The art of good governance: how images from the past provide inspiration for modern practice

Gjalt de Graaf*, Hanneke van Asperen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Since the early 1990s, discourse on ‘good governance’ has become more prevalent. What ‘good governance’ means and entails, however, and when we can speak of ‘good’ governance in this discourse, is not always clear. Many scholars in public administration and other social sciences writing about good governance have used visual interpretations of good governance from centuries ago to illustrate their case in point. Here, we also use pictures from the past – Lorenzetti’s Sienese frescoes to be more precise – yet, not as an illustration, but as the core of the argument. Our main research question is: how can Lorenzetti’s frescoes of Good Governance inspire our modern-day conception of good governance? We conclude that good governance is governance by good governors, and good governors are governors guided by benevolence. We end with a discussion of what that entails for modern-day governance practice. Points for practitioners: Governance without integrity violations is not necessarily good governance. Benevolence is needed for that.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)405-420
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Review of the Administrative Sciences
Issue number2
Early online date1 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018


  • benevolence
  • caritas
  • good governance
  • integrity
  • Lorenzetti


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