Dreda loaned it to me (for more than I thought was proper, but she was very accommodating to my schedule) and within this dissertation I was able to become much more acquainted with the day to day living of the artists of the time period that I am studying in Italy.
Artists' contracts were essentially work contracts that were not involved with wage or salary, but with the fabrication of a particular object. In Italy, the contract was known as the allogagione or the allocatione. Each allogagione had stipulations, descriptions of the artwork desired, the nature and quality of the materials to be used, time limits as to when the piece or pieces were to be finished and price and manner of payment. There are rules about the authentication of the contract which I will go into later. There is even detail about what the medieval documents were written on. Glasser details several allogagione as well as contract stipulations after the initial contract, and the inevitable litigation and arbitration when things did not go according to the contract. The development of the work contract came into being as the emerging free worker/tradesman appears in just before the 12th century. No longer were works of art manufactured only in a monastery or under a feudal arrangement, but via a personal contract with the artist.
The author states that the physical contract, contrary to what I thought, was for the most part on paper, not parchment. There were regional variations, with the Northern Europe artists using parchment and several copies of the contract were written on one sheet of parchment that was then separated. The Italians instead tended to use the notary's contract which was on paper, not parchment, with the notary recording the stipulations of contracts in his own notebooks or prepared a draft on paper. As a result of the importance of the notary both in social and legal affairs in Italy, the notebooks and paper copies of the contract prevailed in Italy. The author of the dissertation lists a handful of contracts done on parchment, and even those have notations where they were recopied from an original notary's record, most likely on paper. The notary served as the educated man, the one that could read and write and whom preserved the format in his formula books of legal concept. The parties to the contract might not be able to sign their own name, so that the notary's signature made the document valid. The physical contract would also be written two or three times and then separated, being cut on a line which was written in large letters a word (often Chirographum or Cyrographym - defined as that which is written in one's own hand), said word being cut in half. The third copy was a safeguard for the parties and was often deposited in a public place.
The form of the contract had distinct parts, including the opening protocol, the contents of the pact and the closing protocol. The opening protocol would contain an invocation which varied according to location that the contract was being drafted, the most common being "In Nomine Domine" or "Al Nome di Dio" invoking God's presence into the contract. The contents of the pact included in an average contract would be the date of the contract, the parties to the contract, the place where the contract is negotiated, the patron's full name, title or occupation, as well as all the information on the artist. The artist's name will be written, as well as his father, and sometimes even his grandfather, with the author alluding to the duplication of given names in Italy at this time. "Magister" or "Maestro" is almost always written after the name of the artist, which is then followed with his specific craft, be it painter, sculptor, goldsmith or woodcarver and followed possibly with the artist's city of origin. For example, "Michaelangelo Ludovici de Bonarrotis, scupltori et civi florentino". from G. Milenesi Le lettere di Miachelangelo Buronarroti ricordi ed i contratti artistici, Florence, 1875, doc. VI, pp 625-626. The closing protocol would include the witnesses, and the notary's signature, with his printed name and titles. The signature alone of the notary was authentication of the acceptance of the contract by both parties in most cases.
One of the interesting features of these contracts were that some of them were commissioned by guild committees known as operai, especially in Florence. These operai would function on behalf of their city's religious buildings to find the right artists for their specific project, arrange for the contract and see that the work was ultimately done. They had certain styles in mind, and might even want an exact duplicate of the original piece that had been in place, but damaged over time, not something in a different style. Often the artist would be required to present to the operai or the individual patron a preliminary drawing (disegno) or model (modello) to represent the commission sought and once the patron approved it, to execute the piece. According to the contract, the artist would be required to execute the piece exactly as indicated by the modello or disegno. A description of the type of artistic work, for example: a Pieta (Mary with Christ in her arms) or la fighura di San Macteo (figure of St. Mateo), is also included in the contract.
The materials were also mentioned and it is not always clear why, whether it merely identifies for all the agreed upon technique, or if it was to safeguard the quality of the art and assure its permanence. I tend to agree that it was more the later. Notations regarding the use of blue pigment (lapis lazuli) and gold leaf are explicitly stated along with the price per round so that no cheaper substitution can be made by the artist. Lapis lazuli in 1485 was costing four florins for an ounce, such that an artist could not use the cheaper copper azurite . Tempera was not mentioned at all due to it being a common technique, however, oil painting was noted as it was a new emerging technique used by artists during this time period.
The contracts listed time limits as to when the work was to be completed, and these time limits were rarely met. Most of the commissions took longer and there were sometimes stipulations in the contract regarding residency of an artist during the contract, presumably to keep them on task. There were stipulations in the contract regarding not taking other work while working on that particular contract or the artist would forfeit deposits or payments. Some examples of timelines for work were paintings for a carved wooden altar which was to take eight months and took twenty-five years. An altar specified for eight years took approximately nineteen years. Another altarpiece which was specified for two and a half years was actually completed in three years, five months, one of the quickest. Stipulations regarding which work would be done "sua mano", by the master's own hand were also listed in the contract to insure the quality of the work and quite possibly contributed to the lengthening of the time frames as artistic masters were in high demand. The patrons were also to pay for the work once it was completed and there were a variety of accepted conventions for payment. There could be a 1) flat rate, 2) price determined after the completion of the work by means of an appraisal, 3) a ceiling price given in the initial contract but still subject to an appraisal, 4) or a minimum price also subject to an appraisal but with an added bonus should the work be especially praiseworthy. The arguments over who the appraiser would be and once the appraisal were done are similar to our modern day experiences with appraisals.
I found this to be an interesting dissertation replete with details that will aid me in my research of what a 16th/17th century artist would encounter in day to day life. I hope you found this information useful. I have also found contracts here on the Accademia de San Lucia.
Glasser, Hannelore. Artists’ contracts of the early Renaissance. New York : Garland Pub., 1977.
"The History of the Accademia Di San Luca, C. 1590–1635: Documents from the Archivio Di Stato Di Roma." The History of the Accademia Di San Luca, C. 1590–1635: Documents from the Archivio Di Stato Di Roma. N.p., n.d. Web.