Ambrogio Lorenzetti (or Ambruogio Laurati) (c. 1290 – 9 June
1348) was an Italian painter of the Sienese school. He was active
from approximately 1317 to 1348. He painted The Allegory of Good and
Bad Government in the Sala dei Nove (Salon of Nine or Council Room) in
Siena's Palazzo Pubblico. His elder brother was the painter Pietro
2 Selected works
4 Further reading
5 External links
Lorenzetti was highly influenced by both
Byzantine art and classical
art forms, and used these to create a unique and individualistic style
of painting. His work was exceptionally original. Individuality at
this time was unusual due to the influence of patronage on art.
Because paintings were often commissioned, individualism in art was
infrequently seen. It is known that Lorenzetti engaged in artistic
pursuits that were thought to have their origins during the
Renaissance, such as experimenting with perspective and physiognomy,
and studying classical antiquity. His body of work clearly shows
the innovativeness that subsequent artists chose to emulate.
His work, although more naturalistic, shows the influence of Simone
Martini. The earliest dated work of the Sienese painter is a Madonna
and Child (1319, Museo Diocesano, San Casciano). His presence was
Florence up until 1321. He would return there after
spending a number of years in Siena.
Allegory of bad government, two soldiers robbing a woman
Later he painted The Allegory of Good and Bad Government. The frescoes
on the walls of the Room of the Nine (Sala dei Nove) or Room of Peace
(Sala della Pace) in Siena's
Palazzo Pubblico are one of the
masterworks of early
Renaissance secular painting. The "nine" was the
oligarchal assembly of guild and monetary interests that governed the
republic. Three walls are painted with frescoes consisting of a large
assembly of allegorical figures of virtues in the Allegory of Good
Government. In the other two facing panels, Ambrogio weaves
panoramic visions of Effects of Good Government on Town and Country,
and Allegory of Bad Government and its Effects on Town and Country
(also called "Ill-governed Town and Country"). The better preserved
"well-governed town and country" is an unrivaled pictorial
encyclopedia of incidents in a peaceful medieval "borgo" and
The first evidence of the existence of the hourglass can be found in
the fresco, Allegory of Bad Government and Its Effects on Town and
Like his brother, he is believed to have died of bubonic plague in
Giorgio Vasari includes a biography of Lorenzetti in his
Madonna and Child, 1319
Investiture of Saint Louis of Toulouse, 1329.
Annunciation, 1344 Lorenzetti's final piece, telling the story of the
Virgin Mary receiving the news from 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 do
Madonna and Child, 1319
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 Byzantine 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.
Investiture of Saint Louis of Toulouse, 1329
In this fresco,
St. Louis is being greeted by
Pope Boniface VIII
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 Saint
Francis of 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".
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
followed the artistic tradition set by other Sienese painters like
Simone Martini but adds an intense maternal bonding scene to 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, 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.
^ Frank N Magill; Alison Aves (1 November 1998). Dictionary of World
Biography. Routledge. pp. 595–.
^ a b c Chiara Frugoni, Pietro and Ambrogio Lorenzetti, (Florence:
Scala Books, 1988), 37.
^ Casu, Franchi, Franci. The Great Masters of European Art. Barnes
& Noble, Inc., 2006. Page 34, Retrieved November 25, 2006.
^ Early Modern Literary Studies. Retrieved October 7, 2013.
^ "Effects of Good Government in the city". Google Arts & Culture.
Retrieved 28 January 2018.
^ S. Maureen Burke, “The Martyrdom of the Franciscans by Ambrogio
Lorenzetti”, Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte, 65: H.4 (2002): 467.
^ Diana Norman, “ ‘Little Desire for Glory’: the Case of
Ambrogio and Pietro Lorenzetti”, The Changing Status of the Artist,
(New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999), 41.
^ Enzo Carli, Sienese Painting, (New York: Scala Books, 1983), 38.
^ a b c Chiara Frugoni, Pietro and Ambrogio Lorenzetti, (Florence:
Scala Books, 1988), 48.
^ Schlegel, Ursula (March 1970). "The Christchild as Devotional Image
in Medieval Italian Sculpture: A Contribution to Ambrogio Lorenzetti
Studies". The Art Bulletin. College Art Association. 52 (1): 9.
doi:10.2307/3048674. Retrieved 28 January 2018.
Bowsky, William M. (1962). "The Buon Governo of
Siena (1287-1355): A
Mediaeval Italian Oligarchy". Speculum. 37 (3): 368–381.
——— (1967). "The Medieval Commune and Internal Violence: Police
Power and Public Safety in Siena, 1287-1355". American Historical
Review. 73 (1): 1–17. doi:10.2307/1849025.
Bowsky, William M. (1981). "A Medieval Italian Commune;
The Nine, 1287-1355". Berkeley: University of California Press.
Debby, Nirit Ben-Aryeh (2001). "War and Peace: the description of
Frescoes in Saint Bernardino's 1425 Siena
Renaissance Studies. 15 (3): 273–286.
Feldges-Henning, Uta (1972). "The Pictorial Programme of the Sala
della Pace: A New Interpretation". Journal of the Warburg and
Courtauld Institutes. 35: 145–162. doi:10.2307/750926.
Frugoni, Chiara (1988). Pietro and Ambrogio Lorenzetti. Florence,
Italy: Scala, Istituto Fotografico Editoriale.
——— (1991). A Distant City; Images of Urban Experience in the
Medieval World. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
Greenstein, Jack M. (1988). "The Vision of Peace: Meaning and
Representation in Ambrogio Lorenzetti's Sala Della Pace Cityscapes".
Art History. 11 (4): 492–510.
Norman, Diana (1997). "Pisa, Siena, and the Maremma: a neglected
aspect of Ambrogio Lorenzetti's paintings in the Sala dei Nove".
Renaissance Studies. 11 (4): 311–341.
Polzer, Joseph (2002). "Ambrogio Lorenzetti's 'War and Peace' Murals
Revisited: Contributions to the Meaning of the 'Good Government
Allegory'". Artibus et Historiae. 23 (45): 63–105.
Prazniak, Roxann (2010). "
Siena on the Silk Roads: Ambrogio Lorenzetti
and the Mongol Global Century, 1250–1350". Journal of World History.
21 (2): 177–217. doi:10.1353/jwh.0.0123.
Rubinstein, Nicolai (1958). "Political Ideas in Siense Art: The
Ambrogio Lorenzetti and Taddeo di Bartolo in the Palazzo
Pubblico". Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes. 21 (3/4):
Skinner, Quentin (1989). "Ambrogio Lorenzetti: The Artist as Political
Philosopher". In Belting, Hans; Blume, Dieter. Malerei und Stadtkultur
in der Dantezeit: die Argumentation der Bilder (in German). Munich:
Hirmer. pp. 85–103. ISBN 3-7774-5030-8.
Southard, Edna Carter (1979). The
Frescoes in Siena’s Palazzo
Pubblico, 1289-1539: Studies in Imagery and Relations to other
Communal Palaces in Tuscany. New York: Garland.
Starn, Randolph (1987). "The Republican Regime of the "Room of Peace"
in Siena, 1338-40". Representations. 18: 1–32.
——— (1994). Ambrogio Lorenzetti; The Palazzo Pubblico, Siena.
New York: George Braziller. ISBN 0-8076-1313-4.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ambrogio Lorenzetti.
Ambrogio Lorenzetti at Panopticon Virtual Art Gallery
Arch 343: Cities in History - Lecture 10: The Uses of Decorum -
Lorenzetti's Good and Bad Government
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