Baldassare Castiglione (1478–1529)
Baldassare Castiglione was born on December 6, 1478, at Casatico near Mantua, Italy. An Italian diplomat, knight, and courtier, Castiglione served in the court of Urbino for a good part of his life, observing and taking part in its elegance. He recorded a fictional dialogue to represent the best of court life in his Book of the Courtier (1528). This book was highly influential, setting the standard for the behavior of the elite, which was to comport oneself with a casual nonchalance, giving the impression that one’s learning and grace are natural talents, effortlessly expressed. He explains, “Therfore that may be said to be a very art that appeereth not to be art, neyther ought a man to put more dilgence in any thing then in covering it: for in case it be open, it loseth credit cleane, and maketh a man litle set by” (as translated by Sir Thomas Hoby, 1561).
Castiglione died at the height of his fortune on February 7, 1529.
Desiderius Erasmus (c. 1466–1536)
Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam was born in October of 1466 or 1467, an illegitimate child whose parents died of the plague. He was put into a monastery, where he was ordained for priesthood. However, Erasmus became a scholar and one of the first humanists and did not join the priesthood. He initially supported the Reformation but abandoned the movement when it led to religious conflict. Influenced by Valla’s...
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