What Are These Men Doing in Siena?

#1
http://www.scholarsresource.com/browse/work/-1436218325

This is some pictures of the Fresco "The Allegory of Good and Bad Government" in the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena Italy.
It was painted circa 1338-1340 by Ambrogio Lorenzetti.

You will see on the wet damp side of the room, a lot of moisture damage has occurred, and much of the Bad Government side is destroyed.
There is a piece of purposeful or intentional damage, on the South wall- that is nothing to do with moisture. This wall is in a well lit and warm part of the room and there is little age damage, but a tiny bit of the Fresco have been removed. Now on the link you need to go to image 15 to see the intentional damage.
Although from the images it is hard to see that it is intentional damage, when you see the piece missing- it is obvious, as the lime plaster has been removed some layers deeper than the damage elsewhere on the fresco.
I am not sure what exactly the building is but it looks like part of the city wall or attached to the city wall like it is some sort of administrative building. At the entrance there are three men sitting in a huddle, two men standing behind; one of which has taken the arm of the other as if to tell him something about what the three men are doing. There is also two small children in the vicinity. The huddled men are sitting on a bench attached to the fence and they are concentrated on whatever has been removed from the Fresco. The man behind distracting another appears to have a wee small monkey in his hand.
It is thought the building the men are sitting outside is possibly a Tavern, although none hold drinking vessels- one man holds a blue glass bottle. I also doubt it is a Tavern as there appears to a statue of a saint on the wall inside.
In actual viewing of the fresco, I could see where the water flowed down the image from one of the wooden beams in the ceiling over this area but the moisture damage is a different colour to the this small area, and not so delineated to as to remove such a specific area.
Taking the date of the fresco- it would seem unlikely that these men are playing cards- dicing maybe? I would be interested in opinions.
In 1404 Siena was in the control of the Visconti but here is a brief history of the City.
http://www.wga.hu/tours/siena/history.html.
~Lorredan~
The Universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.
Eden Phillpotts

Re: What Are These Men Doing in Siena?

#3
Thanks Robert!
The custodian that sat with me for sometime reckoned they were playing cards and later when Saint Bernadino was preaching- the card playing was removed in the fevered passion that went along with burning cards etc.
I did not argue with him- he was a Historian ;) but the date seemed wrong for cards.
When I climbed on a stool and looked hard the middle guy of the seated three- he does appear to be holding cards.
There is a monkey in the hand of the guy standing behind.
Interesting thing has happened with your link- when enlarging the image you see a ghost of a king underneath the paint.
~Lorredan~
The Universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.
Eden Phillpotts

Re: What Are These Men Doing in Siena?

#5
Hi Ross!
Yes there seems to be two players and one watching. What interested me was that this whatever occupation was, it was intentionally removed- so I do not think it chess or backgammon. I thought dice was played against a wall or board?
I found the whole fresco fascinating- I wondered whether it was like a nine morris game and was removed when the Council of Nine was disbanded. I am really trying to discount cards- as that seemed a wrong date for cards- or cards were more usual in the mid 14th century than is thought.
~Lorredan~
The Universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.
Eden Phillpotts

Re: What Are These Men Doing in Siena?

#6
They all seem to be peering at the same thing.. I think Ross is probably right, must be some sort of strategy game.

Perhaps it is dice, but unlikely to be cards as the focus isn't on their individual hands, or at least, I would imagine they would be holding cards and looking at them rather than all looking at the same place on the table.
The Tarot will lose all its vitality for one who allows himself to be side-tracked by its pedantry. - Aleister Crowley

Re: What Are These Men Doing in Siena?

#7
Hi Lorredan,
Lorredan wrote:Hi Ross!
Yes there seems to be two players and one watching. What interested me was that this whatever occupation was, it was intentionally removed- so I do not think it chess or backgammon. I thought dice was played against a wall or board?
I found the whole fresco fascinating- I wondered whether it was like a nine morris game and was removed when the Council of Nine was disbanded. I am really trying to discount cards- as that seemed a wrong date for cards- or cards were more usual in the mid 14th century than is thought.
~Lorredan~
It's a very interesting defacement, and I agree it should be a game. If it were removed as a puritanical gesture in a fanatical time (could have been any time in the 15th century, but Bernardino is as good as any, since it was his home town), it could have been any game. Preachers like Bernardino hated all games equally, and chess was often still played with dice in those days. In any case, the accounts of the bonfires mention that board games, dice and cards were burned along with all the other vanities and evil things like perfumes, hand mirrors, hairpins and wigs, magic charms, even expensive clothing if I remember correctly.

Dice are still played in taverns like this - on a small board, round or polygonal, with a raised edge so the dice don't spill out. My bet would be dice for this one, given the tavern association. The removal of the image is like a fig-leaf on Michelangelo's David (and countless other sculptures) - it removes even the *idea* of the sin to which viewing it might lead.

Ross
Image

Re: What Are These Men Doing in Siena?

#9
Thank you both!
I stared at the area for so long my head is cross-eyed.
I noticed something odd- The Standing man in red, is dressed the same as the sitting man in red on our left. The two guys eyes are focussed on whatever that red dressed guy is doing. So it seems to me they are a pair. The guy in the blue is looking directly at whatever is in the red dressed guys hands- not at a table or ledge- so maybe he has a small dice tray in his hand? Anyway I am pleased neither of you think it is cards. There is another piece of intentional damage but it is in the crests around the edge of the painting- some figure has been removed and it is directly below this tavern. I must read up some more on the Bonfire of the Vanities - I did not know about all those extra devices of the Devil- like mirrors and perfume.
~Lorredan~
Ps Ohhh I did not think of a palm reader- I think they are all guys- but there is a monkey in the hands of the standing guy. Were Monkeys common pets?- the guy looks well dressed. I hate missing bits- I worry it like a bone, something of a dysfunction actually, looking more for what is not there than what is there. Very pessimistic lol.
The Universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.
Eden Phillpotts

Re: What Are These Men Doing in Siena?

#10
EnriqueEnriquez wrote:I know that I am totally off here, but at first sight I thought the woman in yellow was reading palms. :shock:

Best,

EE
Actually, that crossed my mind too Enrique, I think you may be right. The arm of the figure on the right is odd. I looked at it a long time wondering if it was extended over for palm reading, or if part of his arm had been cut off by the defacement.

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