NOT least among the many reasons which favoured a despotism rather than a Republic in Italy were the superior qualifications of the despot for acting as a patron of art. A Republic would employ the local artists for the decoration of public buildings, and this, with the commissions of private families and of religious communities, created a constant demand for artistic work. A prince, however, could do more than give commissions. He was in a position to pay not only for results but for experiments in the sphere of art. His Court could be made the centre of attraction for all the rising artists of the day.
Of these princely patrons few can rank above the Sforza Dukes. Under them Milan became the fountain-head of Lombard art, whither the painters of the subject-towns came for inspiration and employment. They exercised, moreover, that wider patronage which extended beyond the limits of the State. Their Court was held throughout Italy to offer the widest scope for artistic genius. Typical of the part played by ducal patronage is the fact that the two most powerful influences in Milanese art came from beyond the borders of the Duchy, and that Milan became the home of their adoption owing to the two chief Sforza Dukes. Vincenzo Foppa was a Brescian by birth, and he had already received his artistic training in the schools of Verona and Venice, before he settled at Pavia, about the year 1456, and came under the notice of Francesco Sforza. The school which Foppa founded reigned supreme in Milan until some twenty-five years later, when "Leonardo the Florentine" offered his services to Lodovico II Moro, and in so doing created a revolution in Lombard art.