Centuries ago, Catholic donors were among the most serious patrons of the arts. Their faces were immortalized in the sacred art they helped pay for.
The ultimate donor painting is the 14th-century Wilton Diptych, which shows England's King Richard II kneeling before the Virgin Mary.
Bartolome Bermeja's "Virgin of Monserrat" was commissioned in Spain, circa 1485, by an Italian merchant (Franceso della Chiesa, seen on the Virgin's right), who took the painting back to his hometown Cathedral of Acqui Terme.
This 11th-century German crucifix is named in honor of the donor, Abbess Mathilde, who can be seen near the bottom of the cross as a small kneeling figure in white.
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Sometimes the number of donors can seem overwhelming. Hans Memling's circa 1485 Triptych of the Virgin with Saints James and Dominic shows on the left the anonymous donor with his five sons behind him. On the right is his wife with her even more numerous daughters.
Donors would sometimes end up center-stage in paintings such as this mid-15th century miniature by Jean Fouquet, in which King Charles VII of France has become the most visible of the Three Magi. The donor was in fact the king's chancellor, honoring his master.
El Greco gave two donors a very honored position indeed, taking the place of the Virgin Mary and St John at the foot of the cross. Their identities are uncertain, but the painting ended up in the Louvre, like so much else.
Donor portraits in stained glass are often the most vivid of all. There is a real sense of this subject as a person, and we even know his name: Heinrich Kretzgen of Germany, early 16th century. The name of the artist is, however, not known.
Photo by Lucien de Guise, courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London