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Changing Patrons

Social Identity and the Visual Arts in Renaissance Florence

Jill Burke


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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.

Penn State University Press, 9780271023625, 296pp.

Publication Date: May 13, 2004

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.