SURF

Zoe Langer

Power and Ideology through Language: The Formulation of the Vernacular in the Allegory of Good and Bad Government by Ambrogio Lorenzetti

One of the earliest fresco cycles to be of secular imagery and subject matter solely, the Allegory of Good and Bad Government (c. 1337-40) frescoes by Ambrogio Lorenzetti portray an idealized portrait of Sienese society under one of its most potent ruling bodies, the Nine. Within and around these frescoes are inscriptions in the italian vernacular, which have been given insufficient attention and analysis by scholars. The images and inscriptions operate in conjunction, forming a dialogue. This simultaneous operation was utilized by the Sienese government as a form of self-construction and propaganda to legitimize and promote their authority. Through the inscriptions, images, and constitution the Nine used the vernacular language as a form of communication that embodied specific ideals. I hope to demonstrate the importance of the vernacular as it was conceived within the frescoes and by the Nine, and to raise larger questions about the notion of literacy both within Siena and in medieval society.

Message to Sponsor

The most exciting part of the SURF Fellowship is gaining direct access to the Archive of State of Siena. The idea that I will be able to see literal pieces of history is amazing. Access to state seals, governmental tax records, and the constitution itself, will give me a much better historical and sociopolitical context when analyzing the frescoes than I had previously thought possible. I am so appreciative of this opportunity to dedicate my summer to researching this topic. Medieval art and literature are my two passions in life and this project allows me to pursue and combine both, so while challenging, this project is also actually really fun!
  • Major: History of Art
  • Mentor: Steven Botterill, Italian Studies