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Ambrogio Lorenzetti

Ambrogio Lorenzetti
Born Ambrogio Lorenzetti
c. 1285/1290
Died 9 June 1348
Nationality Italian
Known for Painting, Fresco
Notable work Allegory of good government, Allegory of bad government
Movement Gothic

Ambrogio Lorenzetti (or Ambruogio Laurati) (c. 1290 – 9 June 1348)[1] was an exceptionally original 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 the Palazzo Pubblico (or Town Hall) of Siena. His elder brother was the painter Pietro Lorenzetti.


  • Biography 1
  • Selected works 2
  • References 3
  • Further reading 4
  • External links 5


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.[2] 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 documented in Florence up until 1321. He would return there after spending a number of years in Siena.[3]

Allegory of bad government, two soldiers robbing a woman

Later he painted

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 Country.

Like his brother, he is believed to have died of Lives.

Selected works

Lorenzetti' Annunciation.
Annunciation, 1344

Lorenzetti' Annunciation.
Lorenzettis' Madonna and Child.
Madonna and Child, 1319

Lorenzettis' Madonna and Child.
The Oath of St. Louis of Toulouse.
Investiture of Saint Louis of Toulouse, 1329.

Lorenzettis' Maestà
Maestà, 1335.

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 does create depth.

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.[2] 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.[2] 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, [7]

Maestà, 1335

In his Maestà, completed in 1335, his use of allegory prefigures Effects of Bad Government in the City. Allegorical elements reference Dante,[8] 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, 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.[8] 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.[8] 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.[9]


  1. ^ Frank N Magill; Alison Aves (1 November 1998). Dictionary of World Biography. Routledge. pp. 595–.  
  2. ^ a b c Chiara Frugoni, Pietro and Ambrogio Lorenzetti, (Florence: Scala Books, 1988), 37.
  3. ^ Casu, Franchi, Franci. The Great Masters of European Art. Barnes & Noble, Inc., 2006. Page 34, Retrieved November 25, 2006.
  4. ^ Early Modern Literary Studies. Retrieved October 7, 2013.
  5. ^ S. Maureen Burke, “The Martyrdom of the Franciscans by Ambrogio Lorenzetti,” Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte, 65: H.4 (2002): 467.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Enzo Carli, Sienese Painting, (New York: Scala Books, 1983), 38.
  8. ^ a b c Chiara Frugoni, Pietro and Ambrogio Lorenzetti, (Florence: Scala Books, 1988), 48.
  9. ^ Ursula Schlegel, “The Christchild as Devotional Image in Medieval Italian Sculpture: A Contribution to Ambrogio Lorenzetti Studies,” Art Bulletin, 52:1 (1970), 9.

Further reading

  • Bowsky, William M. (1962). "The Buon Governo of Siena (1287-1355): A Mediaeval Italian Oligarchy".  
  • ——— (1967). "The Medieval Commune and Internal Violence: Police Power and Public Safety in Siena, 1287-1355".  
  • Bowsky, William M. (1981). "A Medieval Italian Commune; Siena Under The Nine, 1287-1355". Berkeley: University of California Press.  
  • Debby, Nirit Ben-Aryeh (2001). "War and Peace: the description of Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s Frescoes in Saint Bernardino’s 1425 Siena Sermons". 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.  
  • 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".  
  • 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".  
  • Rubinstein, Nicolai (1958). "Political Ideas in Siense Art: The Frescoes by Ambrogio Lorenzetti and Taddeo di Bartolo in the Palazzo Pubblico". Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 21 (3/4): 179–207.  
  • 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 Deutsch). Munich: Hirmer. pp. 85–103.  
  • 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.  

External links

  • Ambrogio Lorenzetti at Panopticon Virtual Art Gallery
  • Arch 343: Cities in History - Lecture 10: The Uses of Decorum - Lorenzetti's Good and Bad Government

There is a devotional theme painting by this Late Medieval Italian painter in the Fogg Art Museum Cambridge,Massachusetts("Crucifixion")

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