And indeed he had little opportunity to accumulate capital. Both the practice of subcontracting by the patron, which prevented the growth of larger scale firms of all-round building contractors, and the statutes of the individual guilds discouraged the acquisition of wealth or power by a single craftsman. The skilled artisan was a respected member of Venetian society, but he was kept firmly in his place. As elsewhere in medieval Europe the designers of buildings, like other artists, were rarely named or recorded in documents, and few of their works of art were signed.
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It should not, however, be assumed that in the Middle Ages buildings grew almost organically, fed by a kind of communal urge to build. Most architectural designs were probably the product of close collaboration between the patron and the chief artisan, usually a stonemason, and it is the identities of the patrons rather than the architects that have survived to posterity. Before the Renaissance, when the value of creative genius at last began to command as much respect as the wealth and enterprise of the patron, it is rarely possible to identify the artistic personalities of individual architects. The fact that the title architectus was not used in Venice until as late as the 1470s, apart from one known isolated example in 1455, is symbolic of the change in attitude that came about at this time. 54 THE MEDIEVAL CITY 65 Essential Services and Other Amenities The peculiar physical environment of Venice, the building techniques adopted and the particular functions of the buildings have all contributed to the special character of Venetian architecture.
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