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||Baldassare Castiglione (1478-1529) - conte di Novilara|
Italian humanist, diplomat and courtier, famous for his Il Libro del Cortegiano (1528, The Book of the Courtier), which was translated into many languages and made Castiglione the arbiter of aristocratic manners during the Renaissance. When Machiavelli introduced in the Prince the mindset of a powerful leader, The Courtier was a primer for the manners and conduct of the nobles of his court. Castiglione demanded, that one should preserve one's composure and self-control under all circumstances and behave in company with an unaffected nonchalance and effortless dignity. Castiglione wrote also Italian and Latin poems, and many letters illustrating political and literary history. Among his friends was the famous painter Raphael, who made a portrait of Castiglione in 1514-15; the author himself portrayed Raphael in his writings.
"Voglio adunque che questo nostro cortegiano sia nato nobile e di generosa famiglia; perché molto men si disdice ad un ignobile mancar di far operazioni virtuose, che ad uno nobile, il qual se desvia dal camino dei sui antecessori, macula il nome della famiglia e non solamente non acquista, ma perde il già acquistato; perché la nobiltà è quasi una chiara lampa, che manifesta e fa veder l'opere bone e le male ed accende e sprona alla virtú cosí col timor d'infamia, come ancor con la speranza di laude; e non scoprendo questo splendor di nobiltà l'opere degli ignobili, essi mancano dello stimulo e del timore di quella infamia, né par loro d'esser obligati passar piú avanti di quello che fatto abbiano i sui antecessori; ed ai nobili par biasimo non giunger almeno al termine da' sui primi mostratogli." (in Il libro del Cortegiano)
Baldassare Castiglione was born in Casatico, near Mantua, into an illustrious Lombard family. His parents were Count Cristoforo Castiglione and Luigia Gonzaga; she was related to the Marquess of Mantua. Cristoforo followed the young Marquis Francesco Gorzaga in his campaigns and was severely wounded in the battle of Taro. He never fully recovered from his injuries.
Castiglione was educated in Latin by Giorgio Merula and in Greek by the humanist Demetrius Chalcondyles. His favorite prose writer was Cicero; Virgil and Tibullus were his models as poets. At the court on Ludovico Sforza in Milan he received knightly training, learning how to handle the lance, and ride at the ring. Castiglione excelled in horsemanship, but he outshone everybody in the art of pleasing.
his father died and the Sforzas were expelled,
the Marquis of Mantua, and saw action against the Spanish at the Battle
of the Garigliano (1503). He then entered the servive of the dukes of
was sent in 1505 as an envoy to Henry VII of England. With him he
carried gifts for the King– falcons, horses, and a painting by Raphael.
While in Bologna, Castiglione met the King of France. He remained at
the court of Urbino until 1513. A good deal of his time Castiglione
spent in Rome as ambassador.
Following the death of the Duke, Castiglione served Francesco Maria della Rovere, the nephew of the warrior Pope Julius II. Castiglione own military career was undistinguished, although he was present at some battles. The earliest plans for the Courtier date from around 1508. Francesco became one of the figures in the book - he was nephew of the pope, Lord General at the age of 17. Although he had just lost a battle, the other speakers in the book listen him with respect.
During the reign of the Medici Pope, Leo X, Castiglione met
and became friends with him. Castiglione's ideal artist was a person,
who performed all his work as if he did it with ease. "Therefore we may
call that art true art which does not seem to be art: nor must one be
more careful of anything than of concealing, because it it is
discovered, this robs a man all credit and causes him to be held in
slight esteem." Moreover, they both
insisted on the importance of studying antiquity and preserving
classical ruins and statues. In their famous letter to Pope Leo X (c.
1519) concerning the ancient monuments in Rome, they complain of how
the once great city of Rome has been renewed: "this entirely new Rome
that can be seen today – grand, beautiful and marvellously ornamented
with palaces, churches and other buildings though it may be – is built
using mortar from ancient marbles." ('The Letter to
Leo X by Raphael and Baldassare Castiglione,' in Palladio's Rome: A Translation of Andrea
Palladio's Two Guidebooks to
Rome by Vaughan Hart and Peter Hicks, 2006, p. 180)
Castiglione considered the figures like Leonardo and Raphael the natural peers of poets, and Raphael himself had produced poems. Thus his portrait of Castiglione also witnesses their friendship. Rembrandt saw the work in 1639 and sketched it, when it was for sale at Lucas Uffelen's estate. It was bought by Alphonse Lopez, a Portuguese Jew who had made a fortune in diamonds.
After returning home to Mantua in 1516, Castiglione married
Torelli, daughter of Count Guido Torello di Montechiarugolo and
Francesca Bentivoglio, a daughter of the former ruler of Bologna. While
waiting her husband to return home, she wrote him long letters.
Ippolita died in 1520 after giving birth to their third child. At that
time Castiglione was in Rome, where he dined with Pope Leo and
advocated Raphael's projects.
In her last letter Ippolita wrote: " I have given birth to a little girl. I do not think you will mind this. But I have been much worse than I was before. What I told you has come true, and I have had three bad attacks of fever. Now I am a good deal better, and I hope it will not return again. I will not try to say any more, because I am not very well yet, but commend myself with my whole heart to you."
In addition, Castiglione's life was shadowed by the death of
in 1520 and his failure as a diplomat. During this period he possibly
begun plans for his own funerary chapel. Pope Clement VII (Giulio de'
Medici) sent Castiglione in 1524 as a papal ambassador, or nuncio pontificio.to Spain, where
he was welcomed by
Emperor Charles V. According to some sources, Castiglione had visited
Spain for the first time in 1519. He loved the country so much
that in the Courtier he
declared himself no less Spanish than Italian.
