Baltasar Castiglione

Baltasar Castiglione Biography
Public Domain

Baltasar Castiglione Biography

Baldassare or Baltasar Castiglione (December 6, 1478 – February 2, 1529) Born in Casatico, Italy. Italian diplomat, writer and religious, famous for his work Il Cortegiano (The Courtier, 1528) in which he delves into the character and formation of the Renaissance man. He was educated as a humanist in Milan by Demetrio Calcondilas and later entered the courts of prominent figures of the time such as Ludovico el Moro, Guidobaldo de Montefeltro, and Francisco Gonzaga. He began his political career as a diplomat in France, England and was subsequently appointed an ambassador to the Rome of Leon X. He was ordained a priest in 1520 and held the position of apostolic nuncio in Spain, until his death in 1529.


Family and beginnings

Born into a noble family, Castiglione had as his father the military Cristóforo Castiglione and his wife Luigia Gonzaga, a relative of Ludovico III. He received a careful academic training in his hometown and later moved to Milan to continue his studies. Based in Milan in 1494, Castiglione attended the humanist school of the writer Demetrio Calcondilas and the historian Giorgio Merula. After the death of his father in 1499, he returned to Mantua to take over the family business. Being part of the Gonzaga court, Castiglione accompanied Francisco Gonzaga in his failed military campaign against Naples at the beginning of the 15th century. He participated at that time in the battle of Garellano (1503), where the French and Italian troops were defeated by the Spanish army.

A year after the campaign in Naples, Castiglione became part of the Montefeltro court in Urbino, which was considered one of the most refined and influential courts in the country. In the course of the nine years he remained in the Urbino court, Castiglione began his political career, being commissioned of various diplomatic missions in France and England. For his outstanding participation in the expedition of Pope Julius II against Venice (1508-1510), he received the title of count of Nuvolari. It was at this time that Castiglione got interested in literature and began to write his first poems and works such as the eclogue Tirsis (1506) and Alcon (1506) and was elected by Ad puellam in litore ambulantem (1513).


Baltasar Castiglione’s Trajectory

After gaining recognition as a military and diplomat in the courts of the Gonzaga and the Montefeltro, Castiglione was appointed an ambassador to the Rome of Leon X at the beginning of the 1510s. He moved to Rome in 1513 and there he became friends with the renowned artists Miguel Angel and Rafael Sanzio. Influenced by what was seen and debated in the courts, he wrote several poems and writings such as the representation of La calandria and Elisabella Gonzaga canente. For this same period he deepened in the writing of his best known work, The courtier, who wrote between 1508 and 1516, taking as inspiration the meetings and debates raised in the courts of Gonzaga and Montefeltro, where he met illustrious figures such as Juliano de Médicis, Isabel Gonzaga, Pietro Bembo, Cardinal Bibbiena, Federico Fregoso, Ludovico di Canossa, among others.

When his wife died in 1520, after four years of marriage, Castiglione was ordained as a priest. In 1524, he was appointed as a diplomatic representative of the Holy See (apostolic nuncio) by Clement VII and sent to Spain, where he held this position until his death in 1529. After the sacking of Rome orchestrated by Charles V in 1257, Clement VII accused him of not having done everything possible to avoid it. Disgusted and sorry for what happened, Castiglione managed to apologize for the Pope after being excused in a personal letter addressed to him. Sick and based in Toledo, Castiglione died on February 2, 1529, because of violent fevers.


Castiglione and the courtier

A year before his death, Castiglione published The Courtier (1528), a work he wrote between 1508 and 1516, while living in the atmosphere of the Italian courts. Being considered one of the most representative works of the Italian Renaissance, the courtier (1528), introduces the reader to the environment of the Italian gentleman and the correct way in which he performs. The book, which was divided into four parts, focuses on the conversations of Princess Emilia Pía, Juliano de Médicis, Bembo, Federico Fregoso, Elisabetta and Ludovico di Canossa, among other court figures, about the characteristics of a good courtier, its qualities, its attitude towards adverse circumstances and the academic and artistic training that it must have. The success and influence of the work led to it being translated by Juan Boscán in 1534.

Most Popular

To Top