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Understanding The Allegory of Good and Bad Government

Ambrogio Lorenzetti (1290-1348) Italian, Sienese, Early Renaissance


Detail Image of Allegories of Peace, Fortitude, Prudence and Siena c.1337

The old man with the white beard dressed in a black and white tunic is holding up the seal of Sienna (it looks like a shield). He is symbolic of the Community of Sienna. The colors black and white are the colors of Sienna. The Allegory of Good Government conveys a powerful social message of the value of a balanced republican government.

In 1337, the rulers of Siena called upon Ambrogio Lorenzetti, the greatest painter of the Sienese School, 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. If you visit, as I have, you will be transfixed by the mystical qualities this painting emanates. Many people claim to have dreams or visions about what the missing pieces of the painting looked like and amazingly their dreams are very similar. Half the population of Sienna was dead less then 10 years after this painting was created during the great plague. Ambrogio Lorenzetti and his brother Pietro were some of first victims.



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