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The Book of the Courtier (1528) - Baldassare Castiglione

Related: 1500s - cool - Italian literature

The Book of the Courtier (1528) - Baldassare Castiglione


The Book of the Courtier
The Book of the Courtier (Italian Il Cortegiano) was written by Baldassare Castiglione in 1528. Baldassare was inspired to write the Courtier by debates that occurred in Urbino on what makes a well rounded person (l'uomo universale).

The book is organized as a series of fictional conversations that occur between the courtiers of the Duke of Urbino in the year 1507 (when Baldassare was in fact part of the Duke's Court). In the book, the courtier is described as having a cool mind, a good voice (with beautiful, elegant and brave words) and proper bearing and gestures. At the same time though, the courtier is expected to have a warrior spirit, to be athletic and to have good knowledge of the humanities, classics, and how to draw and paint. However, with all these skills he does everything with certain nonchalance or "sprezzatura".

During his visits to Italy, Francois I of France read Baldassare Castiglione's The Book of the Courtier. That text so inspired the king that he had it translated into French. He had several copies made, which he then brought back to France to distribute amongst his courtiers. He felt that this book portrayed the model royal court and he strove to create this type of court for himself.

To this day, the Book of the Courtier remains the definitive account of Renaissance court life. In its own day, however, it was used as a manual on how to be the "Perfect Courtier" and the consummate "Court Lady." --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Book_of_the_Courtier [May 2005]


Sprezzatura is the art of doing a difficult task so gracefully, that it looks effortless. Sprezzatura was first used in 1528 by Baldassare Castiglione in The Book of the Courtier. The term began use in English in the mid-twentieth century, often to describe art.

"...I have found quite a universal rule which in this matter seems to me valid above all others, and in all human affairs whether in word or deed: and that is to avoid affectation in every way possible as though it were some very rough and dangerous reef; and (to pronounce a new word perhaps) to practice in all things a certain Sprezzatura [nonchalance], so as to conceal all art and make whatever is done or said appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it...." (Castiglione, Baldassare, The Courtier, Chapter 26 2) --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sprezzatura [May 2005]

inspired by Cool Rules: Anatomy of an Attitude (2000) - Dick Pountain, David Robins [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

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