Baldassare Castiglione, Il Cortegiano 1528

Baldassare Castiglione by Raphael (1514-15) The Louvre
Baldassare Castiglione by Raphael (1514-15) The Louvre

Il Cortegiano by Baldassare Castiglione (1478-1529) was published in Venice (Aldine) in 1528 after nearly 20 years of work (begun in 1508). It is the most important treatise on court life from the Renaissance (16th century) and was published in 6 languages – Spanish (1534), French (1537), English (translated by Thomas Hoby; 1561), German (1566) and trilingual (Italian, Latin and English 1588)).  The book describes courtiers’ conversations on the ideal courtier that take place over 4 days in the Duke of Urbino’s Court in 1507.

From the First Book:

“You ask me then to write what is to my thinking the form of Courtiership most befitting a gentleman who lives at the court of princes, by which he may have the ability and knowledge perfectly to serve them in every reasonable thing, winning from them favour, and praise from other men; in short, what manner of man he ought to be who may deserve to be called a perfect Courtier without flaw.” Part 1 (Wordsworth (2000) p.9)

“Another admirable exercise, and one very befitting a man at court, is the game of tennis, in which are well shown the disposition of the body, the quickness and suppleness of every member, and all those qualities that are seen in nearly every other exercise.” Part 22 (Wordsworth (2000) p. 32)

All quotations taken from The Book of the Courtier, Wordsworth Classics of World Literature (2000)

Resources on Palazzo Urbino and in particular the Sala per Gioco della Palla (Tennis Court) built c. 1470 See Cees de Bondt’s article on the Dutch Real Tennis site The court was located in the bottom right hand corner of the plan below (now divided into 3 rooms).


Other sources on Renaissance court life:

Stefano Guazzo, The civil conversation (1574)

Giovanni Della Casa, Galateo (1558).

Other people of note:

Federico da Montefeltro (1422-82) Duke of Urbino (1444-82)

Guidobaldo da Montefeltro, (1472-1508) Duke of Urbino (1482-1508);

Francesco Maria I della Rovere (1490-1538) Duke of Urbino (1508-16 and 1521-38)