Patronage, Power, and Agency in Medieval Art

Edited by Colum Hourihane

Paperback - £27.95

Publication date:

15 November 2013

Length of book:

368 pages


the Index of Christian Art, Princeton University

ISBN-13: 9780983753742

Although the concept of patronage has long been central to medieval studies, it is still not well understood. In order to identify the person or institution responsible for the work, scholars have attempted to impose principles across a broad range of works to which they may or may not apply. In many cases this has prevented a full understanding of the work. As the essays in this volume demonstrate, the key to understanding patronage is to realize that a variety of contexts and situations may exist that prevent one definition from being imposed. The concept of patronage relates to issues such as gender, social and economic history, as well as the world of politics, and the many possible roles of the patron can range from paying for the work to designing it to using it. But we do not know what input the artist had, or how influential he or she may have been. The essays in this volume, from those that look at patronage from a theoretical perspective to individual case studies, highlight our need to look at the subject anew.

The contributors are Adelaide Bennett, Sheila Bonde, Jill Caskey, Robin Cormack, Anne Derbes, Aden Kumler, Claudine Lautier, Julian Luxford, Clark Maines, Nigel Morgan, Elizabeth Carson Pastan, Stephen Perkinson, Lucy Freeman Sandler, Corine Schleif, and Benjamin Zweig.

“This volume is the fifteenth in the excellent series of occasional papers published by the Index of Christian Art following the Index’s annual conference. Offering multifaceted, fresh perspectives on the theme of patronage in medieval art, the book presents fourteen essays by scholars at various stages of their careers. All of the authors deal with theories and assumptions about patronage, but the volume is structured so that the first and last essays are methodological pieces bookending twelve fascinating case studies. Although most of these concern late medieval works, the volume presents a wide chronological and geographic range of material and a diverse body of media, from Byzantine icons to late Gothic manuscripts and much in between. . . . Although very different, the essays hang well together, and the volume will spur further scholarly conversations. In addition, the handsome presentation of the book, with excellent color images, as well as its accessible price, will make it extremely useful for teaching. Once again, the Index is to be congratulated for this successful synthesis of high quality scholarship.”

—Holly Flora, Renaissance Quarterly