Fine Art Collector | Spring 2018

Demonstrating the work’s political function, in addition to featuring over four hundred species of natural flora from the Florentine area, Botticelli’s painting also includes trees growing golden apples – the golden shape of the fruit most likely designed to bring to mind the Medici family insignia of golden spheres, which are also alluded to by similar shapes found in Gozzoli’s chapel mentioned above. As noted with the example of van Eyck, in addition to a patron’s power being symbolised in an artist’s work, being able to afford work by a leading artist became another way for patrons to demonstrate their material wealth and powerful influence. Demonstrating this point is the patronage of Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (better known simply as Michelangelo, 1475-1564) by both the Medici family and their bitter rivals the Catholic Papacy. Educated in Humanist thought by Francesco da Urbino in Florence, Michelangelo’s early career was supported by the Medici family. In the 1490’s the Medici were temporarily deposed in a backlash against Renaissance progress / Humanist views by the priest Girolamo Savonarola. During this period Michelangelo fled to Rome, returning only briefly to Florence after the execution of Savonarola in 1498, to complete the statue of David returned to Rome where he worked for a succession of Popes decorating first the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (1508-12, Fig. 5 ), then the Last (Fig. 4) . After completing the statue Michelangelo

Judgement (Fig. 6) on the altar wall and finally supervising the building of St. Peter’s Basilica (begun 1546). The achievements of Michelangelo are sometimes seen as the pinnacle of art – the standard of ‘genius’ to which all artists aspire. The elevated status of Michelangelo owes much to a biography of his life and work that was produced by Florentine painter Giorgio Vasari (1511-74) in his book entitled Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects of 1550, which is often considered to be the first art historical study. Whilst to some extent warranted, Vasari’s praise of Michelangelo, whom the former claimed had been his tutor, is excessive. Indeed at the time of writing, Vasari was attempting to obtain an important commission to paint murals in Florence town hall. What better way to secure the commission than by establishing himself, through his training by Michelangelo, as the heir to the great tradition of Florentine art. Whatever Vasari’s motive, his praise of Michelangelo is

important to the study of art history, and crucially reveals a growing desire among artists for greater recognition for their trade above that of merely craftsman status through the acquisition of that most desirable resource; a patron.


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