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Art Patronage

For those who need to know the sources - and they have been referenced - please look at the bottom of this art patronage page - information here is from creative commons freely available websites (that are not subject to copywright). 

For those who just enjoy the Italian Renaissance - just enjoy - I have done the hard work for you ! Ciao Anna xx

The artists were  ordinary people until the artistic revolution swept the streets of Florence.

It was seen in a new light – embodying geometry, imbued with intellectual properties, and beholding a divine power.

The style of art  changed from the supernatural style  of medieval art , and embodied anatomy, science, botany and naturalism during the Renaissance .


PATRONAGE – financial means to the artists end. Allowed amazing art that was beautiful in style but also important in the personal, political and religious agendas.

For PATRONISERS – social status, display of religious piety & a way to commemorate family heritage

Medici Family – status wealth and influence redefined the rules of the patronage game

1- Magnificence – a virtue that legitimised and naturalised   the patronage of architecture. As a virtue of piety and religious devotion, magnificence masks the personal and political agendas of religious patronage. Magnificence undermined negative perceptions towards the Medici, even giving Lorenzo the title ‘Lorenzo the Magficent’. This paved the way for patronage that was more individualised and personal, as personal agendas came to co – exist with pious or civic intentions. Medici patronage of religious institutions  also demonstrated the family’s strength power & status in Florence. This encouraged other patronisers to align with the Medici family.

Magnificence encouraged patronisers such as Gaspare del Lama to commission art that displayed connections with the Medici which served to intensify the power of this family.

The more personal patronage of the Medici family in the form of the Ospedale degli Innocenti(the hospital of the innocents). Cosimo de Medici II is immortalised in the frescoes.

Ospedale degli Innocenti (Hospital of the Innocents)

Renaissance hospital featuring a rotating door into which unwanted babies were dropped. Florence in the 1400s had a problem. Babies. Babies everywhere. Babies in the fields, babies in the alleyways, babies left on the pews of the Church. Florence was crawling with abandoned babies. For all purposes, Florence in the 1400s was the center of the civilized world. Art, science, wealth, architecture, all were in bloom. Ruled from behind the scenes by the wealthy Medici family, this was the Renaissance… yet that wealth also meant slaves, and those slaves unwanted babies needed to be dealt with. Something had to be done.

The responsibility for all these foundlings, as they were known, was given to the “Arte della Seta,” or Silk Guild. It was one of the richest, most powerful guilds in Florence. It was quickly decided that a new building would be established to house these children. The hospital was to be the first building erected specifically for the care of abandoned children; the first orphanage. Called the Ospedale degli Innocenti (Hospital of the Innocents), an important element was to be an official infant unloading point so that Children would no longer be left willy-nilly around the city. On February 5, 1445, 10 days after the official opening the first child was dropped off.

A sort of turnstile door was constructed so that a woman could drop off the baby without being seen. Above it a statue of Mary pointed down, indicating the appropriate drop-off point.

Women would often split an item, such as a coin, and leave half attached to a necklace on the child being given up, with the idea that perhaps one day the coin could be whole again. Operating much like a turnstile at a 24 hour deli, the child would be spun around and once on the other side, began a short slide down a chute into “the basin of abandonment”. On either side of the basin knelt two terra-cotta figures of Mary and Joseph, the basin doubling as a manger. The child would then be quickly picked up and brought to be wet-nursed.

The Ospedale degli Innocenti cared for over 375,000 over its five and a half centuries, and continues to help care for abandoned children today.


The major portion completed by Brunelleschi was an arcade or loggia with nine arches, supported on each side by pilasters, which gave the appearance of columns, and opening to the interior by a small door. The arcade was supported by slender columns with Corinthian capitals. This first arcade, with its columns, rounded arches and simple classical decoration, became the model for a long series of Renaissance buildings across Europe

The Adoration of the Shepherds 


Artist  Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1485, incorporated a self portrait within the art work, the Adoration of the Shepherds. The shepherds, among whom is a portrait of the artist himself , are portrayed with a realism that was an advance in Florentine painting at that time. The altarpiece is still in position in Santa Trinita, surrounded by the frescos of which it was the centrepiece. On either side are portraits of the kneeling donors, the very rich  Portinari family.

