AskDefine | Define patroness

Dictionary Definition

patroness n : a woman who is a patron or the wife of a patron [syn: patronne]

User Contributed Dictionary



patroness (plural patronesses)
  1. A female patron.


Extensive Definition

Patronage is the support, encouragement, privilege and often financial aid given by a person or an organization. It can also refer to the right of bestowing offices or church benefices, the business given by a regular customer, and the guardianship of saints.
In some countries the term is often used to describe the corrupt use of state resources to advance the interests of groups, families, ethnicities or races in exchange for electoral support. These patronage systems have different characteristics depending on the area in which they are practiced.
The term derives from the Latin patronatus, the formal relationship between a Patronus and his Clientes.

The arts

From the ancient world onward patronage of the arts was important in art history. It is known in greatest detail in reference to pre-modern medieval and Renaissance Europe, though patronage can also be traced in feudal Japan, the traditional Southeast Asian kingdoms, and elsewhere—art patronage tended to arise wherever a royal or imperial system and an aristocracy dominated a society and controlled a significant share of resources. 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. Some languages 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 churchs, cathedrals, painting, sculpture, and handicrafts.
While sponsorship of artists and the commissioning of artwork is the best-known aspect of the patronage system, other disciplines also benefitted from patronage including those who studied natural philosophy (pre-modern science), musicians, writers, philosophers, alchemists, astrologers, and other scholars. Artists as diverse and important as Chrétien de Troyes, Leonardo de Vinci and Michelangelo, William Shakespeare, and Ben Jonson all sought and enjoyed the support of noble or ecclesiastical patrons. Figures as late as Mozart and Beethoven also participated in the system to some degree; it was only with the rise of bourgeois and capitalist social forms in the 19th century that European culture moved away from its patronage system to the more publicly-supported system of museums, theatres, mass audiences and mass consumption that is familiar in the contemporary world. This kind of system continues across many fields of the arts. Though the nature of the sponsors has changed—from churches to charitable foundations, and from aristocrats to plutocrats—the term patronage has a more neutral connotation than in politics. It may simply refer to direct support (often financial) of an artist, for example by grants.
In the later part of the 20th century the academic sub-discipline of patronage studies began to evolve, in recognition of the important and often neglected role that the phenomenon of patronage had played in the cultural life of previous centuries.


Political leaders often 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). 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. Nepotism and cronyism are more specific types of patronage.

Patronage in the United States

In the United States during the Gilded Age, patronage became a central issue.
Republican Senator Roscoe Conkling of New York became a powerful political figure by determining who in the party would be given certain lucrative positions. Conkling and his supporters were known as Stalwarts. The Republican reformers who opposed patronage and advocated a civil service system were known as Mugwumps—their lack of party loyalty seen as having their "mug" on one side of the fence, their "wump" on the other. Between the two were the Halfbreeds, who were less patronage-oriented than the Stalwarts, but not as reform-minded as the Mugwumps.
When James Garfield became president, he appointed Halfbreeds to most offices (despite the appointment of Stalwart Chester A. Arthur to the role of Vice President, which represented a compromise within the Republican Party). This provoked the ire of the Stalwarts. Charles J. Guiteau, a Stalwart, assassinated Garfield in 1881, six months after he became President.
To prevent further political violence and to assuage public outrage, Congress passed the Pendleton Act in 1883, which set up the Civil Service Commission. Henceforth, applicants for most federal government jobs would have to pass an examination. Federal politicians' influence over bureaucratic appointments waned, and patronage declined as a national political issue.


Charitable and other non-profit making organisations often seek an influential figurehead to act as patron. The relationship often does not involve money. As well as conferring credibility, these people can instead 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.


Sometimes consumers support smaller or local businesses or corporations out of loyalty even if other cheaper options exist. Their regular custom is referred to as 'patronage'. Patronage may entitle members of a consumers' cooperative to a share of the surplus or profit generated by the coop, called a patronage refund. This refund is a form of dividend.


In the same manner as commercial patronage, those who attend a sporting event may be referred to as patrons, though the usage in much of the world is now considered archaic — with one notable exception. Those who attend The Masters Tournament, one of the four major championship of professional golf, are still traditionally referred to as "patrons," largely at the insistence of the Augusta National Golf Club. This insistence is occasionally made fun of by sportswriters and other media. More famously, CBS, which broadcasts the tournament, ran afoul of Augusta National management when Jack Whitaker referred to the patrons as a "mob" during a playoff between Billy Casper and Gene Littler. Augusta co-founder Clifford Roberts had Whitaker banned from commentary duties in following years, though he was restored to work years later to replace another commentator who had fallen ill.
In polo, a "patron" is a person who puts together a team by hiring one or more professionals. The rest of the team may be amateurs, often including the patron himself (or, increasingly, herself). Some patrons are extremely skillful and serious players; others are more lighthearted and in it just for the fun.



Canon law

In Roman Catholic canon law, the "right of patronage" (ius patronatus) is a collection of rights and obligations in connection with the assignment and administration of a benefice; these rights are legally entailed upon a patron by the Church, "out of gratitude towards her benefactor." It is a combination of rights that pertain to the spiritual realm, designated in the decretals as ius spirituali annexum, and is therefore subject to ecclesiastical legislation and jurisdiction. However, property rights are also involved, so it is also subject to civil law (in the sense of laws passed by states, contrasted to canon law).
In the early Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches, such rights were often granted to the clerical or lay founder of a church; for example, the Synod of Toledo in 655 gave a layman this privilege for each church erected by him. In the countries occupied by the Germanic tribes, the builder of a church, the feudal lord or the administrator possessed full right of disposal over the church founded or possessed by him, as his own church (ecclesia propria) and over the ecclesiastics appointed by him, whom he could dismiss at pleasure, though appointment and dismissal of ecclesiastics was at least formally subject to the consent of the bishop. In the course of the Conflict of Investitures (11th and early 12th centuries), the private right over churches was abolished. Still, even after that time the lord of an estate, as patron, was conceded the right as ius spirituali annexum of presenting a cleric to the bishop on the occasion of a vacancy in the church.
Any church benefice, with the exception of the papacy, the cardinalate, the episcopate, and the prelatures of cathedral, collegiate and monastic churches, may be the object of the right of patronage. Patronages may be heritable or ex officio.
In theory, the patron must be a member of the Church, though there are few other limitations (for example, women, minors, and illegitimates may be patrons in this sense). "Member of the Church" is construed broadly: in Germany and Austria the Peace of Westphalia (1648) left Protestant princes the rights of patronage over Catholic church offices (and vice versa), and modern concordats have continued it. However, a patron must be a Christian, and cannot be an excommunicati vitandi, though could be an excommunicati tolerati or someone "infamous according to ecclesiastical or civil law."

Patronage of Our Lady

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". The Greeks have no feast of this kind, but the Ruthenians, followed by all the Slavs of the Greek Rite, have a feast, called Patrocinii sanctissimæ Dominæ etc., or Pokrov Bogorodicy, fixed on 1 October, which, however, would seem to correspond more with the Catholic Feast of the Scapular.


See main article Parish
In the Church of England, patronage is the commonly-used term for the right to present a candidate for the benefice of a particular parish.


Sources and external links

patroness in Czech: Patron
patroness in Danish: Mæcenat
patroness in German: Mäzen
patroness in English: Patronage
patroness in Spanish: Mecenazgo
patroness in French: Mécénat
patroness in Japanese: パトロン
patroness in Thai: การอุปถัมภ์
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