Global cooling, plague, war, famine, social unrest
Like many cities on the Italian Peninsula, Siena was thriving at the beginning of the fourteenth century.
Here is a link to a youtube lecture by Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker on Lorenzetti’s frescoes
Lorenzetti portrays well-behaved nobles…
and dancing in the streets.
The figure of Justice, holding scales, presides over the city.
On the left side the evil are punished… on the right, the good are rewarded
At the bottom of the fresco, Concord is depicted guiding the city council members
This is what the countryside looked like in good times:
Ambrogio Lorenzetti The Effects of Good Government in the Country, detail
Unfortunately the companion fresco of The Effects of Bad Government is in poor condition, but this is the devastated countryside represented by Lorenzetti:
Bands of armed mercenary soldiers known as condottieri, now unemployed, roamed the countryside.
An image of a famous condottiero:
Paolo Uccello Sir John Hawkwood
Speaking of devastation, here is a portion of what remains of the Triumph of Death fresco in the Camposanto in Pisa, which was badly damaged by Allied bombing during World War II:
Here are some photos of what Pisa’s lovely Camposanto looked like after the bombing:
This is what the Camposanto looks like today:
Here is a close up of the Triumph of Death showing some young nobles looking at the pile of corpses; one is holding his nose from the stench:
Though these gruesome frescoes appear to represent the Black Death, they were actually painted before 1348.
In the first half of the 14th century, Florentine painters followed in the footsteps of Giotto:
Bernardo Daddi, The Martyrdom of St. Stephen, 1324
Taddeo Gaddi, Annunciation to the Shepherds (after 1328)
In Siena, artists were inspired by the master Duccio di Buoninsegna
Duccio di Buoninsegna Rucellai Madonna
Though like the rest of the population, many artists perished in the Black Death, Agnolo Gaddi was one who survived:
Agnolo Gaddi Coronation of the Virgin, detail c.1380-85 National Gallery, London
Some painters began to paint in a more remote, less naturalistic style that hearkened back to older artistic works:
Orcagna Strozzi Altarpiece, c. 1357, Santa Maria Novella, Florence
Andrea da Firenze Spanish Chapel frescoes, detail, c.1366, Santa Maria Novella, Florence
Art and society rebounded after the Black Death.
In The Decameron, written around 1350, Giovanni Boccaccio celebrates the vigorous energy of his world.
Boccaccio, Decameron, 1450-70, Ms. Holkham misc. 49, Bodleian Library, Oxford
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