le mille e una notte" - "One Thousand and One Nights"

"Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves"

Duilio Cambellotti, illustrazioni "Le mille e una notte" - "One Thousand and One Nights"

"Prince Ahmad and the Fairy Peri-Banu"

Duilio Cambellotti, illustrazioni "Le mille e una notte" - "One Thousand and One Nights"

"The Second Kalandar's Tale"

Duilio Cambellotti, illustrazioni "Le mille e una notte" - "One Thousand and One Nights"

"The Tale of Cogian-Assan"

Duilio Cambellotti, illustrazioni "Le mille e una notte" - "One Thousand and One Nights"

"The Tale of Cogian-Assan", detail

Duilio Cambellotti, illustrazioni "Le mille e una notte" - "One Thousand and One Nights"

"Story of the Three Sisters"

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