The Impact of the System of Patronage Upon Works of Art

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The Impact of the System of Patronage Upon Works of Art

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. The

two cities heavily competed with the other; honour was of primal

importance. As merchants and artists were encouraged to travel as much

as possible, innovative ideas in pieces from other cities quickly

became incorporated into artists' own city. For example, after the

death of Savonarola, Florence sought to make her constitution much

more similar to Venice's. As a reflection of this, a large room in the

palace of the signoria was designed to act and look like Venetian Hall

of the Great Council and two huge frescoes were commissioned, one by

Leonardo, the other by Michelangelo.

By commissioning their own great works of art, smaller states could

quickly achieve prominence and be "put on the map". Padua and Mantua

were two lesser states at the beginning of the Renais...

... middle of paper ... 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.
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