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 ...
...is 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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