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Ambrogio Lorenzetti

One of the Greatest Painters Of All Time

1290-1348

Italian  Late Gothic  Byzantine  Painter of the Sienese School

Stylistically influenced by the following painters; Simone Martini, Lippo Memmi , Duccio di Buoninsegna, Bernardo Daddi and Coppo di Marcovaldo

Education - apprenticed to Duccio di Buoninsegna

Medium - Tempera on wood, Fresco

Cause of Death -  Black Death  (plague)

Ambrogio created a highly developed Gothicism that was born of a Italo-Byzantine artistic influence.  His  style is characterized by deep, pure colors, sinuous lines, sensitive expressions, and a sense of spiritual harmony.  Ambrogio possessed the wonderful ability to convey atmosphere and mood. The unsurpassed individualism of his art, together with his perception of beauty and human dignity, can be felt in all of his finest works.

In 1337, the Nove (the nine) decided to commission a fresco cycle commemorating the great achievements of Siena and its trustworthy government. The Nove consisted of a powerful group of Siena citizens who were from the middle classes and upper middle classes. They believed in the unlimited possibilities of industrious merchants, bankers and tradesmen. Some of the Nove were well connected bankers. Ambrogio Lorenzetti, the greatest painter of the Sienese School, was chosen by the Nove to create a fresco cycle for Siena 's town hall, the Sala dei Nove in the Palazzo Pubblico. The Allegory of Good and Bad Government is the first true masterpiece of secular art and one of the greatest paintings of the 14th Century. It is a painted fresco that covers three of four walls of the room. People from all over the world are captivated by this image and many make the journey to Sienna, Italy, to view it in person.

Ambrogio' s Effects of Good Government on the City Life was one of many  political allegories such as were customarily depicted in judicial and council chambers. This fresco shows Lorenzetti's amazing talent for portraiture, his meticulous attention to detail, and the spectacular luminosity of his colors.  Some of his individual portraits,  such as the Suckling Madonna, circa 1330,  are works of genius.  His mastery in landscape is everywhere apparent, as in the background of the Effects of Bad Government on the Countryside c.1338-40. He is now thought to be one of the most extraordinary creative geniuses of all time.

The art-works were usually derived from the works of the greatest poetical genius of the day, Dante. After he had painted the ideal of civic life, Ambrogio Lorenzetti could paint his mural decorations in the Palazzo Publico, which, partly as pictures of manners, partly as an allegory, depicted the blessings of good government.

The symbolic and visionary subjects portrayed at the same time as the allegories are derived partly from Dante, and partly from the teaching of the two mendicant orders. As popular preachers, the friars found a reference to the last judgment and the ensuing paradise and hell to be the most effective method of moving popular feeling. 

Plague

The terrible black death arrived in Italy1348, quickly making its way to Sienna.

Ambrogio was at the height of his fame in 1348 when he began to feel the initial symptoms of headache, weakness, and coughing signaling the Black Death. The ghastly plague had already taken the life of his beloved older brother Pietro Lorenzetti  and half the population of Siena.  According to medieval historian, Antonio Luca, "The pious monks ministered to him with crushed herbs, flowers and holy oils but to no avail. Still struggling to finish his finale masterpiece, he was found by local monks, black and purple oozing pustules covering his body, still struggling clutching his paint brush "

Ambrogio ended up in a mass grave with thousands of his fellow citizens. The memory of Ambrogio' s brilliance faded with time, his work, however, became immortal.

His dazzling art-works can be seen at the  Galleria degli Uffizi, in Florence Italy and his frescos at the  Palazzo Publico, in Siena, Italy.

His subjects, like his predecessors, are all religious ? the Virgin Mary, the Life of Christ, the Apostles, Angeles and the Life of St. Francis.

 Upon the death of Ambrogio and thousands of other painters, the heart of the Italian art world was torn open.  The horrors of the black death pervaded all aspects of Medieval culture and especially art. The effects were  lasting, bringing a somber darkness to visual art, literature, and music. The dreadful trauma of this era instigated the imaginations of writers and painters in bleak and disturbing ways for decades to follow.

Important Painters Born in the 13th Century

Duccio di Buoninsegna (1255-1319) Italian, Sienese, Early Renaissance
Cimabue (1240-1302) Italian, Byzantine Style
Bernardo Daddi (1290-1348) Italian, Florentine, Early Renaissance
Giotto (1267 - 1337) Italian, Florentine, Early Renaissance
Ambrogio Lorenzetti (1290-1348) Italian, Sienese, Early Renaissance
Pietro Lorenzetti (1280-1348) Italian, Sienese, Early Renaissance
Coppo di Marcovaldo (1225-1274) Italian, Sienese, Early Renaissance
Simone Martini (1280-1344) Italian, Sienese, Early Renaissance
Lippo Memmi (1285 -1361) Italian, Sienese, Early Renaissance

Key Descriptive Words  and Phrases associated with the Renaissance Movementrebirth, rediscovery of the classical world,  publication of Della Pittura, a book about the laws of mathematical perspective for artists,  sfumato, chiaroscuro, Savonarola, spiritually significant,  illuminated manuscript,  idealized biblical themes, scriptorium, illuminator,  Age of Discovery, axonometric drawing, curiosity about the natural world,  realistic use of colours and  light,  Bonfire of the Vanities, Old Testament stories, ethereal and foggy backgrounds, Gospel parables, The Blackdeath, romanticized landscapes,  Christian symbolism.

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