Quality choices in the production of Renaissance art: Botticelli and demand



This article considers the impact that high demand had on the production and thus the quality of works of art. Considering Botticelli as a case study, and employing economic theory on reputation and demand, it argues that master painters made choices about the levels of excellence they produced. Drawing on the documentary and technical evidence concerning four of Botticelli's important altarpieces, the article demonstrates, through attention to the painter's approaches to design, preparation and painting technique, how Botticelli managed and controlled quality on a case-by-case basis in the workshop. It also argues that Botticelli maintained two individual strands of production, and that these amounted to methods of conceptualizing works of art. Referring to anthropological theory and drawing on the influential work of Hans Körner on Botticelli's workshop and the way works in series were produced, the research underlines the relationship between derivative works of art and issues of excellence and demand.