This exhibition (until 11 January, 2004) concentrates on a patron rather than a single artist; it traces the patronage of Renaissance banker, Bindo Altoviti. A staunch opponent of the Medici family, Altoviti was himself one of the most affluent and influential men in Italy. Born into wealth and already a prominent figure at the age of 16 when he inherited his father’s bank, Altoviti maintained a dynamic relationship with the arts. Most of the 24 pieces in the show come from Altoviti’s personal collection, which has been scattered across museums in Europe and the US. Brought together, the show reveals Altoviti’s vast and varied appreciation of celebrated artists such as Raphael, Michelangelo, Cellini and Vasari, while in turn displaying the artists’ own admiration of a generous benefactor. The highlights of the show are two equally striking portraits of the patron, which have not been shown together in over 200 years. Raphael’s portrait (detail left), painted soon after Altoviti came into his inheritance, is an image of Apollonian youth: beautiful, powerful and artistic. Cellini’s bronze bust, by contrast, depicts Altoviti when older, a benevolent patron of the arts and also a fervent supporter of the Republic.
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Raphael, Cellini and a Renaissance banker: the patronage of Bindo Altoviti. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston'