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Ambrogio Lorenzetti
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Gothic and Early Renaissance
 
 
 
Ambrogio Lorenzetti
 
 
 

AMBROGIO LORENZETTI: 

"THE EFFECTS OF GOOD AND BAD GOVERNMENT IN THE COUNTRY"

Circa 1337-39, Sala del Nove. Palazzo Pitbblico, Siena

This large fresco was painted by the most "Florentine" in style of the two Lorenzetti brothers, following his commission by the Republic. It is the most important secular fresco cycle of the 13th century in Italy, full of political and literary allegories. Here, we see a detail of the countryside from the right-hand side of the fresco. It shows the ''effects of good government" in the country and depicts daily routines, such as farming, fishing, and hunting. The
 
other sideof the picture, not shown, represents the city, based on Siena, which in the 12th century had waned in power yet remained one of the major artistic centres in Europe.

   


Ambrogio Lorenzetti, 
The Effects of Good and Bad Government in the Town, 
1337-39. 
Palazzo Pubblico, Siena

 

 

 


Ambrogio Lorenzetti, 
The Effects of Good and Bad Government in the Town (detail), 1337-39. 
Palazzo Pubblico, Siena
 

 

 

 


Ambrogio Lorenzetti, 
The Effects of Good and Bad Government in the Town (detail), 1337-39. 
Palazzo Pubblico, Siena

 


 

   
 

THE CITY

The Effects of Good and Bad Government in the Town and in the Country (1337-39), painted by Ambrogio Lorenzetti for the Sala dei Nove in the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena, shows in a broad, flowing manner that which, more synthetically, is the meaning of the statue from a door in Milan, of Saint Ambrose Offering the City of Milan to the Virgin. The same urban focus of the two works — one representing the point of communication between the city and the world outside, and the other representing civic responsibility — has a clear symbolic meaning of the relationship between Christian virtue and orderly society. As bishop of Milan in the 14th century, St Ambrose  stood out against the emperor and imposed civic moral order.
        

Ambrogio Lorenzetti, 
The Effects of Good and Bad Government in the Town (detail), 1337-39. 
Palazzo Pubblico, Siena


 


Ambrogio Lorenzetti, 
Altarpiece of St Proculus
1332
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence
 

 
 

 Madonna of Vico l'Abate
1319
Museo di Arte Sacra, San
Casciano in Val di Pesa (Florence)

In Madonna and Child, there is a clear debt to Byzantine art. The image of the Madonna is noted for its frontality, which is a typical characteristic of Byzantium art. The Madonna faces the viewer, as the Child gazes up at her. Though not as emotionally intense as subsequent Madonnas, in Lorenzetti’s Madonna and Child, the Virgin Mary belies a subtle level of emotion as she confronts the viewer. This difference could be attributed to the patron’s stylistic wishes for Madonna and Child, or could indicate Lorenzetti’s evolution of style. But, even in this early work, there is evidence of Lorenzetti’s talent for conveying the monumentality of figures, without the application of chiaroscuro. Chiaroscuro was often used to subtle effect in Byzantine art to depict spatial depth. Ambrogio instead used color and patterns to move the figures forward, as seen in Madonna and Child.
 

 



Suckling Madonna
c. 1330
Tempera on wood, 90 x 48 cm
Palazzo Arcivescovile, Siena
 

 
 


Allegory of the Good
Government
1338-40
Fresco
Palazzo Pubblico, Siena


 

Madonna and Child with Mary Magdalene and St Dorothea
c. 1325
Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena

 
 

Annunciation
1344
Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena

 

Annunciation, 1344 Lorenzetti's final piece, telling the story of the Virgin Mary receiving the news form the Angel about the coming of baby Jesus, contains the first use of clear linear perspective. Though it is not perfect, and the gold background that is traditional for the time renders a flat feeling, the diagonals created on the floor does create depth.

 
 


Small Maesta
1335-40
Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena


 

 
The Oath of
St Louis of Toulouse
1324-27
San Francesco, Siena

 

In this fresco, St. Louis is being greeted by Pope Boniface VIII as he is granted the title of Bishop of Toulouse. It was one in a series of frescoes painted with his brother, Pietro Lorenzetti, for San Francesco d’Assisi. This fresco is particularly well known for its realistic sense of depth within an architectural environment, due to Lorenzetti’s compellingly rendered three-dimensional space. Moreover, his figures are positioned in a very natural and familiar manner, introducing an awareness of naturalism in art. Lorenzetti’s command of spatial perspective is thought to prefigure the Italian Renaissance. This fresco also shows his talent for depicting emotion, as we see on King Charles II’s face during the king’s witness to his son’s rejection of material goods and power. Such attention to detail possibly indicates an intellectual curiosity. Giorgio Vasari, in Lives of the Most Excellent, Painters, Sculptors and Architects wrote of Lorenzetti's intellectual abilities, saying that his manners "were […] more those of a gentleman and philosopher than those of an artist."

 
 

Madonna with Angels and Saints (Maesta)
c. 1335
Municipio, Massa Marittima

 

In his Maestà, completed in 1335, his use of allegory prefigures Effects of Bad Government in the City. Allegorical elements reference Dante, indicating an interest in literature. Additionally, this might point to the beginnings of vernacularization of literature at this time, a precursor to humanist ideas. In Maestà, Lorenzetti follows the artistic tradition set by other Sienese painters, such as Simone Martini, though adds a scene of an intense maternal bonding to his Maestà, which was unusual in contemporary Sienese art. In the painting, the Virgin gazes at her child with intense emotion as he grasps her dress, returning her gaze. By personalizing the Virgin Mary in this way, Lorenzetti has made her seem more human, thus creating a profound psychological effect on the viewer. This highlights the increasing secularity in Sienese art at this time, of which Lorenzetti was a leading proponent of through the uniqueness of his painting style. It should be noted that the crowd of saints depicted with the Virgin is a Byzantine artistic tradition, used to indicate an assemblage of witnesses. As such, Lorenzetti’s art could be seen as a transition between Byzantine and Renaissance styles of art. Lorenzetti’s interest in classical antiquity can be seen in Maestà, particularly in the depiction of Charity. In his memoirs, I Commentarii, the sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti mentions Lorenzetti’s interest in an antique statue uncovered during an excavation in Siena at the time, attributed to the Greek sculptor, Lysippus.

 

 

St Michael
1330-35
Museo d'Arte Sacra, Asciano

 
 

The Presentation in the Temple
1342
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

 
 

Madonna and Child
1340-45
Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan
 

 
 
 
 

 
 
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