Patronage in the history of arts is the support that the kings and the popes gave to the sculptors, painters, and the musicians. Nobles, rulers and the wealthy people used patronage of the arts so as to be able to endorse their prestige, social positions, and their political ambitions which showed that the patrons were the sponsors. This is because this high level patronage required a lot of wealth which was accumulated and the families who had prospered economically. The changes in the patronage system can be able to reflect in the artwork which is produced by an artist. The patronage system was very important in the quantity and the number of the art works which were produced because there were ready and willing sponsors who were ready to sponsor the artists which led to the increment in the number of artworks produced be
The patronage system of the arts has undergone a lot of changes in the arts field where there was the change of the nature of all the art patron sponsors from the churches to the charitable organizations, and also from the aristocrats to the plutocrats which made the patronage in this case to be a neutral connotation than it is in politics. This new type of patronage termed as the direct financial support to the artists, musicians, and sculptors like in the form of grants (Rubio, 2001).
Some patrons like the Medici of Florence were known for their use of the artistic patronage so as to be able to cleanse their ill-gotten wealth through usury the commissioning of artwork and the sponsoring of the artists was a very well-known patronage system aspect and there were also other different disciplines which also benefited from the patronage like in pre modern science, writers, musicians, philosophers, and scholars among many others. The Medici of the Republic of Florence was the one of the best known Italian Renaissance art patrons. The Medici patronage were determined to promote their own fame which in so doing led to the creation of many master pieces in in the western art history (Burke, 1999).
Changes in the patronage of art related to the socio/religious changes as well as the geopolitical ones. In political patronage, there is the use of the resources of the state to be able to reward individuals for their individual support which may be composed of some cases of corruption and favourism where a certain political parties can use these rewards to give to artists and sculptors using the fraudulent awarded government appointments and contracts. This change ensured that all the artists benefited equally from the sponsors. The rise of the bourgeois and the capitalist social reforms in the 19th century made the European culture to divert away from the existing patronage system to a much newer system which is publicly supported like the museums, the mass audiences, theatres, and mass communication. This system did not consider the individual artist but the whole group of artists which was meant to benefit the mass audience.
Art patronage was a very important aspect in the creation of religious art like the Roman Catholic Church sponsored art and the Protestant groups sponsored art which came much later. Architecture was commonly seen in sculptures, handicrafts, cathedrals, paintings, and the churches. Very many artists who were very important like Leonardo da Vinci, Chrétien de Troyes, and Michelangelo among other artists all enjoyed the support of these noble and ecclesiastical patrons which made them to be motivated in their work since all the finances were catered for by the patrons. However, some of these patrons were biased and they were self-centered and it resulted to a lot of competition from the artists and the patrons chose their close relatives to do the work like the case for Georgio Vasari (1511-1574) who worked for Alessandro de’ Merci mainly because he was a close relative to Cardinal Silvio Passerani who was the Vasari’s guardian.
There were distinctions in patronage that resulted in different aesthetics as it was the case of Medici where in the 15th century, large sums of money was spent on the artists and architects who build up and decorated Florence which then became a total delight to all the people who lived there and which also made it to become the first library because of their self-serving patronage which made artists to flock Florence. A very strong patronage was likely to produce a very stunning aesthetic since all the artists are capable of producing good and quality work but a very weak patronage would result to a very poor aesthetic since most of these patrons are selfish and self-centered and they end up choosing artists who have bid on a very low amount so that it would cost them less but they end up getting the less skilled artists to do the work and the overall work ends up to be of a very poor quality and not satisfactory.
The changes in the patronage system accounted for the distinct differences between the Northern and the Italian Renaissance. The Italian Renaissance occurred from between the years 1300 to 1600 while Northern Renaissance occurred in the mid-1600s (Burke, 1999). the Italian renaissance often emphasized on the Greco-Roman ideals and the pagans which made it to be considered more secular while in the Northern Renaissance, it advocated for tolerance, humility or the “Christian” humanism. This change explained the reason as to why the Northern Renaissance emphasized more on the new technology and the sciences which was not the case in the Southern renaissance because of the Roman Catholic Church which was very slow in learning the sciences and its religious views were also diverse which included the rise of the protestant churches which was not the case in the Italian Renaissance.