The Good and Bad Government is a large cycle of frescos that were painted from 1337 to 1339. This is the first, and only secular-themed painting that existed in its time period, that is, Early Renaissance Siena.
The political party in power in Siena wanted the artist to depict an allegory of ‘bad government’ (assassinations, sacking, violence, poverty, famine and so forth), and one of ‘good government’ (prosperous cities, cultivated lands, well-being, wealth, joy and so forth).
The overall meaning of the painting is clear: if the city is administered in a ‘good’ way, then the whole city will benefit from the public administration in power.
The artwork is divided into four sections: the Allegory of Bad Government, represented by an evil man with horns dressed in black (like the Devil) who is surrounded by allegorical figures representing Cruelty, Discord, War, Fraud, Anger and Tyranny; the Effects of Bad Government on Town and Country in which the lands are uncultivated and the people are suffering from violence and thefts; the Allegory of Good Government, represented by an old, wise monarch who sits on a throne and is surrounded by allegorical figures like Justice, Temperance, Prudence, Strength, Peace, as well as the theological virtues of Charity, Faith and Hope; and finally, the Effects of Good Government on Town and Country in which the city of Siena is depicted as rich, prosperous, serene and tranquil.
This may be the first central Italian painting in which landscape plays a central role; only in the 1600s does landscape painting in Italy enter fully and autonomously into the visual arts.