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The fresco known as "Good and bad government" by Ambrogio Lorenzetti

Palazzo Pubblico, Siena

Ambrogio Lorenzetti

(1290 - 1348)

Date : 1338-1340 | Medium : Fresco

For nearly 70 years, from 1287 to 1355, Siena was led by a "Council of Nine" known at the time as “Il Buon Governo”. Chosen by the drawing of lots, nine citizens took it upon themselves to exercise power for a few months. During this period, they lived enclosed in the Palazzo Pubblico, the seat of the Nine, built between 1297 and 1338 on the Piazza del Campo.

In 1338, as the power of the city began to decline, Ambrogio Lorenzetti received an order from the Council for what would be called the “Peace” room. In this room, the artist painted a mural in 3 parts. On the west wall, bad government and its effects are represented. The north wall depicts the government of Siena while the effects of good government on the city and in the countryside are portrayed on the east wall.

Allegories of Good and Bad Government are juxtaposed to encourage reflection on the implications of policy choices in contemporary society. Bad Government is dominated by vanity, pride and greed while Good Government highlights the principles of kindness, balance and justice.

Here Ambrogio Lorenzetti depicts the city and contemporary society in all its many facets in idealistic fashion. The portrayal is not of Siena itself, but of a construction made from various views of the city.

Considered one of the first panoramic landscapes since Antiquity, this mural was one of the largest profane cycles but also one of the first major political paintings of the Renaissance.

It glorifies the Government of the Nine, who are shown defending the town against war, thus allowing a rise in trade and the city’s prosperity. Its didactic objective is very clear, both to the rulers and the population – it is a reminder of the principles underlying the actions of the city’s rulers.

Beyond these considerations, this work is a real window on the city’s life, depicting its manifold aspects in a setting inspired by Sienese architecture and the surrounding countryside.


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