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Castiglione, Baldassare (1478–1529)

CASTIGLIONE, BALDASSARE (14781529)

CASTIGLIONE, BALDASSARE (14781529), Italian writer and diplomat. The fame of Baldassare Castiglione rests with his dialogue-treatise Il cortegiano (The Book of the Courtier), first published in 1528 and immediately acclaimed in Italy and throughout Europe. For centuries it served as the model "courtesy" book, a guide, both ethical and aesthetic, for the social relations of gentlemen and ladies.

Castiglione was born in Casatico, near Mantua, on 6 November 1478, the son of Cristoforo, a professional soldier in the service of the Marquis of Mantua, and Aloisa Gonzaga, who was related to the ruling family. In 1490 he was sent to Milan to pursue humanistic studies. When his father died in 1499 he returned to Mantua and began a military and diplomatic career, first in the service of Gianfrancesco Gonzaga, then in 1504 with Guidobaldo Della Rovere, later with Francesco Della Rovere, dukes of Urbino. In 1516, he married a Bolognese noblewoman, Ippolita Torelli, who died in 1520 in childbirth. He had by then returned to the service of the duke of Mantua and in 1521 he took minor orders. In 1524 Clement VII named him papal nuncio to the court of Charles V in Spain, where he was received in 1525 and where he spent the rest of his life. The pope blamed him for not preventing the sack of Rome at the hands of imperial troops in 1527, but contemporaries tended to blame the vacillating Clement, who was unable to ally himself firmly with either the French or the Spanish. Castiglione died of plague fevers in Toledo on 8 February 1529.

Besides The Courtier (1528), Castiglione wrote a dramatic eclogue, the Tirsi (1506), for Carnival at Urbino in 1506 in which he also performed, a Latin letter in praise of his patron, the De vita et gestis Guidubaldi Urbini Ducis (The life and deeds of Guidobaldo, duke of Urbino; 1508), and the prologue, now lost, to the Calandria (1513), a comedy written by Bibbiena (Bernardo Dovizi), whose first performance he organized in Urbino. Castiglione also wrote conventional poetry in the Petrarchist mode and humanistic verse in Latin. He left a large and important correspondence.

Castiglione had begun writing The Courtier by 15131514, and it occupied him for most of the rest of his life. The book is a dialogue that follows the classical models of Plato and Cicero, both in its proposal of an ideal type to be imitated, the perfect courtier, and in its choice of dialogic form, for which it is especially indebted to the Ciceronian model. Like Cicero, Castiglione chooses as interlocutors contemporary historical figures, known for the attitudes and actions they represent, who take different sides in the discussion of subjects of contemporary debate, thus lending verisimilitude to the dialogue and giving the conversations a lively, dramatic quality. The book is also autobiographical. The conversations it depicts are set at the court of Urbino in 1506, and the interlocutors are courtiers and ladies many of whom Castiglione met during the years he spent there. He remembers them and those days with nostalgia.

In Book 1 the assembled courtiers and ladies propose games for their entertainment and decide upon one in which they will have to "form in words a perfect courtier." The courtier they envision must be a nobleman, whose principal profession is arms and who engages and excels in physical activities, always maintaining his dignity. He is a connoisseur and a practitioner of the arts and letters, who exhibits moderation in all he does, avoids affectation, and performs with grace (grazia) and seemingly without effort (with sprezzatura ). Outward appearance is of the utmost importance. Book 1 includes digressions on the current debates regarding the vernacular language, on the relative importance of arms and of letters for the courtier, and on the question of the preeminence of painting or sculpture. Book 2 treats the ways and circumstances in which the ideal courtier might demonstrate his qualities and argues the importance of decorum and of conversational skills, especially his ability to entertain with humorous language. Examples are given that constitute a collection of witty stories and practical jokes. Book 3 imagines a suitable female companion for the courtier, who has many of his same qualities and talents, though physical beauty is more important for her, as is her good reputation. The virtue of women is both discussed and demonstrated through examples, ancient and modern, which provide another collection of entertaining stories. In Book 4 we come to the courtier's raison d'être, his service to his prince, and after long discussion the topic of conversation turns to love, a theme introduced in Book 3, and centers on how the courtier, no longer young, should love. The theory of Neoplatonic love is proposed, following closely Marsilio Ficino's Christianizing commentary on Plato's Symposium.

Modern critical debate on The Courtier has centered on the ethics of its excessive concern with outward appearance, the author's unwillingness to dwell on politics, and on some issues of coherence. However, no one disputes the status of The Courtier as a masterpiece, a brilliant original that was never surpassed by any of its many imitators, and a "portrait" of the culture of Italian Renaissance court society in the early sixteenth century.

