Good luck to Frank To in his joint venture with Royal Bank of Scotland and his, no doubt, good advice to fellow artists (Platform, 19 April) on how to raise funding.
However, he should take care when asserting that “the giants of the Renaissance had the Medici bank on their side”. Certainly, individual members of the Medici family did, at various times, commission works by Botticelli and Michelangelo (though this is probably not the case with Leo-nardo), as did the Church and other non-banking families. But there is no evidence to show that the Medici bank as a corporate entity did so in the manner, say, of RBS’s sponsorship of the Six Nations rugby competition.
He should also be wary of implying that it was the Medici bank which “fostered and inspired the birth of the Italian Renaissance”. That “birth”, if it were, indeed, a single procreative moment, seen in retrospect, lay elsewhere, in – amongst other things – the revival of interest in classical antiquity, the influx of Islamic natural sciences and the new teaching of the Franciscan and Dominican preaching orders. All these cultural conditions were in place long before the establishment of the Medici bank itself at the end of the 14th century.
It is a modern, free-market fallacy to suppose that all progressive cultural activity must be driven and governed by corporate finance and the exigencies of commercial banking.
Consequently, it is mistaken to explain any period in the past solely by reference to such misleading contemporary values.