The Meaning of Sprezzatura
The meaning of sprezzatura in art and life in the High Renaissance is difficult to determine. Part of the trouble stems from the contradictions inherent in the word itself; it is paradoxical, closely related to grace, but with slightly different connotations. Castiglione's Book of the Courtier elaborated on what the word meant for social interaction. A character in the book, Count Ludovico, explains the meaning of grace, and in it he mentions sprezzatura. "It is an art which does not seem to be an art. One must avoid affectation and practice in all things a certain sprezzatura, disdain or carelessness, so as to conceal art, and make whatever is done or said appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it....obvious effort is the antithesis of grace." The most important aspect of sprezzatura is its two-layered nature: it involves a conscious effort which is disguised by a concealing act. Things which require effort are to be performed casually. Count Ludovico seems to be saying that grace arises out of sprezzatura. Anthony Blunt interprets it this way: "It will vanish if a man takes too much pains to attain it, or if he shows any effort to attain it. Nothing but complete ease can produce it. The only effort which should be expended in attaining it is an effort to conceal the skill on which it is based; and it is from sprezzatura, or recklessness, that grace springs." In High Renaissance life, the courtiers wanted to put on a kind of performance, a subtle one, without allowing anyone to know it was self-conscious and deliberate behavior.