The Patron's Payoff: Conspicuous Commissions in Italian Renaissance Art

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9780691125411: The Patron's Payoff: Conspicuous Commissions in Italian Renaissance Art


In The Patron's Payoff, Jonathan Nelson and Richard Zeckhauser apply the innovative methods of information economics to the study of art. Their findings, written in highly accessible prose, are surprising and important. Building on three economic concepts--signaling, signposting, and stretching--the book develops the first systematic methodology for assessing the meaning of art patronage and provides a broad and useful framework for understanding how works of art functioned in Renaissance Italy.


The authors discuss how patrons used conspicuous commissions to establish and signal their wealth and status, and the book explores the impact that individual works had on society. The ways in which artists met their patrons' needs for self-promotion dramatically affected the nature and appearance of paintings, sculptures, and buildings. The Patron's Payoff presents a new conceptual structure that allows readers to explore the relationships among the main players in the commissioning game--patrons, artists, and audiences--and to understand how commissioned art transmits information. This book facilitates comparisons of art from different periods and shows the interplay of artists and patrons working to produce mutual benefits subject to an array of limiting factors. The authors engage several art historians to look at what economic models reveal about the material culture of Italy, ca. 1300?1600, and beyond. Their case studies address such topics as private chapels and their decorations, donor portraits, and private palaces.


In addition to the authors, the contributors are Molly Bourne, Kelley Helmstutler Di Dio, Thomas J. Loughman, and Larry Silver.


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From the Inside Flap:

"If the idea appeals to you, of going back in time to the extraordinary period of the Renaissance in Italy with the patrons and the artists . . . to understand the incentives and the constraints, the opportunities and the missteps, then you must give this book a try. For me reading the book felt similar to visiting a great art museum in the company of a knowledgeable, insightful, and engaging curator: a thoroughly rewarding experience."--from the foreword by Michael Spence, 2001 Nobel laureate in economics

"Nelson and Zeckhauser have written a pathbreaking study on the role of artistic and architectural commissions in Renaissance Florence which, by its new and sophisticated methodology, employing game theory used in modern economics and political science, presents a model for similar studies of patronage in every era. Their analysis of the commissioning game is a must read for anyone interested in the hows and whys of artistic patronage during an era particularly sensitive to the possibilities presented by conspicuous consumption."--James Cuno, president and director, Art Institute of Chicago

"This genial and imaginative collaboration of art history and economic theory offers a genuinely original perspective on the commissioning game, and employs the economics of information to evaluate the patron's payoff."--Dale Kent, University of California, Riverside

"The Patron's Payoff is an innovative study of the messages artworks in Renaissance Italy tacitly communicated about the men and women who commissioned them. Nelson and Zeckhauser make a compelling case that the currency of the payoff for patrons embraced such critical social values as honor, status, family alliance, and friendship. Building their analysis upon recent economic theories, the authors offer a suggestive model for research in Renaissance studies and beyond."--Louis A. Waldman, Villa I Tatti--The Harvard Center for Italian Renaissance Studies

"A stimulating and challenging work, The Patron's Payoff offers a plausible new approach to artistic creation that has the benefit of a known set of economic tools and results. An interesting marriage between art historical and economics perspectives."--William N. Goetzmann, Yale University

"In applying a distinctive economic theory to the area of Renaissance patronage, this book fosters an interdisciplinary approach to the study of early modern European art."--Adrian Randolph, Dartmouth College

About the Author:

Jonathan K. Nelson is coordinator of art history at Syracuse University in Florence. He has written extensively on Michelangelo, Leonardo, Botticelli, and Filippino Lippi. Richard J. Zeckhauser is the Frank P. Ramsey Professor of Political Economy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. His most recent book is "Targeting in Social Programs".

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Jonathan K. Nelson, Richard J. Zeckhauser, Michael Spence (Foreword)
Editore: Princeton University Press (2008)
ISBN 10: 0691125414 ISBN 13: 9780691125411
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Jonathan K. Nelson; Richard J. Zeckhauser
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Jonathan K. Nelson, Richard J. Zeckhause
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