Today’s brand-building through corporate-named stadiums and celebrity endorsements is nothing new. In fact, such marketing can be traced back to the Italian Renaissance. Virginia Postrel pens a fascinating article for Bloomberg that describes how “Renaissance art is full of status signals and calculated image-building — once-obvious messages that today’s tourists never notice.”
Brand-building through misleading images wasn’t invented on Madison Avenue or Hollywood. Many of Florence’s Renaissance treasures are monuments to exaggeration for the purposes of self-promotion. The medium may have changed, but the motives haven’t.
The Renaissance patrons who paid for all those frescoes, paintings, altar pieces and sculptures weren’t generally funding beauty for its own sake. They were buying status — building their brands, we’d say today. Their patronage showed off their wealth and piety and, in many cases, advertised their supposed links to the prestigious and powerful. In the process, these patrons often shaded the truth, leaving out unflattering facts and suggesting associations they didn’t in fact have.
I’ll never view Renaissance art in the same way again.
Read the whole thing.
- Dynamist.com: Virginia Postrel’s website
- The Patron’s Payoff: Conspicuous Commissions in Italian Renaissance Art by Jonathan K. Nelson and Richard J. Zeckhauser