Patrons exerted a strong influence on the creation and execution of art in Italy between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries. Art served specific functions so that artists were paid to produce exactly what the patron wanted. The artist could be creative to the extent of his natural and acquired capacity but always within the conditions imposed by the patron. The system of patronage was a commercial process and artwork therefore reflected both seller and buyer. "The work was viewed as a product of two energies in which the artist articulated, by rendering shapes, the message assigned by the patron. This most often made the patron the more interesting figure" as it was the patron, not the artist, who was seen by contemporaries as the creator of the project.
Wealthy and powerful patrons would commission works of art which were invariably linked to the economical and political structures of the area or in the context of religious duty.
In Italy, an absolute ruler (political or religious) invariably dominated the cultural life of the city. He spent lavishly on providing visual evidence of wealth and status and knew the value of arts as propaganda.
This pattern was different in Florence where the city was governed by wealthy merchants and bankers who were responsible for commissioning much of the art for the churches and chapels of Florence during the fifteenth century. This group of powerful families wanted to show the world that their learning, piety and taste made them worthy of their high standing in society. Among the greatest patrons were members of the powerful Medici family, who spent money on constructing churches and encouraging art. The works date from the time of Lorenzo de Medici whom Machiavelli called "the greatest patron of art and literature that any prince has ever been".