Changing Patrons: Social Identity and the Visual Arts in Renaissance Florence

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9780271023625: Changing Patrons: Social Identity and the Visual Arts in Renaissance Florence
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To whom should we ascribe the great flowering of the arts in Renaissance Italy? Artists like Botticelli and Michelangelo? Or wealthy, discerning patrons like Cosimo de' Medici? In recent years, scholars have attributed great importance to the role played by patrons, arguing that some should even be regarded as artists in their own right. This approach receives sharp challenge in Jill Burke's Changing Patrons, a book that draws heavily upon the author's discoveries in Florentine archives, tracing the many profound transformations in patrons' relations to the visual world of fifteenth-century Florence. Looking closely at two of the city's upwardly mobile families, Burke demonstrates that they approached the visual arts from within a grid of social, political, and religious concerns. Art for them often served as a mediator of social difference and a potent means of signifying status and identity.

Changing Patrons combines visual analysis with history and anthropology to propose new interpretations of the art created by, among others, Botticelli, Filippino Lippi, and Raphael. Genuinely interdisciplinary, the book also casts light on broad issues of identity, power relations, and the visual arts in Florence, the cradle of the Renaissance.

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About the Author:

Jill Burke is AHRB Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Art History Department, University of Edinburgh. In 2000–2001, she was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies.

Review:

“No one writing about Florentine and Italian art history will be able to ignore this elegant and probing book.”

—F.W. Kent, Director, Monash University at Prato

“Probing, concise and grounded in extensive research, Jill Burke’s Changing Patrons: Social Identity and the Visual Arts in Renaissance Florence is a major study in the current vein. . . . Drawing continually on archival documents, Burke does a masterly job of tracking the ascent of her two families, particularly as seen in the fortunes of their palazzo and religious commissions. Seldom have the ties between social identities and art of display objects been so convincingly shown.”

—Lauro Martines, Times Literary Supplement

“Burke's lucidly argued and well researched study proves to be a thought-provoking read whose significance goes well beyond a circle of readers interested in the study of patronage in Quattrocento Florence.”

—Gabriele Neher, The Art Book

“The great strengths of Changing Patrons are Burke’s archival research into the Nasi and Del Pugliese families and her willingness to examine this research from a broad societal perspective. . . . It is well researched and well informed and both broadens our knowledge of specific examples of Florentine patronage and studies these examples in new ways. . . . Burke should be praised for both indicating and demonstrating how ideas about artistic patronage might be reframed.”

—Barnaby Nygren, Sixteenth Century Journal

“Lucid explanations of artists’ contracts and the patronage of family chapels and building committees make Jill Burke’s first book an extremely useful introduction to ‘how the fifteenth-century [Florentine] patron could use paintings, sculptures, and buildings to mediate relationships with the wider world’ (p.189), and her thoughtful, often controversial, interpretations provide material for reflection.”

—Jonathan Katz Nelson, Burlington Magazine

“The study of patronage in Renaissance Florence has a rich history over the past half a century and Changing Patrons by Jill Burke provides a welcome new chapter. Her succinct historiographical introduction will surely provide essential reading not only for those wishing to work in this specific area but also for any student of Renaissance Florence.”

—Samuel Bibby, Object

“Burke’s lucidly argued and well researched study proves to be a thought-provoking read whose significance goes well beyond a circle of readers interested in the study of patronage in Quattrocento Florence.”

—Gabriele Neher, The Art Book

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