Patrons Through Time

My Time Machine

Last week, I traveled through time to Florence, Italy, just on the edge of the Palazzo de la Signoria. The first thing that my eyes fell on was the statue standing in the center. King David stared at me through his unseeing marble eyes as he leaned back onto his right foot. The quiet threat of the sling slung over his shoulder in preparation for his fight with Goliath (Sebastianelli). Upon further observance, I discovered that David’s right hand was not proportional to the rest of his body, it was larger than it should have been, his, as the Italians say “manu fortis,” or “strong hand”, representing his strength and his only chance to take down his gigantic enemy (Sebastianelli).

Enthralled in the beauty of the statue, I saw a man pass in front of me. Pulling him aside, I quietly asked, “Who is that?”

“That’s the statue of David,” said the man, “It was unveiled last week. Amazing how the Operai (Overseers of the Office of Works of the Duomo) would pay for such an amazing statue and put it outside for everyone to see, huh?” (Sebastianelli).

“Yeah,” I said.

Curious about other public pieces, I then traveled to St. Peter’s Basilica and headed straight to the Sistine Chapel. The ceiling was breathtaking. Pictures of stories from the bible and famous Christian images adorned the panels above my head. Around the edges, I could see pictures of prophets. On the center of the right edge sat Ezekiel in red and purple robes speaking to a young man on his right. And there on the edge sat Zacharaih in his red and green robes reading his book. But the most beautiful images were those in the center. The nine paintings showed major stories from the Bible. Stories like the flood, the original sin, and creation stared down at me, but none of the images caught my eye as much as “The Creation of Adam”, in which God in his white and red robe and supported by angels, reached out to Adam, a young man, who reaches back as God breathes the life into him (Sistine). After staring for a while, I suddenly heard a voice behind me.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” said the man. I turned quickly in my shock only to see Pope Sixtus IV standing behind me, in full “pope garb”. “I commissioned Michelangelo to paint it, and paid him handsomely, but it was worth it. Every inch of his painting is magnificent,” (Sistine).

All I could muster as a response was a murmured “Yes.”

I left the room shivering with excitement. As soon as I got out of the building, I ran for the time machine, one question present in my mind: “If the public art is like this now, what’s it like the present?”

When I returned to my time, I found myself in Chicago, standing in front of what looked like a giant bean covered in a mirror. The giant paneled structure made of what, upon closer observation, appeared to be stainless steel, reflected the sky of Chicago beautifully, brightening the area (Cloud). I turned to a man next to me who was gazing up at the piece.

“What is this piece of art?” I asked.

“This is the Cloud Gate,” he responded, “It was created by Anish Kapoor, and commissioned by AT&T (Cloud). It’s kind of amazing how even though it seems to have nothing to do with a company, much art today seems to be a manifestation of corporate power.”

Agreeing, and thanking him for the information, I entered my time machine thinking. Although it was a completely different type of art than what I had seen back in Italy, it was still quite impressive, and very beautiful. I had seen many pieces of art around the city streets of my home town of San Fransisco, but there was one in particular that stuck in my memory. I decided, that for my last trip of the day, I would go and visit one of the “Hearts in San Fransisco” in Union Square at present time.

Jumping back into the time machine, I set off, and soon arrived at the bottom of Nob Hill, just off the corner of Union square. In front of me stood a giant heart with a map of the world painted on the surface and covered in words to a poem all on top of a bright yellow background (Heroes). This art was not as overwhelming as the other pieces of art, until I asked a man near me about the story behind it.

“That’s one of the ‘hearts in San Fransisco’. This specific one was painted by Dana King, and it called ‘Global Prescription”. These hearts are all over the city, and are commissioned by the San Fransisco General Hospital for a fundraiser for it. Major corporations such as Chevron help to pay for the project, and in turn, help the hospital,” (Heroes)

“Wow,” I thought to myself as I got back into my time machine on my way back home, “Patronage is so interesting. Art is commissioned for personal reasons, for the pleasure of the public, for advertizing and for fundraising, and that’s just a few of the reasons. It would seem that patronage is a necessary thing for art, but it has evolved so much since the Renaissance, I wonder how it will be in the future.”

Works Cited:

“Cloud Gate in Millennium Park.” Explore Chicago. City of Chicago, n.d. Web. 29 Feb. 2012. <;.

“Heroes and Hearts 2012.” San Fransisco General Hospital Foundation. San Fransisco General Hospital Foundation, 2012. Web. 28 Feb. 2012. <;.

Sebastianelli, Geoffrey. “Michelangelo’s David.” Penn State Univeristy, n.d. Web. 29 Feb. 2012. <;.

“Sistine Chapel.” Vatican Museums. The Vatican, n.d. Web. 1 Mar. 2012. <;.



  1. amandagowithit

    Wow, Alex, super interesting post! I like the insights you had about the different types or art, and I really liked the feeling that you were painting a picture for me. But from all the observations you made about all the different art works, would you say that art had similarity in the three different pieces than we think?

  2. mralexacademic2014

    Hi Amanda,
    Thanks for reading, I’m glad that you enjoyed it! I believe that of course, the art is similar in a few ways, but, for the most part, I find that they are very different. Of the similarities, there is of course the fact that two of the pieces are paintings, and that two are sculptures. There is also, of course, as the title shows, that all of the pieces were financed by an outside patron. Unfortunately, other than these two similarities, I cannot find very many others. Thanks again for reading!

  3. natalie518

    Hey Alex, nice job on your blog post! I liked the story-like nature of your post; it made the blog very interesting to read.
    You say that patronage has evolved a great deal from the Renaissance to now, and of course you cite many examples. Do you think that people’s attitude toward art has changed along with patronage? Because in the Renaissance, art could be seen as a measure of wealth, whereas now that’s not really its purpose. What do you think the “everyday person” thinks when they encounter public art?
    Nice job!

  4. mralexacademic2014

    Hi Natalie,
    Thanks for your great comment. As you point out, attitudes have changed when it comes to art, and you correctly point out that it is no longer a measure of wealth. Because of this, I find that, while cities and major companies still commission art, it is much less common for a regular person to do so, and thus, as patronage changed, people, I believe, started viewing it less as a measure of wealth, and more as something enjoyable to look out. As for your second question, I find that, while people tend to enjoy public art, they do not always pay much attention to it, and don’t think about it much.
    Thanks for reading,

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