Junior Pro-Seminar: Discerning the Art Patron in Medieval and Renaissance Europe
210 Tappan Hall
MTuWTh 10:00-11:30am
Spring - 3 Credit Seminar

Art objects can serve as material evidence of the social and cultural milieu of medieval and renaissance Europe. They can also provide the modern-day viewer with clues into the lives of those for whom these luxury objects were made. This course will introduce the complex and varied nature of art patronage in fifteenth and sixteenth century Europe. During this time, art was often custom-ordered by individuals, groups, or even entire towns from courtly, merchant, or religious spheres of life. Famous artists were commissioned by patrons from the far reaches of Europe to craft elaborate, exquisite art objects which functioned as signifiers of wealth and status. Golden, glistening altarpieces, bejewelled metalworks, and vibrant manuscripts are among those luxury art objects that were sought-after by kings and merchants alike. The richer, more opulent the materials, the better! The sixteenth century also marked the rise of art markets stocked with ready-made objects that were aimed at the burgeoning middle-class. Changes in art patronage mirrored those of society. As towns grew and people outside of court circles gained wealth, different art media and types of imagery began to be popularized. In this course, we will take a closer look at what types of people were involved in the commissioning of art. Did these people have specific motives? Does the art reflect certain tastes or desires? We will begin the course with an overview of art patronage, looking at major commissions in both northern and southern centres, and conclude with an extended exploration of patrons from the more peripheral edges of Europe. We will begin to see that patrons of art were well-connected, regardless of their geographical location, and that their tastes reflected a mediation of individual and more cosmopolitan interests. Larger concepts that will connect to our study of art patronage include trade, cultural exchange, and issues of identity. Estimated cost of materials: less than $50. D. 2, 3

Bernt Notke, Saint George and the Dragon, c. 1488-90