patron [Lat., = like a father], one who lends influential support to some person, cause, art or institution. Patronage existed in various ancient cultures but was primarily a Roman institution. In Roman law the lord was patronus (protector or defender) in relation to his freedmen and to others, known as his clients, whom he represented in the senate and before tribunals. Under the Roman Empire the term was applied to persons like Maecenas who supported artists and writers. Perhaps the most munificent patronage occurred in Italy during the Renaissance under patrons such as the Medici, the Sforza, and many popes. Francis I of France and his sister Margaret of Navarre were distinguished patrons of art and letters; a famous English patron was Lord Chesterfield. Since ancient times Christians have honored patron saints as tutelary guardians of persons, institutions, places, and crafts. Historically, artists have depended on institutional (e.g., government and church) as well as individual patronage; Picasso's Guernica and Chagall's stained glass windows are examples of commissioned works. Universities and private foundations have also become important sources of patronage for artists.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.