Baldassare CastiglioneCastiglione
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Baldassarre Castiglione is universally known, over and above for the greatly renowned  portrait of him by his friend Raffaello that is at the Louvre in Paris, as the author of The Book of the Courtier. This work, following the publication of the first edition (1528), was recognised, at an international level, as a true masterpiece and new point of reference in ethical and political literature, in the wake of the sublime models of antiquity by Aristotle and Cicero, whose lessons he, consciously, updated and defined with precision. Reading this dialogue, the gentlemen of modern Europe learned to recognise and cultivate the marks of their identity. Thus, in the XIX and XX century The Courtier became the work the emblem of the selfsame Renaissance, in which are masterfully enshrined the principals of morality and civility of that outstanding and long lasting period (the age of classicism), albeit  abruptly interrupted by the Age of Enlightenment and the French Revolution.

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During his impassioned and somehow pressing career, between the XV and the XVI century, Baldassarre Castiglione was first a man at arms and ambassador, for the House of Gonzaga from Mantua and for the Montefeltro from Urbino, then a high ranking ecclesiastic at the service of the Church of Rome. Going the length and breadth of Italy and Europe, from Milan to Naples, from London to Madrid, despite numerous disappointments and dramatic delusions, he became one of the most illustrious and authoritative diplomats of international prestige, earning himself the esteem and appreciation not just of Italian princes but also the great sovereigns who met him.

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The fame of  The Book of the Courtier, with its more than one hundred editions in the course of the  XVI century, obscured Castiglione’s other works, in Latin and the vernacular, in both prose and poetry. They are nonetheless the mirror of the multiform literary activity of this Mantuan, a receptive interpreter, in the transition from the XV to the XVI century, of those ferments, both ideological and stylistic, that traversed the culture of his time. The ‘minor’ works by Castiglione indeed range from classical style elegiac versification to the lyric of love, from theatrical experimentation in the so called gusto cortese (courtly taste) to the humanistic art of letter writing, on subject matter at times political and civilian, at times aesthetic and literary.

Thematic pathway bullet Thematic pathway

In The Book of the Courtier and his other works, in the vernacular and in Latin, Castiglione plucks the fruits of a protracted reflection, that embraces pretty well all the fundamental themes of Renaissance literary culture, Italian and European. The golden age of the court of Urbino, in the era of Guidubaldo and Elisabetta, was used as a prototype of the artistic splendours achieved by the humanistic civilization, and the ethical and political values connected. Against this background Castiglione investigated the complex dynamics of relational life, recording its continuity and rupture, in space and time.

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