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Allegory of Good Government

Ambrogio Lorenzetti1338 - 1339

Fondazione Musei Senesi

Fondazione Musei Senesi

The Sala della Pace (“Peace Room”) is covered with frescoes by Ambrogio Lorenzetti (1338-1339), commissioned by the council of the Nine and one of the most important secular cycles in the history of art, a true civil and political manifesto of Siena’s enlightened and ambitious government. Good Government is represented by a bearded, stately figure sitting on a throne. Next to him are the four cardinal virtues, Fortitude, Prudence, Justice, and Temperance, joined here by Peace and Magnanimity. At their feet, in the bottom part of the painting on the right armed soldiers guard some prisoners, while two kneeling lords offer their castles as a symbol of submission; on the left are some wealthy citizens in procession, all of them beautifully dressed.
The message of the allegory of Good Government is clear: to govern with wisdom under the protection of the Christian virtues, operating in favor of the peace and wealth of the city, but always with a firm hand, as testified by the soldiers’ presence.
In the upper left part of the fresco, Knowledge holds a large scale, on which two angels are handing out commutative justice, compensating one person and cutting off another’s head, and distributive justice, offering favors and money, while Justice, who keeps the two sides of the scale in balance, drops down two ropes which Concord joins together, holding in her lap a carpenter’s plane for smoothing out disagreements. The rope is grasped by 24 citizens who pass it along as they look towards the symbol of the Commune of Siena.
Floating above his head are the three theological virtues, Faith, Hope and Charity, to combat the vices illustrated on the next wall. Seated on a large throne next to Peace is Fortitude, with soldiers at her feet and a mace and shield in her hand, to reiterate the principle that firmness, even armed strength, is necessary for defending the peace. Prudence, next to her, is shown as a mature queen, a symbol and an admonition to govern wisely.
To the right of the figure representing Good Government are Magnanimity with a tray of coins on her lap, Temperance holding an hourglass, and Justice holding a cut-off head and a sword.

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  • Title: Allegory of Good Government
  • Date Created: 1338 - 1339
  • painter: Ambrogio Lorenzetti
  • collocation: Siena, Civic Museum and Mangia Tower, Province of Siena
  • Place Part Of: Province of Siena
  • Artist Biography: Ambrogio Lorenzetti, one of the protagonists of early fourteenth-century Sienese painting together with his brother Pietro, is responsible for a crucial development in Sienese art, moving from the tradition inherited from Duccio towards a Gothic style, incorporating the innovations in Florence introduced by Giotto and Arnolfo di Cambio. By now at the peak of his career, he was called to paint the frescoes of the Sala della Pace in Palazzo Pubblico, his undisputed masterpiece; this enterprise confirmed him as the leading artist in the city and the Sienese government’s ‘official painter.’ Like so much of the Sienese population, Ambrogio too seems to have fallen victim to the Black Plague of 1348.
  • Type: fresco
  • Rights: Comune di Siena; Fondazione Musei Senesi
  • External Link: Fondazione Musei Senesi

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