The Pennsylvania State University
Cover for the book The Commonwealth of Nature

The Commonwealth of Nature

Art and Poetic Community in the Age of Dante C. Jean Campbell
  • Copyright: 2008
  • Dimensions: 9.25 x 10
  • Page Count: 188 pages
  • Illustrations: 23 color/36 b&w illustrations
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-271-03261-0

Winner of a 2009 AAUP Book Jacket and Journal Show for Jackets and Covers

“C. Jean Campbell’s The Commonwealth of Nature: Art and Poetic Community in the Age of Dante is an important and intriguing treatment of Tuscan artistic culture in light of contemporary poetic theory, demonstrating the author’s deep understanding not only of Dante and Brunetto Latini, but of writers such as Boccaccio, Guido Cavalcanti, Guido Guinizelli, Guittone d’Arezzo, and Folgore di San Gimignano.”
The Commonwealth of Nature reasserts the creative and poetic energy of the Palazzo Pubblico frescos, too often overlooked in a scholarship focused on patronage and the political meaning of images.”

The Commonwealth of Nature explores the role of Tuscan visual culture in the poetic construction of a commonwealth. For Campbell, “commonwealth” should be viewed not only in the context of abstract political theory but also as a living reality, dependent upon the very processes of art making. The book focuses on four exceptional works: Brunetto Latini’s didactic poem the Tesoretto; a unique illustrated manuscript of the same; and Simone Martini’s Maestà and Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s Allegory of Good and Bad Government, both painted for the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena.

Campbell asserts that political interpretations of the art of the Tuscan communes ignore what Brunetto understood as a vital difference between the institutions of civic government and the reality of a commonwealth that was properly conveyed by poetry. Guiding us from the miniature to the monumental, from the private to the public, Campbell presents the inextricable links among poetry, art, and commonwealth. Beginning with the trope of secrecy in the Tesoretto and the poetic interpretation of friendship in the illustrated manuscript, she then moves on to Martini’s and Lorenzetti’s paintings, arguing that they are not solely political but are fully charged with the poetic as well. Concluding with a discussion of the Allegory of Good and Bad Government, Campbell interprets the painting as a medium through which the peaceful commonwealth might be reinvented as a vital experience.

C. Jean Campbell is Associate Professor of Art History at Emory University. She is the author of The Game of Courting and the Art of the Commune of San Gimignano, 1290–1320 (1997).


List of Illustrations

Preface and Acknowledgments

Introduction: The Poetry of

1. Brunetto’s Treasure and Its Revelation in Script and Pictures

The Invention of Secrets

The Sharing of Secrets in Strozzi

2. Municipal Verse, Vernacular Poetry, and Simone Martini’s Maestà

Brunetto’s Failure and Dante’s Goal

Simone’s Maestà and the Advent of Nature’s Commonwealth

3. Ambrogio Lorenzetti and the Poetry of Peace

Conclusion: New Clothes and the Rebirth of the Commonwealth




Other Ways to Acquire

Buy from
Buy from an Independent Bookstore
Buy from Powell's Books
Buy from Barnes and
Find in a Library