The Medici and other 5 families that changed the world of art forever

Without the power, fortune, and immense love for art these families displayed, art wouldn’t be what it is today.

Visiting a museum forces us to admire and criticize the talent of the creator of the work on display. However, we rarely stop to think about those people who, by tradition or for the love of art, dedicated themselves to promoting the artistic talent of those who are now great exhibitors in the most important galleries in the world.

Either because of their purchasing power or because they wanted to show the best of art to the world, different families took on the task of creating spaces to house the great artworks of history. The following are the names of six families that promoted art and shared it with the world:



If we think of great collectors, the Medici family likely comes to mind; the fortune of this Italian family was born thanks to the bank founded by John de Medici, who managed to make his bank the only one to provide services to the Church. Their wealth led them to enjoy great political power, until they became dukes of Florence and, of course, great artists supporters. Lorenzo de’ Medici is known as the greatest Medici patron and some of the talents supported by this family were: Masaccio, Donatello, Filippo Brunelleschi, Sandro Botticelli, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Michelangelo Buonarroti, basically the greats of the Renaissance and to whom we owe the great works of Italian art and architecture. When visiting Florence, it is impossible not to want to thank the Medici for commissioning the construction of the Uffizi Gallery, the Medici Riccardi Palace, the Boboli Garden, and the hundreds of works of art that enchant us.


On the other hand, in the largest country in the world, the Romanov family emerged, from which Emperor Peter I “The Great” stood out for founding the city of St. Petersburg, financing beautiful architectural works that today are still enjoyed and distinguished from those of the rest of the world. Another member of the dynasty was Catherine “The Great,” who dedicated herself to promoting art and culture in her country by buying hundreds of works of art from Western Europe. She put together the great collection that today can be admired in the Hermitage Museum, which includes works by Rembrandt, Rubens, Canova, Sanzio, Titian, and Monet, to mention a few.



Back in Europe, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum is one of the most visited museums in Spain. Its history began thanks to the art collection started by the businessman Heinrich Thyssen, who later married Baroness Margit Bornemisza in Hungary and acquired the title of Baron.

In the 1920s, they moved to Lugano, Switzerland, where they increased their collection of classical and modern paintings from the 14th to the 19th century. Later, one of the sons of the Thyssen-Bornemisza couple, Hans Heinrich, increased the collection by acquiring 20th-century works, intending to open a museum in Munich. However, Hans married Carmen Cervera, a Spanish actress, who convinced her husband to establish the museum in Madrid. And so in 1992, with 775 works, this great museum was founded, full of great pieces that now belong to the Spanish government, but Cervera continues to collect more works of art that she constantly lends to the museum.



The Whitney Museum of American Art, located in Manhattan, is a legacy of collector Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, who was part of a wealthy American family. During a trip to Paris, she discovered her artistic sensibility and decided to create sculptures and collect art. Thanks to her newly-found interest, she managed to found her museum in 1931, focused on American artworks of the 20th and 21st centuries. After her death, her daughter and granddaughter continued to take care of the administration and operation of this wonderful museum.


We cannot leave behind the Guggenheim family as they left us some of the most important museums in the world, as they house incredible works of art. The first personage of this family to collect art was Solomon R. Guggenheim, who specialized in modern art, and opened the first museum in New York; his niece Peggy Guggenheim was a patron of great talents in Europe and the United States, especially Jackson Pollock. Peggy had a unique style and charm, and although at first, she did not know much about art, she gradually became so influential that she dedicated herself to promoting artists in her gallery, The Art of This Century Gallery. She built up a large collection with his initiative to buy one piece per day. Solomon and Peggy left us at the Guggenheim Museums in different destinations: New York, Venice, Bilbao, and Abu Dhabi.



One of today’s most important galleries that shows the most innovative works was founded by Charles Saatchi, co-founder of one of the largest advertising agencies in the world in the 80s. He gradually became an art lover and later a full-time collector, until he opened his gallery, which is located in London and, unlike many museums, aims to introduce the world to current talents who are little known but have the potential to be great in the art world. The Saatchi Gallery has become so prestigious that today it has a great influence on British art and, undoubtedly, on the rest of the world.

The artist does not need recognition to create, but the spectator does need the artist to be sensitized by his work. Therefore, the work of all these patrons of the arts should be recognized forever.


Story originally published in Spanish in Cultura Colectiva

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