A wealthy family could show its prominence by commissioning artwork. This form of exchange was known as patronage. Arguably most famously, the Medici family of Florence were the patrons of many artists. They paid for such pieces as Sandro Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, Michelangelo’s Tomb of Lorenzo Medici, and Donatello’s bronze David.
Through these commissions, many artists gained fame and recognition, which led to more projects and the ability to make a living through art.
Patrons considered artists skilled workers, comparable to blacksmiths, artisans, and other valuable manual laborers of the time. As these artists gained fame and developed new artistic techniques, they could charge patrons more for their works. By and large, the bigger the work, the more expensive it was for the patron.
The Catholic Church commissioned many pieces of art – such as frescos, statues, and the paintings within buildings (i.e., Michelangelo’s ceiling in the Sistine Chapel). If they needed to raise money to support the artists, the church would tax Christians throughout Europe.
The Italian Renaissance, time and again, has shown that the wealthy and powerful financially supported artists through commissioned works.