ArtLex Art Dictionary



ppatron - Someone who supports, protects, or champions somebody or something such as an institutuion, an event, or a cause; a sponsor or benefactor. In Europe, until the growth of the middle classes in the nineteenth century, when more and more patrons of the arts were wealthy merchants and industrialists, most patrons of the arts were either leaders of the aristocracy or of the Catholic church. Now some of them have made their fortunes with profits from products like the device you're looking at right now!

Artists have often made their patrons the subjects of their work.




Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, 1853-1890), Portrait of Dr. Paul Gachet (1828-1909), June 1890 (Auvers-sur-Oise), oil on canvas, 26 x 22 1/2 inches (66 x 57 cm), private collection, NY, F 753. Dr. Gachet was a physician who specialized in homeopathy and psychiatry. He was a consistently helpful and generous patron and friend to numerous artists. On the recommendation of Pissarro, Gachet took van Gogh into his house in 1890. See bad-debt art and Post-Impressionism.






see thumbnail to rightEdvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944), Count Harry Kessler, 1906, oil on canvas, Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin. Harry Kessler was a German patron of avant-garde art and design who died in 1937. See portrait.


When museum officials speak of patrons, they are referring to the people who support their institutions with donations of money and/or works of art.

Various gods and saints have been considered patrons of various professions. Examples:


see thumbnail to leftJohan Gregor van der Schardt (Dutch, 1530- about 1580), Mercury, Bologna, Italy, 1570-1580, bronze, height 45 1/4 inches (115 cm), J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu, CA. In Greek and Roman mythology Mercury was messenger to Jupiter and served as patron of travel, commerce, science, and thievery. Van der Schardt has given Mercury several attributes that signify his speediness: his sandals and hat sprout wings. The caduceus he carries remind us of Mercury's role as patron of science.





see thumbnail to rightMaster of Balaam (Dutch), St. Eligius in His Studio, c. 1450, engraving on paper, 11.5 x 18.5 cm, Rijksmuseum, Netherlands. St. Eligius, patron saint of blacksmiths, jewelers, and metal workers is working in a metalsmiths workshop. "He is hammering a goblet into shape on his anvil. Three other people are working in the studio: a master smith and two apprentices. The table is covered with tools. On the right, hammers, tongs and files hang in orderly rows against the wall. On the left is the furnace....  St. Eligius (c. 590-660) was born near Limoges (in modern France). Despite his humble beginnings he succeeded in becoming a goldsmith at the Frankish court. He entered the clergy and was later appointed Bishop of Noyon around 641."

In Roman Catholic tradition, the patron saints of arts and education related occupations:

 Saint  Patron of
 Angelico  artists
 Bernadino of Siena  advertisers
 Cecelia  musicians, poets, singers
 David  poets
 Eligius  blacksmiths, jewelers, metalworkers
 Gregory  singers
 Gregory the Great  musicians, teachers
 James  laborers
 John Baptist de la Salle  teachers
 John of God  printers
 Louis  sculptors
 Lucy  glassworkers, writers
 Luke  artists   painters, sculptors, glassworkers
 Thomas (Apostle)  architects, builders
 Thomas Aquinas  philosophers, scholars, students
 Vitus  actors, comedians, dancers
 Zita  scholars




Also see collection, deaccession, donation, loan, muses, museum, and patronage.



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