So overt and explicit are these gestures of patronage , ensures the Medici name is forever remembered for its contribution to the hospital & to the city of  Florence.

Other wealthy patronisers  also inject art with personal agendas and  tracks the wealth of the Medici family. Overrun with personal family crests, imagery and symbols, religious architecture clearly demonstrates the significance of the Medici shaping the practice  of patronage. However , only those in good grace with the Medici , could incorporate personal imagery, so as not to upset the balance of power.

Capella di Filippo Strozzi (Santa Maria Novella)

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In Santa Maria Novella ,the Filippo strozzi chapel ( Capella di Filippo Strozzi) , painted by Filippo Lippi, closely incorporates the name of the patroniser, by incorporating the name of the saint Phillip.

The Chapel of Filippo Strozzi is located in the east (right) transept between the Bardi Chapel and the Tornabuoni (or Maggiore) Chapel.

Its fame is due to the frescoes by Filippino Lippi started in the late 1480s and completed around 1502, the last series of paintings by the artist. The chapel was commissioned by Filippo Strozzi the Elder, who had acquired the patronage of the chapel from the Boni family around 1486, and shortly afterward drew up a contract with the painter from Prato.

The work proceeded rather slowly, mainly due to Lippi’s lengthy stay in Rome, where he stayed for many years to fresco a chapel inside the Dominican church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva.

The theme of the cycle of frescoes in the Strozzi Chapel, formerly dedicated to St. John the Evangelist, were the life stories of Saints Philip the Apostle and John the Evangelist: the former as it was linked to the name of the benefactor, the second as as patron saint of the chapel.

As agreed in the contract, on the express wish of the buyer, Lippi frescoed the upper right wall with stories from the life of St. Philip, namely a scene of his martyrdom and, down on the left next to those of St. John the Evangelist, the miracle of the resurrection of the girl Drusiana.

The Four Patriarchs of the Old Testament – Adam, Noah, Abraham, Jacob – appear on the sails of the vault.

The back wall was designed by Filippino Lippi as the fulcrum of the chapel’s pictorial decoration, with its triumphal arch and allegorical statues depicting Faith and Charity. Even the lancet window at the top was designed by him with a Madonna and Child above and Saints John the Evangelist and Philip at the bottom.

Behind the altar is the red porphyry tomb of Filippo Strozzi, sculpted by Benedetto da Maiano (at the tail end of the 15th century), above which there is a Madonna and Child relief in marble, surrounded by a wreath of roses and four flying angels. Completing the monument, the same sculptor carved a bust of Filippo Strozzi, whose family remained in his palace until 1878, when they sold it to the Louvre Museum.

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Giovanni di Paolo Rucellai

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Patronage portrait of Giovanni di Paolo Rucellai, in the background his principal works in Florence: Palazzo and Loggia Rucellai, the façade of Santa Maria Novella and the Tempietto of the Holy Sepulchre. Oil on board, attributed to Francesco Salviati, c. 1540

Born -1403,


Died - 1481 Florence


Known for - Palazzo Rucellai, patronage of the arts, façade of Santa Maria Novella, the Zibaldone

Giovanni di Paolo Rucellai (1403–1481) was a member of a wealthy family of wool merchants in Renaissance Florence, in Tuscany, Italy. He held political posts under Cosimo and Lorenzo de' Medici, but is principally remembered for building Palazzo Rucellai, for his patronage of the S. Sepolcro chapel and of the marble façade of the church of Santa Maria Novella, and as author of the Zibaldone. He was the father of Bernardo Rucellai (1448–1514) and grandfather of Giovanni di Bernardo Rucellai (1475–1525).

