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To what Extent did the System of Patronage Effect Works of Art

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To what Extent did the System of Patronage Effect Works of Art? By Charlie Howarth During the Renaissance, the system of patronage came into being, mainly as a reflection of the increasing capitalist emphasis being placed on life in Renaissance Italy, most notably in Florence. In its very nature as a commercial, capitalist place, Renaissance Italy was a hugely competitive place. It was therefore not surprising that works of art were very often commissioned for competitive reasons. During the Renaissance, art was not just as we think of it today, as an expressive, interesting creation. Art was a focal point of society, and a very powerful tool that powerful people used to gain an advantage. Discarding the effects it had on society for a moment, it was the key feature of the Renaissance. In earlier times, art had less status. However, mirroring the economic development of the time, art became the thing to spend money on, for various reasons. Money lay at the centre of art, and that is why patronage is so important. The system of patronage is a wide term and therefore there are a number of influences to consider when answering this question. Among them are the glory of the family; the honour of the city; the increasing economic power of individuals and groups; and the classical legacy that influenced art so much. Although in the later Renaissance time, Rome became increasingly involved (with the Pope's influence), Florence and Venice were the two leading protagonists as centres of culture in the earlier years. Not surprisingly, they were also the two leading cities economically. ...read more.


In the case of the religious painting, the person would often specify the religious figures that he wanted to be in it, and often where they should be placed. As already mentioned, money was at the centre of the art. How much, and how a patron paid the artist often determined the output. The contracts between the two would often specify a price and delivery date. Of course, if the painting was going to be too big or take too much time, the artist would have to produce a less impressive work. The more boorish patrons like the Duke of Ferrara paid the artist by the square foot, and so perhaps the work of the artist was of less good quality. More understanding patrons like Cosimo paid the artist for his time and materials, ensuring that the best quality could be delivered. The fact that most artists employed an assistant to paint the less important parts perhaps, in some cases, changed the output. The materials a painter used were also of importance. The Virgin Mary would be painted in lapis lazuli as it was the most expensive type available. However, as the Renaissance progressed, the materials an artist used became less important as the skill of the artist became more important. The artists could be conscripted to certain colours if other colours weren't in the patron's price range. As touched on, there were different kinds of patrons. It was in the artist's interests to have a good one. Fortunately for Donatello (the leading sculptor of his time), Cosimo was a good one. Thanks to Cosimo, Donatello always lived in comfort. ...read more.


As has been already established, the people of the Renaissance were very competitive. Patronage was a very competitive system, and it often brought great honour to artists, particularly when they were forced to compete for commissions. Lorenzo Ghiberti described the achievement of winning the competition for designing a scene for some doors for the temple of St. John the Baptist: "To me was conceded the palm of victory by all the experts and by all my fellow competitors. Universally, they conceded to me the glory, without exception". It could be argued that this was the greatest period in the history of art because of the healthy economic situation of Renaissance Italy. The rich did not save their money. Art was the thing to spend disposable income on. It was a way of showing wealth and gaining prestige and influence. Without patronage and consumer demand, being an artist could not have been a profession. In the Renaissance, wealth was power. And wealth was shown through owning works of art. So, as has been seen, the system of patronage was extremely important in Renaissance Italy. It brought with it mixed blessings for artists. On the one hand, it gave them the income to support themselves and continue to produce works. On the other hand, though, it could be very constrictive on what the artist could produce, and could even sometimes decide the quality of a work. But ultimately it can be said that the art patronage allowed the Renaissance to be remembered as a golden age in history and a way of distinguishing the period from the Middle Ages. Patronage did effect works of art, but there is little evidence supporting a theory that it stopped the art of the time being as beautiful and expressive as it could have been. 1 ...read more.

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