Patronage is the support, encouragement, privilege, or financial aid that an organization or individual bestows to another. In the history of art, arts patronage refers to the support that kings, popes, and the wealthy have provided to artists such as musicians, painters, and sculptors. It can also refer to the right of bestowing offices or church benefices, the business given to a store by a regular customer, and the guardianship of saints. The word "patron" derives from the Latin: patronus ("patron"), one who gives benefits to his clients (see Patronage in ancient Rome).
Rulers, nobles and very wealthy people used patronage of the arts to endorse their political ambitions, social positions, and prestige. That is, patrons operated as sponsors. Most languages other than English still use the term mecenate, derived from the name of Gaius Maecenas, generous friend and adviser to the Roman Emperor Augustus. Some patrons, such as the Medici of Florence, used artistic patronage to "cleanse" wealth that was perceived as ill-gotten through usury. Art patronage was especially important in the creation of religious art. The Roman Catholic Church and later Protestant groups sponsored art and architecture, as seen in churches, cathedrals, painting, sculpture and handicrafts.
Charitable and other non-profit making organisations often seek one or more influential figureheads to act as patron. The relationship often does not involve money. As well as conferring credibility, these people can use their contacts and charisma to assist the organisation to raise funds or to affect government policy. The British Royal Family are especially prolific in this respect, devoting a large proportion of their time to a wide range of causes.
The liturgical feast of the Patronage of Our Lady was first permitted by Decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites on 6 May 1679, for all the ecclesiastical provinces of Spain, in memory of the victories obtained over the Saracens, heretics and other enemies from the sixth century to the reign of Philip IV of Spain. Pope Benedict XII ordered it to be kept in the Papal States on the third Sunday of November. To other places it is granted, on request, for some Sunday in November, to be designated by the ordinary. In many places the feast of the Patronage is held with an additional Marian title of Queen of All Saints, of Mercy, Mother of Graces. The Office is taken entirely from the Common of the Blessed Virgin, and the Mass is the "Salve sancta parens".
Political leaders have at their disposal a great deal of patronage, in the sense that they make decisions on the appointment of officials inside and outside government (for example on quangos in the UK). Patronage is therefore a recognized power of the executive branch. In most countries the executive has the right to make many appointments, some of which may be lucrative (see also sinecures). In some democracies, high-level appointments are reviewed or approved by the legislature (as in the advice and consent of the United States Senate); in other countries, such as those using the Westminster system, this is not the case. Other types of political patronage may violate the laws or ethics codes, such as when political leaders engage in nepotism (hiring family members) and cronyism such as fraudulently awarding non-competitive government contracts to friends or relatives or pressuring the public service to hire an unqualified family member or friend.
After Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin's retirement from politics in March 1923 following a stroke, a power struggle began between Soviet Premier Alexei Rykov, Pravda editor Nikolai Bukharin, Profintern leader Mikhail Tomsky, Red Army founder Leon Trotsky, former Premier Lev Kamenev, Comintern leader Grigory Zinoviev, and General Secretary Joseph Stalin. Stalin used patronage to appoint many Stalinist delegates (such as Vyacheslav Molotov, Lazar Kaganovich, Grigory Ordzhonikidze, and Mikhail Kalinin) to the Party Politburo and Sovnarkom in order to sway the votes in his favour, making Stalin the effective leader of the country by 1929.
Political patronage is not always considered corrupt. In the United States, the U.S. Constitution provides the president with the power to appoint individuals to government positions. He or she also may appoint personal advisers without congressional approval. Not surprisingly, these individuals tend to be supporters of the president. Similarly, at the state and local levels, governors and mayors retain appointments powers. Some scholars have argued that patronage may be used for laudable purposes, such as the "recognition" of minority communities through the appointment of their members to a high-profile positions. Bearfield has argued that patronage be used for four general purposes: create or strengthen a political organization; achieve democratic or egalitarian goals; bridge political divisions and create coalitions; and to alter the existing patronage system.