Patron-Artist Relations in the Renaissance

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Patron-Artist Relations in the Renaissance

The subject of artist-patron relations has been a touchy one since the beginning of the phenomenon. Nowadays it does not take such great precedence, as the artist leans more toward a personal, individual type of art typical of freelance. Serious commissions exist only in public art and architecture, where the needs and feelings of a large group are considered. Artist and patron must work out a compromise as to what is acceptable and also respects the aims of the artist. The patron in this case generally has the last word, as demonstrated by Richard Serra's "Tilted Arc" controversy in the mid-80s where the artist's piece was actually removed from its site because of public objection. However, nowadays the artist is insured against such damages, which was not the case in the beginning of the Renaissance, when artists were just starting to make a name for themselves. At this time, artists still depended greatly on patronage for a living and fought to distinguish themselves from the guild system. They still succumbed to religious guidelines and subject matter which generally limited their exploration of more personal means of expression, but with the rise of secular art collectors such as the Medici, we see a more modern artist-patron relationship emerging. By so distinguishing themselves in their field, patrons gave them certain leeway in commissions. Patrons and artists worked together, the patron outlining material, size, and general subject matter, but leaving aesthetic decisions concerning composition up to the best judgment of the artist--- the master--- himself.

Although there is evidence of a lord-servant type of relationship between the patron and artist in several documents--- Domenico Venenziano writes to a lead Florentine patron, speaking of his "low condition" and how "duty-bound" he is to the patron ; Matteo de' Pasti writes to his patron about specific details concerning the subject matter of...
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