Art: Esthetic Bureaucrats

To 20th Century taxpayers, one of the world's least esthetic individuals is the faceless Moloch known to them only by his title, the Collector of Internal Revenue. But officials in the art-loving, 13th Century Italian republic of Siena were tax collectors of a different sort. When the camarlingo (chamberlain) completed his six months' term, he had his parchment records bound between two wooden panels, and commissioned some of the republic's most eminent artists to decorate the covers with tempera paintings. In Florence's Strozzina Gallery last week, some examples of such fancied-up account books...

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