Allegory and Effects of Good and Bad Government
For the Peace Room of the famous Palazzo Pubblico (town hall), in Siena, Ambrogio Lorenzetti (c. 1290-1348) painted his medieval fresco cycle Allegoria ed Effetti del Buono e del Cattivo Governo on three walls:
- Good Government (east wall). The allegory does not have a narrative, but consists of personifications of the virtues and the vices surrounding a male figure who represents Good Government. It provides an insight into the Republic of Siena, with its Governo dei Nove, in so far as it is representative of the political environment, in 13th century Italy.
- "The Effect of Good Government in the City and Its Countryside" (north wall) is an astonishingly naturalistic picture of Siena, the Arbia Valley, and the main road to Rome. It serves to faithfully illustrates city statutes (for example, no coats of arms were to decorate the outsides of buildings), while the figure of Security, holding a criminal on the gallows, floats in the sky. Lorenzetti presents a vision of a well-governed city:
- In the countryside the peasants till the earth and gather in the harvest. Donkeys carry sack while a peasant follows behind a black pig. Nobles ride out to go falconing,
- In the city nobles ride their horses. Building activity occurs. There is dancing in the streets as a group of people join hands in a circle. The dance is a symbol of the well being of the citizens. Trade is conducted in the city as farmers sell their produce and merchants their wares.
- The inscription reads: "Without fear every man may travel freely and each may till and sow, so long as this commune still maintains this lady sovereign, for she has stripped the wicked of all power."
- Bad Government and City (west wall). The effects of bad government are disastrous:
- The town is falling into ruin. The city is set ablaze, citizens are attacked by robbers and armed men massacre the populace;
- in the countryside crops and farms are destroyed. The trees bear no fruit and no one is cultivating the land.
- The inscription reads: "Because each seeks only his own good, in this city Justice is subjected to tyranny; wherefore along this road nobody passes without fearing for his life, since there are robberies outside and inside the city gates."
In the upper frame are personifications of seven planets,
their zodiacal signs, the four seasons and heraldic devices of Siena The south wall has a window providing a view of Siena and its suburbs.