Ambrogio Lorenzetti painted two large frescoes inside the City Hall of the Italian city of Siena, which are two Allegories of Good and Bad Government. It is a type of official and propaganda painting that was very common at the time in the most prosperous Italian cities, as was the case in several villas in Tuscany, includingSiena.
The pictorial ensemble was developed Lorenzetti between 1337 and 1339, making it a great example of Italian Gothic painting. The total of these paintings reaches 14 meters, and it is no coincidence that they were made in the town hall, at that time the seat of the governor, the podestá, and therefore the person responsible for the good or bad government of the city.
The frescoes have a clear narrative character, and also descriptive, because the contemplation of the paintings today serves to transport the viewer to the Middle Ages of the city and imagine what Siena looked like. For example, in the houses it is seen how the most noble and powerful families included fortified towers in their constructions, since rivalries and confrontations between the most relevant characters were common.
The painting also serves to give us an idea of what the narrow streets of the city were like and how the artisans worked intheir workshops, since they see tailors, haberdashers or weavers. In fact, as for that textile world of the Middle Ages, the frescoes also show us in detail the fashion of the time, differentiated according to the different social classes. And the tower of the Sienese Cathedral is also discovered with its characteristic color based on black and white stripes, a temple that already housed in its interior one of the great works of Italian Gothic sculpture: the pulpit made by Nicola Pisano.
The whole is logically divided into two parts. On the one hand, the Good Government and on the other, the Bad Government. To capture it, Lorenzetti uses allegories, mainly female symbolic images that help him represent moral concepts and principles.
Effects of Lorenzetti's Good Governance
In the case of the Allegory of Good Government, these women appear in the upper part of the painting and to identify them by their values, the artist added a text to each image, indicating who represents peace, faith or strength. While under them parade the prominent men of Sienese society, who appear in a smaller size, to make it clear that despite their power they must submit to the moral and civic values that the Virtues represent.
While in the Allegory of Bad Government, everything is presided over by the symbolic figure of Tyranny. A bad political practice that is personified by the devil, withbat wings and with horns. Here the rest of the allegorical figures, such as Greed, Pride or Vanity, are no longer serene and beautiful as in the previous one, but instead appear to us with angry and old faces. And under them you can see the symbol of Chained Justice, one of the most serious consequences of Bad Government.