See also Advice and Etiquette Books ; Court and Courtiers ; Gentleman .

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Primary Sources

Castiglione, Baldassare. The Book of the Courtier. Translated by Charles S. Singleton. New York, 1959. Reprinted in the Norton Critical Edition. Edited by Daniel Javitch. New York, 2002.

. The Book of the Courtier. Translated by George Bull. London, 1967. Reprint 1976.

. Il libro del cortegiano con una scelta delle Opere minori. Edited by Bruno Maier. 2nd ed. Turin, 1964.

. Lettere. Vol. 1. Edited by Guido La Rocca. Milan, 1978.

Secondary Sources

Burke, Peter. The Fortunes of the Courtier: The European Reception of Castiglione's Cortegiano. Cambridge, U.K., 1995.

Hanning, Robert W., and David Rosand, eds. Castiglione: The Ideal and the Real in Renaissance Culture. New Haven and London, 1983.

Quondam, Amedeo. "Questo povero Cortegiano": Castiglione, il libro, la storia. Rome, 2000.

Rebhorn, W. A. Courtly Performances: Masking and Festivity in Castiglione's Book of the Courtier. Detroit, 1978.

Woodhouse, J. R. Baldesar Castiglione: A Reassessment of "The Courtier." Edinburgh, 1978.

Elissa B. Weaver

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"Castiglione, Baldassare (1478–1529)." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. . Encyclopedia.com. 25 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Baldassare Castiglione

Baldassare Castiglione

The Italian author, courtier, and diplomat Baldassare Castiglione (1478-1529) is known primarily for his "Book of the Courtier." This work, which portrays the ideal courtier, was a chief vehicle in spreading Italian humanism into England and France.

Baldassare Castiglione was born on Dec. 6, 1478, in Casatico in the province of Mantua of an illustrious Lombard family. After receiving a classical education in Mantua and in Milan, he served at the court of the Milanese duke Lodovico Sforza from 1496 to 1499. Castiglione then entered the service of Francesco Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua. In 1503 he fought with Gonzaga's forces against the Spanish in Naples. On his way north he visited Rome and Urbino; both cities fascinated him. His request to transfer to the court of Guidobaldo da Montefeltro at Urbino was grudgingly granted in 1504 by Gonzaga.

At Urbino, Guidobaldo's wife, Elizabetta, presided over the noble company depicted in the Libro del cortegiano (Book of the Courtier). Castiglione's service there gave him an entree into the court of Pope Julius II, where he became a friend of the artist Raphael. He was sent as ambassador to Henry VII of England and in 1513 was made Count of Nuvolara by Guidobaldo's successor, Francesco Maria della Rovere. Castiglione married in 1516 but became a cleric in 1521 after the death of his wife. In 1524 he was sent by Pope Clement VII as ambassador to Charles V in Spain— an unfortunate mission in that Castiglione reported wrongly the Emperor's intentions in the period leading up to the sack of Rome in 1527. Castiglione died in Toledo, Spain, on Feb. 7, 1529.

"Book of the Courtier"

Published in 1528, though it was begun in 1507 and written mainly from 1513 to 1516, Castiglione's Book of the Courtier was a huge and immediate success. His idealized picture of society at the court of Urbino quickly became a book of etiquette for both the bourgeoisie and the aristocracy even beyond the confines of Italy. Translated into Spanish (1534), French (1537), English (1561), and German (1566), The Courtier saw some 40 editions in the 16th century alone and a hundred more by 1900. Through it, the broad values of Italian humanism—the ideal of the fully developed, well-rounded man, itself the rebirth of a classical ideal—were helped to spread throughout western Europe. Yet it must be admitted that in The Courtier the high qualities of humanitas—culture and virtue—are exalted not for themselves but as tools of self-advancement.

Dignified, melancholy, and idealistic (qualities that Raphael captured in his famous portrait), Castiglione tended not only to soften society's rough edges but also to avoid thorny practical and moral issues. For instance, he says of the Italians' recent poor reputation in arms, "It is better to pass in silence that which cannot be recalled without pain." As to the question of what a courtier should do when ordered by his prince to commit an immoral act such as murder, he states, "There would be too much to say; it must all be left to your discretion." Nevertheless, there is much that is positive in The Courtier; there is a lofty concept of human personality and dignity and of man's creative possibilities.

