Artibus et Historiae no. 22 (XI)

1990, ISSN 0391-9064

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CHRISTIANE L. JOOST-GAUGIER - Dante and the History of Art: The Case of a Tuscan Commune Part II: The Sala del Consiglio at Lucignano

The Ouattrocento fresco series of uomini famosi in the Sala del Consiglio of the Palazzo del Comune in Lucignano shows that, although the frescoes were painted at different times during the century and commissioned by various patrons (whose names are recorded in the surviving inscriptions), Dante is consistently the source of their iconography. Among the biblical and Classical heroes depicted, the appearance of the Byzantine emperor Justinian, unique in Famous Men cycles, can be explained by Paradiso VI, where Dante describes him as having restored the glory and importance of Rome. Moreover, according to Dante, by promoting the coexistence of spiritual and temporal law under God, Justinian showed that the Romans were God's chosen people. At Lucignano, the virtuous heroes of the ancient past and the Roman world melt into the Christian empire, forming an indissoluble unity.

Few legal chambers have survived relatively intact from the early Italian Renaissance. The decoration of the example in Lucignano reflects extraordinary ambition, presenting the only known surviving illustrated synthesis of Dante's views. A small Tuscan commune thus put forward the poet's conception of justice, as opposed to the narrower tradition of "buon governo" established in the neighboring Republic of Siena.

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