Art Patronage in the Italian Renaissance
Medici Villa of
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Art patronage in the Italian Renaissance came from different
sources, both public and private, religious and secular, much
as it does today. It was not always so. Times were hard for
rich and poor alike during the Middle Ages. Europe saw the
collapse of the feudal system. Following this, peasants who had
previously worked the fields under the protection of their
feudal lords left the countryside, migrating to the towns and
city centers in pursuit of more lucrative means of support.
As population centers became crowded, unfortunately, so
followed the Black Death, wiping out a large percentage of the
inhabitants. Patronage of the arts was given little thought
during this time as people were struggling merely to
When the plague finally subsided, however, there emerged a
new thriving middle class of merchants and businessmen, men who
had wealth and leisure time. Some of this wealth was channeled
into the arts during the Early Renaissance.
Among this merchant class, a new interest in education
developed, specifically reading and mathematics, the language
of contracts. There also developed an interest in the pursuit
of pleasure like music, literature, and fine art. There still
remained some aristocratic, noble families such as those in
Ferrara and Mantua who maintained great courts. There arose
from the middle class a new nobility, competing with the
nobility to patronize the arts, particularly in Florence.
Most prominent in Florence among the new nobility were the
Medici, who earned their fortunes in the banking industry. The
Medici and other Florentine families of note used their
enormous wealth to maintain lavish lifestyles, create beauty,
both public and private, and to provide extravagant
entertainments for the masses.
In Venice art patronage was largely controlled by the
scuolas, or confraternities, great religious and social
organizations. The church was also an important patron of the
arts. Creative individuals like artists, architects, musicians,
and writers benefited substantially from art patronage during
the Italian Renaissance.
Brenda Harness, Art Historian
- Renaissance Courts
Opulence was expected in Italian Renaissance courts, but princes were able to openly display their wealth while aristocrats were constrained by sumptuary laws.
- The Este Of Ferrara | Descended From Trojan Princes?
The Este of Ferrara claimed to be descendants of Trojan princes during the Italian Renaissance, enjoying a courtly environment flavored with tales of mythology and medieval chivalry.
- Ludovico Gonzaga, The Court of Mantua
Ludovico Gonzaga, court of Mantua sponsored artists like Italian Renaissance artist Andrea Mantegna who turned his castle into a luxurious showplace for a visit from the pope.
- The Rise of the Medici, Florentine Bankers
Giovanni de' Medici began a powerful dynasty of banking and commerce that spread throughout Europe and funded many of the greatest works of the Italian Renaissance.
- Lorenzo de' Medici | The Pazzi Conspiracy
The early life of Lorenzo de' Medici was full of conspiracy and intrigue as he survived an assassination attempt by the pope and the Pazzi that killed his brother Giuliano.
- Lorenzo de' Medici | Art Patron Extraordinaire
Lorenzo de' Medici was the de facto ruler of Florence supporting a lavish lifestyle that even he could not afford, but it was good while it lasted.