The 16th-century art was influenced by rivals between the towns and the Church, between rich and poor. Acts of patronage occurred within the larger context of the ‘artistic process.’ During the 16th century, culturally significant body postures and gestures, themes, and even social values were emphasized by artists tied to a society’s important political, social, and religious institutions. The most popular artists of this period were Da Vinci, Botticelli, and Michelangelo, Sangallo and Maderno, Raphael, and Donatello. These artists depicted everyday life and religious scenes typical of this historical age. Humanistic ideas penetrated the art, but they could not change the traditions of painting and social ideology (Cunningham and Reich, 2005). Church occupied a dominant position in a society dictated by its rules and practices, values, and morals of people. The majority of artworks depicted religious scenes, themes, and symbols popularized by the Church. Affecting continuity and change in any art tradition, wealthy patrons (and Church) encouraged production through direct request, as well as through anonymous consumption. Additionally, they introduce the completed work into the broader social environment, where it functioned and was evaluated by the larger community. The patron mediated between the artist and the larger community. Although creative innovation originated with the artist, the patron ultimately approved and supported the artist’s interpretation. The final art product became a tangible embodiment of the interaction of patron demand, individual artistic creativity, and existing prototypes (Cunningham and Reich, 2005).
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The social value of art can be explained as a process of investigating and evaluating the outside world, its rules, and practices. To some extent, art patrons received a chance to manipulate and control social values. Patron-artist relations, such as those between the Church and artists, tended to be governed by rules of procedure and production that encouraged artistic change only within strict limitations. Although they were still affected by expectations about proper role behaviors, the sequence of events and the outcome were not predetermined. There was more opportunity for innovation and change in production and product. During this period of time, there were no art products created for self-consumption or on behalf of a spirit entity. Artists looked inwardly for inspiration rather than negotiating form and subject matter with external patrons. In some cases, artists were motivated by a desire to demonstrate artistic virtuosity (Cunningham and Reich, 2005). Acting as their own patrons, these artists, unfettered by patron demands, were more likely to innovate and expand the boundaries of an art tradition. Thus, these traditions popularized the dominant position of the Church and the divine power of the king and wealthy. The rulers were again rich enough to resume large-scale patronage, while the vicious competitiveness itself mirrored the fruitful strife of the Italian city and provided the perfect seedbed for the “new.” There was a separation of culture, a “high” culture of a social and intellectual elite, and a “low” culture of a peasant. During the 16th century, the social and intellectual elite excluded a secondary ideology from their ideas and was influenced by the great philosophers such as Galileo, Aquinas, Augustine, and literary books as Bible, Boccaccio’s “Decameron, Mandeville’s “Travels,” etc. The social and intellectual elite was the keeper of “high” morals and philosophical ideas during both centuries. The popular culture of the social and intellectual elite was primarily viewed by strong traditions of people, as well as religious dogmas. For instance, Raphael is well known for his frescos and scenes from Genesis, da Vinci is – The Last Supper, and “The Baptism of Christ” (Cunningham and Reich, 2005). Inquisition and Church were supported by this knowledge-creating a mixture of theological and philosophical beliefs. Social norms started to play a greater role than Church and were seen as a priority; a great deal of time and effort was given to the obtrusion of religious dogmas. The development of social and state institutions such as higher courts changed traditions and required a change. During the 16TH century, the social and intellectual elite did not want to change beliefs of people radically, but it tried to change them in order to keep influence and power.
Cunningham, L.S., Reich, J.J. (2005). Culture and Values, A survey of the Humanities, Volume two, sixth edition. Wordsworth.