2. 14th-Century Crises

Global cooling, plague, war, famine, social unrest

Like many cities on the Italian Peninsula, Siena was thriving at the beginning of the fourteenth century.


Lorenzetti good largeGood Government in the City, painted by Ambrogio Lorenzetti on the walls of Siena’s City Hall  

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…

Lorenz good gov nobles



and dancing in the streets.


Lorenzetti good dancing



The figure of Justice, holding scales, presides over the city.

lorenz good gov det

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



Lorenzetti concord large



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:

Uccello hawkwood

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:


camposanto bombing 2




This is what the Camposanto looks like today:

DCF 1.0


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:


Daddi stephen

Bernardo Daddi, The Martyrdom of St. Stephen, 1324




gaddi announc

Taddeo Gaddi, Annunciation to the Shepherds (after 1328)





In Siena, artists were inspired by the master Duccio di Buoninsegna


Duccio ruccelai

Duccio di Buoninsegna Rucellai Madonna

Duccio maesta closeupDuccio di Buoninsegna, Maestà (central panel)


Martini maesta01Simone Martini Maestà 



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

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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