Emperor valued highly Castiglione, but he was no longer willing to
submit to the
intrigues of the Pope and the French king Francis I. In 1527 twelve
thousand mercenaries with the
army under Constable of Bourbon invaded Rome and eight days later left
the city in ruins. At that time Castiglione was still in Spain; he did
not foresee the sack of Rome. As a result, Castiglione became the
object of suspicion and anger
of the Holy Chair. "I trusted too much in the Emperor's promises," he
explained in a letter to Rome. The break with Pope depressed him
deeply. All his attempts to keep the peace between the Emperor and the
Pope had been fruitless.
When Alfonso de Valdés,
secretary to Charles V, argued in Dialogue
of Lactancio and an Archdeacon
(1528) that the destruction of
Rome was God's punishment, Castiglione responded with a letter in which
he accused Valdés of heresy. ". . . this Christian nation hates the
name of heretic. Go, then, to Germany, where your "Dialogue" has
prepared the way for you," Castiglione declared. (Baldassare
Castiglione: The Perfect Courtier, His Life and Letters, 1478-1529, Vol. II, by
Julia Mary Ady, 1908, p. 406)
Castiglione died in Toledo, Spain, on February 2, 1529,
sudden illness. "I tell you one of the finest gentlemen in the world is
dead," said Charles V after the funeral. Castiglione was first
buried in the Cathedral of Toledo, from where his body
was removed to the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, in Mantua.
He was reburied together with his wife. Castiglione's tomb was designed
by his architect friend Giulio Romano, Bembo composed a Latin epitaph
on the marble.
The first (Aldine) edition of the Courtier, printed in Venice, consisted of one thousand and thirty-one copies. The book was soon translated into Spain (1534), Latin (1538, at least two translations), German (1560), and English (by Sir Thomas Hoby, 1561). Especially in England the book influenced the idea of a gentleman; Shakespeare was possibly familiar with it. Hoby's translation, printed at the beginning of Queen Elizabeth's reign,became very popular, and was republished several times and reprinted in 1900 with an introduction by Professor Walter Raleigh. Castiglione's Spanish translator, Juan Boscán Almogáver, was said to have known the author personally. Charles V kept a copy of the work by his bedside.
In opposition to Niccolò Machiavelli's (1469-1527)
bleak vision on how people really act and think, Castiglione was
interested in defining the rules for how gentlemen should behave.
However, his idea of court life and social culture differed much from
medieval chivalry. "Everything that men can understand, can also be
understood by women", he wrote without the woman-worship of the
knights. The cultural importance of women was exemplified by such
figures as Lucrezia Borgia, who kept court in Nepi, and Isabella
d'Este, who was the centre of the court in Ferrara and Matua. What
Castiglione demanded of the perfect man of the world was versatility,
the uniform development of physical and spiritual capacities, skill
both in the use of weapons and in the art of refined social
intercourse, experience in the arts of poetry and music, familiarity
with painting and the sciences. The courtier should never appear
studied and laborious. It is a social ease that conceals the laborious
efforts it takes to acquire polite manners. It is a "nonchalance of
movement and action." Both Macchiavelli's Prince and Castignione's
Courtier were motivated by self-interest. Jacob Burckhardt said in his
analysis of the courtier, that the "inner impulse which inspired him
was directed, though our author does not acknowledge the fact, not to
the service of the prince, but to his own perfection." (The Civilization of the Renaissance in
Italy by Jacob Burckhardt, first published in 1878; 2014, p. 329)
The Courtier consists of a series of dialogues, in
speakers describe the ideal courtier: nobly born, skilled in military
arts, sports, and dancing, well-educated in classical and modern
languages, music and painting, and gracious in conversation. However,
with all these skills he does everything with certain nonchalance.
Castiglione uses the term sprezzatura -
the cultivated ability to "display artful artlessness" (see
The Absence of Grace by Harry
Berger, Jr.). The purpose of courtiers
is to serve a prince and tell him the truth, but in the Courtier
they don't seem to do anything but chatter, well aware of the tension
between the ideal and the real. The speakers include Duchess Elisabetta
(1471-1526), Signora Emilia Pia, a bright discussant, Madonna Constanza
Fregosa, Francesco Maria della Rovere (1490-1538), a soldier and Prefetto
Count Ludovico da Canossa (1476-1532), who was a close friend of
Castiglione and presented his ideas in discussions, Messer Federico (d.
1541), who was appointed cardinal in 1539, Signor Ottaviano (d. 1524),
who did not think much of women, Magnifico Juliano on Giuliano de'
Medici (1479-1516), the son of Lorenza il Magnifico and friend of
Leonardo da Vinci and Macchiavelli, Messer Bernardo (1470-1520), a
writer and a cardinal, Messer Pietro Bembo (1470-1547), a philosopher
and a poet, Messer Cesare (1475-1512), a soldier and a diplomat, Unico
Arentino (1458-1535), a composer and governatore perpetuo, who
saw himself as the third poet after Dante and Petrarca, Joanni
Cristoforo (1465-1512) a sculptor, Messer Niccolo Frigio, a diplomat.
The book was source of inspiration for such writers as Cervantes, Donne, Corneille, and Edmund Spenser. Castiglione's concepts of proper behavior and gentleman ("superior man") have much in common with Confucian views of virtuous men. Confucius (551-479 B.C.E.) also advocated righteousness, loyalty, integrity, and reciprocity. One of Castiglione's models was Cicero's De oratore, but the Courtier also displays his knowledge of Platonic dialogue.