Giovanni di Paolo Rucellai was born on 26 December 1403 to Paolo Rucellai and Caterina di Filippo Pandolfini, one of three children born in the 40 months of their marriage before the early death of Paolo Rucellai. As a young man, Giovanni di Paolo entered the banking house of Palla di Noferi Strozzi and at the age of about 25 married his daughter Iacopa di Palla Strozzi. The couple had two sons and five daughters. Rucellai remained loyal to Strozzi after the banishment of the latter to Padova by Cosimo de' Medici in November 1434, and for about 27 years he took no part in public life. However he became friends with Cosimo, and in 1461 his second son, Bernardo di Giovanni Rucellai, then about 13 years old, was married to Cosimo's grand-daughter Nannina de' Medici, daughter of Piero di Cosimo de' Medici and elder sister to Lorenzo. Nannina was brought to her husband's house five years later, on 8 June 1466. The wedding feast was famous for its opulence: 500 guests were seated on a dais which occupied the loggia and the whole of the piazza and the street in front of Palazzo Rucellai.[1]

Giovanni di Paolo was the effective head of the Rucellai family. He served as Prior in 1463 and as Gonfaloniere di Giustizia in 1475.


Giovanni di Paolo was an important patron of the arts, matched only by Cosimo de' Medici in fifteenth-century Florence. He commissioned the building of the Palazzo Rucellai, designed by Leon Battista Alberti, and the Loggia Rucellai. He built a villa at Quaracchi on the road from Florence to Pistoia. His most notable donation, the marble façade by Alberti for Santa Maria Novella, was but one of the family's commissions of public art.[2] For the Palazzo Rucellai he commissioned works from Andrea del Castagno, Desiderio da Settignano, Filippo Lippi, Piero Pollaiuolo, Paolo Uccello, Verrocchio, Domenico Veneziano, Vittorio Ghiberti and Giovanni Bertini.[3]

The Zibaldone

Giovanni di Paolo Rucellai was well-acquainted with the classics and he kept a Zibaldone

into which he copied his translations of passages from Greek and Latin authors such as

Aristotle, Boethius and Seneca the Younger.[4]

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Palazzo                                  Loggia

Rucellai                                  Rucellai

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In the cutthroat world of patronage, how did the artists fit in? There was a symbiotic relationship between the patrons and the artists (elevating the artist from craftsman to esteemed and respected individuals). Subsequently , artists  like , Brunelleschi,  & Donatello were considered heros & the academy was founded by Giorgio Vasari, to knight and  oversee art production in Florence .

For some , art patronage even meant city wide fame. This is  true of Brunelleschi, who forged connections with powerful individuals, like Giovani di Medici, Thommaso Barbadori & Schiatta Ridolfi. As his status grew, so did his ambitions. He demonstrated his ingenuity with the creation of chapel domes. Without the fiscal support and empowered status granted by Florence’s patronisers  it is unlikely talented artists like Brunelleschi would have flourished in the same way.

Filippo Brunelleschi

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Filippo Brunelleschi  (1377 – 15 April 1446), considered to be a founding father of Renaissance architecture, was an Italian architect and designer, and is now recognised to be the first modern engineer, planner, and sole construction supervisor. He is most famous for designing the dome of the Florence Cathedral, a feat of engineering that had not been accomplished since antiquity, as well as the development of the mathematical technique of linear perspective in art which governed pictorial depictions of space until the late 19th century and influenced the rise of modern science. His accomplishments also include other architectural works, sculpture, mathematics, engineering, and ship design. His principal surviving works can be found in Florence, Italy.

