Italian Renaissance
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Italian Renaissance
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Art Patronage in the Italian Renaissance

Renaissance Courts, Medici Villa of Careggi

Medici Villa of Careggi

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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 survive.

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.

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