Avid for power and control, with a true obsession for details, yet hot-blooded lovers for any kind of art – from Caravaggio’s strong and full colors to Hayez’s Romantic portraits, without forgetting the passion for sculpture, literature, and any kind of ‘accentuation’ of beauty. This is what the most well-known families of bankers have been searching for throughout their whole life, especially from the Enlightenment onwards. They did not simply focus on numbers, numbers, and other numbers, but loved playing the role of the patron of the arts, the collector, and the philanthropist. Indeed, many of these found in art a way to boost their success and social image; others, on the other hand, loved the idea of transforming their enormous capitals into something symbolic, that could not only benefit their current community but also future generations.
“The purpose of art is to stop time” – giving you the chance to finally enjoy, bite after bite, what life really offers you, without any worry, to finally stop that whirlwind that obsesses your mind.
One of the very first examples of such patronage can be found in the figure of Cosimo De Medici. Banker and politician, active in the Republic of Florence of the XIV century, he commissioned important public activities, such as the renovation of Convento San Marco. Stoic and marked by the true refusal of any form of materialistic prestige, his private patronage focused on the protection of relevant artists such as Donatello (the David was directly commissioned by him!) and Filippo Lippi.
Two other important families of bankers, who still play a crucial role in our current financial setting, are the Rothschild & the Morgans. The first, thanks to the figure of Nathaniel Von Rothschild and his love for Boucher, elegant yet exuberant use of curving natural forms started populating what will become one of the largest art collections in the world. The Morgan family, on the other hand, embraced a full and rounded ‘passion for the arts’, by opening the Pierpoint Morgan Library, collecting books, prints, but also manuscripts, and famous artworks from Cezanne, van Gogh, and Rembrandt.
Wealth produces beauty, and at the very same time, this latter amplifies the value of money, thus leading to a beautiful yet complex intertwined dance, two true opposites that attract each other through centuries of history and development. This is exactly what Raffaele Mattioli believed. One of the most prestigious figures for the Banca Commerciale Italiana, Mattioli has been a true fine art lover, he is remembered as a great connoisseur of many classic authors, from Shakespeare to Balzac, and for his long-lasting friendship with the world- famous Gabriele D’Annunzio and David Rockefeller.
Art is a way of communicating something – the need to stop, to enjoy the pleasure of the slowness of time, to find a true significance in life. Although material as wealth, art has the power to let you travel into world and dimensions, touching your heart in the deepest yet pure way possible. And this is what all these successful patrons have searched for during their tremendous careers and lives.
*All the content has been inspired by the visioning of ‘Dai Medici ai Rothschild’ at Gallerie D’Italia.