In the 12th century a self-governing commune replaced the earlier aristocratic government of Siena. Medieval buildings and Gothic architecture from this period occupy the centre, while the Piazza del Campo the principal public space of Siena, is one of Europe's greatest medieval squares. It is home to:
- Palio di Siena.
- Siena's great town hall, the Palazzo Pubblico.
- The Torre del Mangia (adjacent to the Palazzo) - one of the tallest secular towers in medieval Italy.
Pictures from Italy
On the evening of the second day from Pisa, we reached the beautiful old city of Siena. There was what they called a Carnival, in progress; but, as its secret lay in a score or two of melancholy people walking up and down the principal street in common toy-shop masks, and being more melancholy, if possible, than the same sort of people in England, I say no more of it. We went off, betimes next morning, to see the Cathedral, which is wonderfully picturesque inside and out, especially the latter - also the market-place, or great Piazza, which is a large square, with a great broken-nosed fountain in it: some quaint Gothic houses: and a high square brick tower; outside the top of which - a curious feature in such views in Italy - hangs an enormous bell. It is like a bit of Venice, without the water. There are some curious old Palazzi in the town, which is very ancient; and without having (for me) the interest of Verona, or Genoa, it is very dreamy and fantastic, and most interesting.
Pictures from Italy, Charles Dickens.
Siena developed its own particular style in the 14th century. It was dominated by Duccio di Buoninsegna (active 1278-1319), who had as great an impact on Sienese painting as his contemporary Giotto had on Florentine art. Duccio looked to Italy's Byzantine tradition, combining its bold linear style, splendid colouring, and surface patterns with a new human intimacy. Followers and pupils, among them Ambrogio Lorenzetti (active 1319-48) and Simone Martini (active 1315-44), built on his stylish innovations. Lorenzetti created naturalistic images filled with anecdotal detail, while Martini, serving at the papal court in Avignon, produced works of great ornament and opulence. Later, such minute observation and decorative elegance gave rise to an alternative Renaissance style, known as International Gothic.
Pandolfo Petrucci returned to Siena from exile, with other members of the Monte dei Nove, and the support of Florence and of Alfonso of Calabria on 22 July 1487. Niccolò Machiavelli used the example of Pandolfo Petrucci in The Prince, written in 1513:
"The Prince of Siena, Pandolfo Petrucci, ruled his state more by those who had been distrusted than by others. But on this question one cannot speak generally, for it varies so much with the individual. I will only say this. If men who were hostile at the commencement of a princedom need assistance to support themselves, they can always be gained over with the greatest ease. And they will be tightly held to serve the prince with fidelity, inasmuch as they know it to be very necessary for them to cancel by deeds the bad impression which he had formed of them. Thus the prince always extracts more profit from such people than from those who, too secure in his service, may neglect his affairs."
The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli, translated by W. K. Marriott. J. M. Dent and Co, London, E. P. Dutton, New York, 1908.
The Renaissance City
The Swiss historian Jacob Burckhardt compared Siena unfavourably with the city of Florence:
"Siena suffered from the gravest organic maladies, and its relative prosperity in art and industry must not mislead us on this point. Aeneas Sylvius looks with longing from his native town over to the 'merry' German imperial cities, where life is embittered by no confiscations of land and goods, by no arbitrary officials, and by no political factions."
Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy, Jacob Burckhardt, 1860.