To understand art during the Renaissance, you need to know about Patrons. Patronage of the arts began in the mid 1300's. This is a time when art is created to move you spiritually, creating a devotional object. The patron was the person who hired the artist to do the work, and this was typically to make the patron appear to be a spiritual person, one who was devoted to the Church and God. Lorenzo Medici was a huge patron of the arts, often having his image depicted in the painting, such as in the March of the Magi, in which Medici was shown on a horse and with a multitude of followers, establishing importance as a central figure in society.
Patronage of the arts was also a form of propaganda, showing the achievements of the patron. When patrons were asked to be portrayed in a painting, they would specifically request not to be in the religious scene, which would appear to be prideful. Female patrons were also in the scene, one being Isabella Di Este', who set the tone. She was painted to portray her power and control, and establishing patronage for herself and her family. She was a powerful woman, she was the one who contacted the Pope in Avignon and told him to come back to Rome. She told him that if he dies outside of Rome, that he would go to Hell, the Pope has never left Rome since then.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, becomes a major focal point of the church and portrayed in the arts. She was the beginning of the change in how women are viewed; she became the salvation of womanhood. The Pope was a huge patron of the arts. Some may have thought the Pope to be a humble, spiritual man, but he was just the opposite, he was very worldly and wanted to hold onto his power. He paid a great deal of money to rebuild the credibility of Rome, with the Vatican and St. Peter's Basilica. Money was spent on books and relearning the past through translating Greek Latin and Islamic transcripts.
Iconography In the Reniassance- A form of Renaissance art which uses symbols to represent things, for example, in the painting "Adoration of the Magi". This represents a Renaissance court theme. Strossi at this time was a member of a secret fraternal organization called The Magi, which was located in Florence. In the painting, there are spurs that are being removed representing the end of a journey, and representing the Florentine Spurs. We still use iconography to this day in advertising, also known as branding. Iconography was used to persuade the people to accept political issues, such as taxation. A painting used for this purpose was one depicting Jesus with his Apostles outside the city wall, and someone paying a tax to enter, while Jesus points to a homeless man. This represented that it was good to pay the tax in order to help the homeless, and if this was something that Jesus would do, how could the people not do it.
Michelangelo was the first artist who took the liberty to paint as he wished. The Pope had requested a certain scene and did not want the entire ceiling painted. Michelangelo had a different idea and went with it. Up until Michelangelo, the patrons controlled the art, but things changed when artists began to use Humanism to defend their individual work, and the art was then beginning to be credited to the artist and not the patron. This was a huge change in allowing artists to paint using their own, unique style.
Politics, Pope, and the Church
This was the era of the 'Birth of Kings', kings were important, an 'Era of Principalities'. Their crowns were associated with the states. Papal States were a means of providing for the Pope financially. The markets would sell goods and the Pope would collect taxes and duties from these states. There was a border that separated the north and south of Italy, an area in which the church had very little control. The Pope during this time was not playing the role of a spiritual leader, but the role of a politician. There were two Popes, the Pope of Italy, and the Pope of France. The Pope of France at this time was the "big Pope" and had more control. While the Pope of Italy was gone to Avignon, the people did not seem to care about him anymore. This played a very important role in the change of the church, and was when Mary and the Saints became the main focus instead of the Pope. Rome then goes through a very rough period when the Pope leaves; without the Pope, this city had no real value. Rome was inland and had no trade value, so without the church, it became somewhat of a lost city. The Black Plague hit the city, and they believed that they were being punished for the absence of the Pope. With the absence of the Pope, so was the central power that protected the city. The cities became vulnerable to the Princelings and soon the noble families moved in and took over.