Museo Civico, Siena
Housed within the famous Palazzo Pubblico, Siena’s Museo Civico contains some of the greatest works of the city’s so-called “Golden Age,” a term which usually refers to the 14th centry (Trecento).More importantly, the museum gives form to the civic, political identity of the city and its most powerful rulers, the Nove. The museum is divided into themed rooms, each used for a different purpose. It is important to note that the famous frescoes within the museum were commissioned not by the Catholic church, as was typical in this period, but rather by Siena’s ruling elite. As a result, we can understand that many of these works were intended to emphasize the power of the Nove while also representing their political ideals. Though this theme is present in many rooms, such as the Sala di Balia, the meeting room for magistrates, the greatest example is the Sala della Pace/dei Nove. This room contains the famous “Good and Bad Government” fresco cycle by Ambrogio Lorenzetti. As the title suggests, the work depicts the ideal government, embodied in the Nove, which is filled with peace, justice, prosperity, and wisdom. The allegorical figure of peace was especially important considering that this work was created in a period of massive political strife that characterized the Trecento in Tuscany. Facing the Good Government fresco is its opposite, the Bad (Cattivo) Government which is filled with Tyranny, Cruelty, Deceit, Fraud, Fury, Division, War, Avarice, Pride, and Vainglory. Both of the frescoes would have served as positive and negative exempla of how to rule.