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Patronage in Renaissance Italy

By Mary Hollingsworth

A perfect read for art historians and their students and for lovers of Renaissance art and civilization.

In this first comprehensive study of patrons in the Italian quattrocento, Mary Hollingsworth shows how the patron – rather than the artist – carefully controlled both subject and medium in artistic creation.

In a competitive and violent age, she explains, image and ostentation were essential statements of the patron’s power. As a result, perceived cost became more important than artistic quality (and buildings, bronze, or tapestry were considered more eloquent statements than cheaper marble or fresco).

Since Christian teaching frowned on wealth and power, money also had to be spent on religious endowments made in expiation. But here too the patron was in control, and used the arts and other means to express religious belief, not aesthetic sensibility. Artists in the early Renaissance were employed as craftsmen, Hollingsworth concludes, and only late in the century did their relations with patrons start to adopt a pattern we might recognize today.

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