Castiglione's classical learning is deftly blended into the polite conversation of the courtiers and their ladies. His arguments in favor of literature are derived from those of Cicero in Pro Archia, and his description of the ideal courtier is strongly influenced by Cicero's Deoratore. The courtier should be noble, witty, pleasant, agile, a horseman and a warrior (his principal profession), and devoted to his prince. He should know Greek, Latin, French, and Spanish, and he should be skilled—though not ostentatiously so—in literature, music, painting, and dancing. The courtier's behavior should be characterized by grace and nonchalance (sprezzatura), and he should carefully avoid any affectation. As in Machiavelli and Guicciardini, there is a certain moral relativism: seeming is frequently more important than being.

Only a modest poet in both Italian and Latin, Castiglione wrote a fine sonnet on the ruins of Rome, Superbicolli e voi sacre ruine, which reappears in the Antiquités de Rome of Joachim du Bellay and in Edmund Spenser's Ruines of Rome. His poetry was published in 1760 and his letters in 1769 and 1771.

Further Reading

The most famous translation of The Book of the Courtier is by Sir Thomas Hoby (1561; many later editions); the most recent and readable, by Charles S. Singleton (1959). Castiglione's contribution to the Renaissance is described in Ralph Roeder, The Man of the Renaissance: Four Lawgivers, Savonarola, Machiavelli, Castiglione, Aretino (1933). See also Julia Cartwright, Baldassare Castiglione, the Perfect Courtier: His Life and Letters, 1478-1529 (2 vols., 1908), and Ernest Hatch Wilkins, A History of Italian Literature (1954). □

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Castiglione, Baldassare (1478–1529)

Castiglione, Baldassare (14781529)

A diplomat and author whose famous Book of the Courtier described the ideal Renaissance gentleman. Castiglione was born into a noble family of Lombardy in the town of Casatico, near the town of Mantua in northern Italy. As a young man he attended the court of the Sforza family, rulers of Milan, and served during a campaign against an invading Spanish army in 1503. He became a diplomat for Duke Francesco Gonzaga of Mantua, and in 1504 joined the court of Duke Guidobaldo Montefeltro of Urbino, who sent him as an ambassador to King Henry VII of England. Castiglione also joined an expedition sent by Pope Julius II against Venice and for his service was rewarded with the title of Count of Novellata. He became an ambassador to the papal court after the election of Pope Leo X. In Rome he struck up a friendship with the Italian artist Raphael, who painted a well-known portrait of the author. In 1521 Castiglione attained a position in the church: He was sent as an ambassador to Spain by Pope Clement VII, where he attended to Charles V, king of Sapin and Holy Roman Emperor. When Charles's army attacked Rome, Castiglione came under suspicion for not informing the pope of the disastrous attack beforehand. Castiglione defended his actions and was exonerated.

In 1528 Castiglione published Il Cortegiano, known in English as the Book of the Courtier. The book was based on the author's experiences at the ducal court of Urbino. In a series of lively dialogues and conversations, based on those he heard at the court, he expounds on the training and manners of the proper gentleman. Castiglione sees the courtier as a new type of man, one educated in the arts and literature and trained for military service. The courtier, in his view, should act with selfcontrol and the dignified ease that comes from long experience of the world and training in a wide range of fields. This idea represents an important change from the medieval chivalric knight, who fought in service to a feudal overlord and solicited the affection of an idealized and unattainable lady.

The Book of the Courtier was translated into French, English, German, and Spanish. It was held in high regard in royal courts of France and England, and played a key role in introducing the humanistic outlook of the Italian Renaissance to northern Europe. The author is also known for an elegy he wrote for his friend Raphael on the painter's death in 1520, and letters that reveal in detail his life as diplomat and courtier.

See Also: Leo X; Raphael; Sforza, Ludovico

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Castiglione, Baldassare, Conte

Baldassare Castiglione, Conte (bäldäs-sä´rā kōn´tā kästēlyō´nā), 1478–1529, Italian soldier, author, and statesman attached to the court of the duke of Milan and later in the service of the duke of Urbino. His famous Libro del cortegiano (1528, tr. The Courtier, 1561), a treatise on etiquette, social problems, and intellectual accomplishments, is one of the great books of its time. Written at a time when the author served as envoy to Pope Leo X, it gives a vivid and elegant picture of 15th- and 16th-century court life. His book had enormous influence on behavior at courts as far away as England, where it contributed to an ideal of aristocracy embodied in the person and accomplishments of Sir Philip Sidney. Castiglione's portrait was painted by Raphael (c.1515), his tomb designed by Giulio Romano, and his epitaph composed by Bembo.

See studies by W. A. Rebhorn (1978) and R. W. Hanning and D. Rosand (1983).

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