His earliest extant sculptures are two small bronze statues of evangelists and saints (1399–1400) made for the altar of the Crucifix Chapel Pistoia Cathedral. In 1400 the City of Florence decided to celebrate the end of a deadly epidemic of the Black Death by creating new sculpted and gilded bronze doors for the Baptistry of Florence. A competition was held in 1401 for the design, which drew seven competitors, including Brunelleschi and another young sculptor, Lorenzo Ghiberti. For the competition, each sculptor was required to produce a single bronze panel, depicting the Sacrifice of Isaac within a Gothic four-leaf frame. The panels each contained Abraham, Isaac, an angel and other figures imagined by the artists, and had to harmonize in style with the existing doors, made in 1330 by Andrea Pisano. The head of the jury was Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici, who later became an important patron of Brunelleschi. The jury selected Ghiberti, whose composition was simpler and more classical, but the work of Brunelleschi, with more dramatic movement, made a good impression. Brunelleschi did not like to be second at anything; he would eventually abandon sculpture and devote his attention entirely to architecture and optics, but continued to receive sculpture commissions until at least 1416.

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St John Evangelist              Prophet Jeremiah                 Prophet Isaiah                  Sacrfice of Isaac

Church of San Zeno                Church of San Zeno           Church of San Zeno                  Bapistry of Florence  

Brunelleschi's study of classical Roman architecture can be seen in the characteristic elements of his building designs including even lighting, the minimization of distinct architectural elements within a building, and the balancing of those elements to homogenize the space.

It is speculated that Brunelleschi developed his system of linear perspective after observing the Roman ruins.However, some historians dispute that he visited Rome then, given the number of projects Brunelleschi had in Florence at the time, the poverty and lack of security in Rome during that period, and the lack of evidence of the visit. His first definitively documented visit to Rome was in 1432.

Basilica of San Lorenzo 1421-22

The Basilica of San Lorenzo was his next great project, undertaken soon after he began the Foundling Hospital. It was the largest church in Florence, sponsored by the Medici family, whose tombs were located there, and it was the work of several different architects, including, later, Michelangelo. The parts undertaken by Brunelleschi were the central nave, with the two collateral naves on either side bordered by small chapels, and the old sacristy.





The Old Sacristy was begun first, and built between 1419 and 1429.

It contains the tomb of the donor, Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici and his wife, beneath a central dome, very simply decorated. The form is very simple; the chapel is a cube of about eleven meters on each side, covered with a hemispheric dome. A level of ornamental entablements divides the vertical space into two parts, and pilasters support the dome. The altar is set into a recess at one end beneath a smaller dome. All of the arcs of the ceiling are supported by pilasters, like classical columns, set into the walls. This room, using classical elements in an entirely original way, was one of the first perfectly Renaissance spaces.

In the nave, the massive pillars of Gothic architecture were replaced by slender columns with Corinthian capitals, and the traditional vaulted ceiling of the central nave by a coffered ceiling of square compartments with delicately gilded trim. To adjust to the difference of height between the low chapels and the much higher nave, he circular windows above each chapel. The finished interior gave an impression of perfect harmony and balance.

One practice of Brunelleschi in the Old Sacristy, which later became a doctrine of Renaissance architecture, was the use of white walls in churches. The first major theorist of Renaissance art, Leon Battista Alberti, writing in 1450, declared that, since classical times, according to such authorities Cicero and Plato, white was the only color suitable for a temple or church, and praised "the purity and simplicity of the color, like that of life."

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old sacristy  basilica of san

Basilica of Santo Spirito

The Basilica of Santo Spirito in Florence was his next major project, which, characteristically, he carried out in parallel with his other major works. Though he began designing in 1434, construction did not begin until 1436, and continued beyond his lifetime. The columns for the facade were not delivered until 1446, ten days before his death, and the facade was not completed until 1482, and then was modified in the 18th century. The bell tower was also a later addition.

Santo Spirito is an example of the mathematical proportion and harmony of Brunelleschi's work. The church is in the form of a cross. The choir, the two arms of the transept, and the space in the center of the transept are composed of squares exactly the same size. The continuation of the nave contains four more identical squares. and a half-square (a later addition) at the end. The length of the transept is exactly one-one half of the length of the nave. Each square of the lower collateral naves is one-quarter the size of the squares in the principal nave. The collateral naves are lined with thirty-eight small chapels, which were later filled with altars decorated with works of art.



