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“Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione” by Raphael

"Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione" by Raphael

“Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione” by Raphael

“Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione” by Raphael depicts Raphael’s friend, the diplomat and humanist Baldassare Castiglione, who is considered the example of the High Renaissance gentleman. Castiglione is seated against an earth-toned background and wears a dark doublet with a trim of squirrel fur and black ribbon. On his head is a turban topped by a beret. The lightest areas are the subject’s face, his white shirt which is billowed out in the front at his chest, and his folded hands. Castiglione is painted with a humane sensitivity characteristic of Raphael’s later portraits. The soft contours of his clothing and rounded beard express the subtlety of the subject’s personality.

The portrait was produced as a result of Raphael’s friendship with Castiglione. They were close friends by 1504, when Castiglione made his second visit to Urbino, as Raphael was gaining recognition as an artist in the humanist circle of the city’s ducal court. Raphael was commissioned in 1505 to paint a picture for Henry VII. Castiglione travelled to England to present the finished painting to the king. Castiglione is also later depicted in Raphael’s “The School of Athens”, as a Zoroaster at the far right of the fresco next to the image of Raphael himself.

"Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione" by Raphael

Close-up of “The School of Athens
with images of Castiglione and Raphael (looking straight at us)

Baldassare Castiglione

Baldassare Castiglione (1478 – 1529), count of Casatico, was an Italian courtier, diplomat, soldier and a Renaissance author, who is famous for his “The Book of the Courtier”. His book dealt with questions of the etiquette and morality of the courtier and was very influential in 16th-century European court circles.

The “Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione” from 1515 by Raphael is one of the great portraits of the Renaissance, which has had an enduring influence.

The Book of the Courtier

“The Book of the Courtier” is a book of manners which dealt with issues of behaviour and morals at princely and royal courts. Written by Baldassare Castiglione beginning in 1508, and published by 1528, just before his death. An English edition was published in 1561.

In the book, the courtier is described as having a calm mind, a pleasant voice with beautiful and elegant words along with proper bearing and gestures. At the same time, though, the courtier is expected to have a warrior spirit, to be athletic, and have good knowledge of the humanities, Classics and fine arts. The book is organised as a series of fictional conversations which debate the nature of nobility, humour, women, and love.

Raphael

Raphael was an Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance. His work is admired for its clarity of form, ease of composition, and together with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, he is one of the great masters of that period. Raphael was enormously productive, despite his death at 37, leaving a large body of work. Many of his works are in the Vatican Palace, where the frescoed Raphael Rooms were the central, and the largest, work of his career. The best-known work is The School of Athens in the Vatican.

His career started in Umbria, then for four years he spent time in Florence absorbing the artistic renaissance of Florence and then his last twelve years in Rome, he worked for two Popes and their associates.

Reflections

  • “People demonstrate their courage far more often in little things than in great.” – Baldassare Castiglione
  • A friend of Raphael, who shared the same ideas about beauty and harmony.
  • Should current day politicians have good knowledge of the humanities, Classics and fine arts?

Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione

  • Title:                Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione
  • Artist:              Raphael
  • Created:          1514–1515
  • Medium:         oil on canvas
  • Periods:           High Renaissance
  • Dimensions:    Height: 82 cm (32.2 ″); Width: 67 cm (26.3 ″)
  • Museum:         Musée du Louvre

Raphael

Explore the Louvre

Insights into “Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione” by Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino

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“People demonstrate their courage far more often in little things than in great.”
– Baldassare Castiglione

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Photo Credit 1) Raphael [Public domain]

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