RonButters at AOL.COM RonButters at AOL.COM
Thu Jul 18 02:03:51 UTC 2002

In a message dated 7/17/2002 5:26:11 PM, Bapopik at AOL.COM writes:

<< SPREZZATURA--From USA TODAY international, 17 July 2002, pg. 7B, col. 3:

   While reading _The New York TImes_ a couple of Sundays ago, I came upon a
word I'd never seen before.  Sprezzatura.  I asked my partner, Jack, if he
knew what it meant.  He didn't, and he reads books with hard covers.  I
looked in the dictionary.  (THE dictionary?--ed.)  It wasn't there, so I went
online, typed in the word, hit "search" and up it popped.

   You probably already know this, but it's from the Italian High Renaissance
and describes the attributes of a man who is both a graceful performer and a
superficial manipulator.  Because the word was used to describe two young men
clawing their way up the ladder of New York society on the arm of Martha
Stweart, it was the perfect fit. >>

Not quite right. See below.

In a message dated 7/17/2002 5:45:34 PM, JMB at STRADLEY.COM writes:

<<         The OED defines "sprezzatura" as ease of manner, studied
carelessness; the appearance of acting or being done without effort.  I found
this reassuring, because that was what I thought the word meant.  The USA
TODAY interpretation is evidently based on a misreading of this web page:


John Baker >>

Yes indeed. I was familiar with this word because I read portions of an
English translation of Castiglione's book, THE COURTIER, which was written in
Italy (in Italian) in the "High Renaissance." I believe the book was very
popular in England, where the idea of sprezzatura became a goal for all
gentlemen to emulate. The idea was that a true gentleman not only did
everything well, but he made every victory look effortless. The goal was not
to be a "superficial manipulator" but a totally graceful person who was very
aware of his image among others. In a way, sprezzatura was a kind of duty
that the upper classes owed to the lower classes in order to promote social
order. Indeed, the burden fell most heavily upon the prince.

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