The vertical plan is also perfectly in proportion; the height of the central nave is exactly twice its width, and the height of the collateral naves on either side are exactly twice their width. Other aspects of his original plan, however, were modified after his death. The main aisle of the nave, lined by columns with Corinthian capitals, is topped by a row of semicircular arches, like his galleries. His original plan called the ceiling of the nave to be composed of a barrel vault, which would have echoed the collateral naves, but this was also changed after his death to the flat coffered ceiling. Little remains of the exterior walls that he had planned. They were unfinished at his death, and were covered with a facade in a different style in the Baroque period.

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Pazzi Chapel 

The Pazzi Chapel was commissioned in about 1429 by Andrea Pazzi to serve as the Chapter House, or meeting place of the monks of the Monastery of Santa Croce. Like nearly all of his works, the actual construction was delayed, beginning only in 1442, and the interior was not finished until 1444. The building was not entirely finished until about 1469, twenty years after his death. Some of the details, such as the lantern on top of the dome, were added after his death.

The portico of the chapel is especially notable for its fine proportions, simplicity, and harmony. Its centerpiece is a sort of arch of triumph. Its six columns are by an entablature sculpted medallions, an upper level divided by pilasters and a central arch, and another band of sculpted entablature the top, below a terrace and the simple cupola. The interior spaces are framed by arches, entablatures, and pilasters. The floor is also divided into geometric sections. Light comes downward from the circular windows of the dome, and changes throughout the day. The interior is given touches of color by circular blue and white ceramic plaques made by the sculptor Luca Della Robbia. The architecture of the chapel is based on an arrangement of rectangles, rather than squares, which makes it appear slightly less balanced than his chapel in old Sacristy of San Lorenzeo

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Santa Maria degli Angeli 

Santa Maria degli Angeli 1434-1437 was an unfinished project by Brunelleschi which introduced a revolutionary concept in Renaissance architecture. Churches since the Romanesque and Gothic periods were traditionally in the form of a cross, with the altar in the transept or crossing point. Santa Maria deli Angeli was designed as a rotunda in an octagon shape, with eight equal sides, each containing a chapel, and the altar in the center.

The financing of the church came from the legacy of two Florentine merchants, Matteo and Andrea Scolari, and construction commenced in 1434. However, in 1437, the money for the church was seized by the Florentine government to help finance a war against the neighboring city of Lucca. The structure, which had reached a height of seven meters, was never completed as Brunelleschi designed it. The completed part was later integrated into a later church of a different design.

The plans and model of Brunelleschi's church disappeared, and it is known only from an illustration in the Codex Rustichi from 1450, and from drawings of other architects. Leon Battista Alberti, in his De re aedificatoria, the first major treatise on Renaissance architecture, written in about 1455 and published in 1485, hailed the design as the "first complete plan of a Renaissance church." Leonardo Da Vinci, visited Florence in about 1490, studied Brunelleschi's churches and plans, and sketched a plan for a similar octagonal church with radiating chapels in his notebooks. It reached its fruition on an even larger scale in the 16th century. Donato Bramante proposed a similar central plan with radiating chapels for his Tempieto, and later, on an even larger scale, in his plan for Saint Peter's Basilica (1485–1514).The central plan was finally realized, with some modifications, beginning in 1547, in Saint Peter's by Michelangelo and then its completed version by Carlo Maderna.

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Florence Cathedral Dome

Please look at the sub page - dedicated to the famous dome - a Brunelleschi masterpiece that is symbolic of Florence.

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WARNING  If you cut and paste any of these links from which the above information is sourced you will do what I did ; be fascinated, in rapture, and absolutely immersed in the wonderous world of Renaissance Italy and lose many many hours of your life! PLEASE ENJOY , HOWEVER !!! xx Ciao Anna

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