Castiglione, Baldassare

(ca. 1478-1529)
   Italian writer and diplomat. The son of a professional soldier who served the marquis of Mantua, Castiglione received a humanistic education but began his career as a military officer and diplomat. In 1504, having met Duke Guidobaldo of Urbino while visiting Rome, he entered the service of that prince and went on embassies to England, Milan, France, and Rome. His later diplomatic service took him back to Rome in 1523 as Mantuan ambassador, and in 1524 Pope Clement VII appointed him papal nuncio to the court of Charles V in Spain, where he spent the rest of his life and died of plague in 1529.
   Castiglione was a skilled practitioner of courtly poetry and was active in organizing performances of plays at court. But his literary masterpiece was The Book of the Courtier, published in 1528. The book is a series of imaginary dialogues set at the court of the duke and duchess of Urbino, where he had spent much of his early adult life. It reflects the elegant and highly intellectual court, and many of the interlocutors are real people he had known there. Both men and women participate in the witty discussions held as an amusement for the courtiers during long evenings together. The game is to define the characteristics of the perfect courtier and the perfect court lady. The imaginary pictures of both gentleman and lady represent a high ideal of aristocratic life, with emphasis on development of a broad range of skills, not only physical and artistic but also poetic and intellectual. The final topic of conversation is the proper conduct of the courtier in matters of love, and this discussion culminates in the explanation of the ideal of Platonic love by Pietro Bembo, who in real life had articulated that ideal. Castiglione's book was a great literary success. It was translated into Latin and nearly all of the major European languages, largely because its portrait of the ideal courtier and court lady served as a book of manners for aspiring aristocrats.

Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. . 2004.

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  • Castiglione, Baldassare — (1478 1529)    Italian author and diplomat, best known for his Il cortegiano The Courtier, first published in Venice in 1528, a work that greatly influenced Renaissance culture. Castiglione was born in Casàtico, near Mantua, where his family… …   Dictionary of Renaissance art

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