“Good governance as it has never been seen before: discovering and rediscovering Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s masterpiece having the opportunity to see it up close. This is one of the aims of the world famous fresco yard, which will open its doors to the public next autumn.
“To see the Allegory and Effects of Good and Bad Government a few meters away, to reveal small and large characteristics of the fresco, from a point of view that has so far been impossible to reach. With the preparation of the construction site for the conservation maintenance project, the Municipality of Siena opens this great possibility to the public. From next autumn, guided tours will be bookable, in which the restorers at work will directly explain to the citizens the conservation project applied to the frescoes. Being able to access the scaffolding from an extraordinary privileged position, you will be able to admire all the details and details of the pictorial masterpiece that made Siena famous all over the world up close.
“Visitors to the Civic Museum will have a unique opportunity in the world, accompanied, thanks to this construction site, inside a real pictorial masterpiece capable of being current and representative even if it dates back to the mid-1300s”. Thus the mayor of Siena Luigi De Mossi on the sidelines of the presentation of the construction site, presented for the first time to the press, on Monday 30 May, and open to the public from next October.
The conservative maintenance project
In 2021 the Municipality of Siena started a project of diagnostics, enhancement and conservation maintenance of the masterpiece by Ambrogio Lorenzetti, making use of the advice of professionals in the sector and, with the collaboration of the University of Siena, the Institute of Applied Physics “Nello Carrara” of the CNR of Florence and of the SABAP Superintendence of Siena, Grosseto and Arezzo and the support of the Rotary Club Montaperti, San Casciano-Chianti, Siena, Siena East and Inner Wheel.
In February 2022 a construction site with scaffolding was installed inside the Sala della Pace which will allow the verification of the conservation status of the frescoes in order to evaluate the most suitable actions for safeguarding them.
This intervention was necessary to monitor the conditions of the painted surface about thirty-five years after the last restoration was completed. In it, thanks to innovative methods at the time, it was possible to stop the progressive deterioration manifested very early in the frescoes and recover all their richness and complexity.
However, the intervention currently underway is not limited to an update of the evaluation of the state of the work carried out with the use of the most current diagnostic tools and methodologies. It is configured, in fact, as an unrepeatable opportunity for in-depth study both on the pictorial technique of Ambrogio Lorenzetti and on the causes of the alterations of the precious paintings and on the past restoration interventions, forming the basis for future actions on their conservation and safeguarding.
Thanks to a multidisciplinary approach within the intervention, the synergistic work of various professionals is expected: restorers, architectural archaeologists, chemists, petrographers, physicists and architects who, in collaboration with the specialists of the Municipality of Siena, will investigate the organization of Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s construction site in its articulation, retracing all the solutions adopted by the artist for the return of the ethical message entrusted to him, which made and makes the frescoed cycle of the Sala della Pace one of the greatest masterpieces of Western art.
Among the masterpieces that have contributed to making Siena famous in the world, the Sala della Pace of the Palazzo Pubblico, also known as the Sala dei Nove or del Buongoverno was the environment where the rulers of the medieval city, patrons of the famous civil manifesto and politician who occupies the walls, held their own meetings.
The frescoed cycle here, known as Allegory and Effects of Good and Bad Government , was created in 1338 by the Sienese painter Ambrogio Lorenzetti. The figuration, in which the two opposite forms of government of Democracy and Tyranny are represented and their opposite effects on the city, the countryside and the daily life of the people, develops on three walls.
The narration begins on the north wall, where the Allegory of the Good Government is represented. TOOn the left of the observer, Wisdom, at the top, holds a large scale held in balance by the enthroned Justice, on whose plates two angels administer commutative and distributive justice. At its feet the Concordia sits holding a plane on its knees, a symbol of equality, and delivers a braided rope to a procession of citizens, who in turn entrust it to a noble old man, an allegorical representation of the Municipality of Siena with the she-wolf suckling the twins, symbol of the city. On its head hover the three theological virtues, Faith, Hope and Charity and on the sides are seated the four cardinal virtues, Fortitude, Prudence, Justice and Temperance, to which are added Magnanimity and Peace, a fascinating female figure who gave the name to the whole room.
On the east wall there is instead the representation of the Effects of Good Government on the city and the countryside, in which the painter reproduces a suggestive cross-section of the urban and rural environment of medieval Siena.
Diametrically opposite is the scene depicted on the west wall which condenses both the Allegory of Bad Government , in which Justice is bound and debased at the foot of Tyranny, a gloomy figure with demonic attributes surrounded by Cruelty, Betrayal, Fraud, Fury, from Discord and from War, both its Effects on a city destroyed in the throes of violence and on a barren and devastated countryside.
The Government of the Nine
The clients of the cycle are the Nine, one of the main magistracies of the Republic of Siena, in office from 1287 to 1355. The period of their government coincides for the city with the moment of maximum political and economic splendor: new and numerous construction sites are opened, including which that of the cathedral, built many palaces, including the Palazzo Pubblico and completed a substantial part of the walls.
The Nine constitute the executive of the Republic of Siena, and are the expression of a middle class, including traders and artisans capable of governing the city and at the same time promoting its financial interests. Their political orientation is folopapal, and although an expression of moderate Guelphism, it allows them to maintain relations of non-belligerence with nearby Florence, thus guaranteeing the city a long period of peace. Initially the designation of the members of the Nine (whose judiciary takes its name from the number of citizens in office for each mandate) arises from secret meetings of the highest city offices, but from 1318 onwards, the form of election changes and the new members are chosen for vote.
During the seventy years of this judiciary, historians have estimated that two to three thousand different people have been chosen among the leading exponents of Sienese society. For the entire duration of their mandate, the Nine have resided by choice of the City Council in the Town Hall, separated from their families and corporations.
In this way it was estimated that they could best exercise their government posts, avoiding temptations and external influences; they were allowed, in fact, to leave the palace only for specific occasions and to communicate with the public only officially. During the period of their government, Siena reached the highest level of its urban definition, a harmonious relationship between the architectural, political and civil context which, in 1338, Ambrogio Lorenzetti fixed on the walls of the Sala della Pace.
When Ambrogio Lorenzetti affixes his signature below the Allegory of Good Government, proudly claiming the authorship of the entire cycle, he is a painter who has now reached the apex of his artistic maturity and, together with Duccio di Buoninsegna and Simone Martini, is a candidate to become one of the undisputed protagonists of the great season of Sienese gothic painting.
Ambrose, whose activity as official painter of the Sienese government condenses over almost a decade between 1337 and 1345, completes between 1338 and 1339, one of the most important secular cycles in the history of art, still preserved.
A man of vast culture and a strong civic spirit (in 1347 he was elected to the council of the Paciari, in front of which he pronounced a speech on the “maintenance of the peace and freedom of Siena”) the painter poses himself as the main interpreter of the message of the Nine, creating in the cycle of Good Government a perfect synergy between art and politics.
Giotto’s lesson and the great Sienese tradition blend harmoniously, giving shape to universally recognized ethical concepts, which make the message of the Good Government still strictly current.