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A patron [ mɛt͜seːn ] (also patronage , female patron or patroness ) is a person who supports an institution municipal entity or person with money or monetary funds in the implementation of a project, without a direct return to demand. The name patron is derived from the Etruscan and Roman Gaius Cilnius Maecenas , who promoted poets like Virgil , Properz and Horace in the Augustan era .

Definition of terms

Patrons can sponsor institutions such as museums , universities or orchestras as well as individuals.

Patrons can be sponsors of art or, for example, university graduates who support science by appearing as patrons to their former university. Many universities have an alumni association to promote this form of patronage.

The work of patrons is purely voluntary, so it can be canceled at any time without giving reasons.

An important function of patronage is, among other things, the promotion of suitable projects of social importance.

Euergetism (from ancient Greek εὐεργέτης euergétēs " benefactor ") is also related to patronage . The main thing here is to demonstrate power and influence through doing good to the community.

Patronage differs from sponsoring in that it is not based on any commercial benefit expectation from the patron ( altruistic action). Many patrons even consider it important not to be named.

To describe state or public funding (e.g. composition commissions from public broadcasting) as patronage is a mistake insofar as the mandate of these institutions is to promote the development of art.


One example is a political manifestation of patronage based on the Medici family in Florence in the 15th century .

In 2010, the two well-known multi-billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffett started the campaign The Giving Pledge (English for The promise to give something ). It is an attempt to “get wealthy families to think about how they can use their wealth wisely.” By early August they had already convinced 40 billionaires to donate at least half of their wealth to charity. Buffett also announced that after his death he would leave 99 percent of his fortune for charity.

Well-known patrons

German-speaking area


See also


  • Joachim Bumke : Patrons in the Middle Ages. The patrons and patrons of court literature in Germany 1150–1300. Beck, Munich 1979, ISBN 3-406-04871-4 .
  • Peter Hirschfeld: Patrons. The role of the client in art (= Art Studies. Vol. 40, ISSN  0170-9186 ). Deutscher Kunstverlag, Berlin et al. 1968.
  • Francis Haskell : painter and client. Art and Society in the Italian Baroque. With an afterword by Werner Busch . DuMont, Cologne 1996, ISBN 3-7701-3795-7 .
  • Nikolaus Turner: In the name of Maecenas for art. Art and culture promotion through foundations. In: the scales. Journal of Grünenthal GmbH , Volume 35, Aachen 1996, number 3 (pp. 89-133: Foundations ), pp. 111-118.

Web links

Wiktionary: Patrons  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Philanthropists by country  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. 40 US billionaires want to donate half of their wealth. In: . August 5, 2010. Retrieved April 25, 2012.
  2. Stefan Kummer : Architecture and fine arts from the beginnings of the Renaissance to the end of the Baroque. In: Ulrich Wagner (Hrsg.): History of the city of Würzburg. 4 volumes; Volume 2: From the Peasants' War in 1525 to the transition to the Kingdom of Bavaria in 1814. Theiss, Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-8062-1477-8 , pp. 576–678 and 942–952, here: pp. 628–647 ( Die Greiffenclau- Time ).