A witty, erudite celebration of fifty great Italian cultural achievements that have significantly influenced Western civilization from the authors of What Are the Seven Wonders of the World?
“Sprezzatura,” or the art of effortless mastery, was coined in 1528 by Baldassare Castiglione in The Book of the Courtier. No one has demonstrated effortless mastery throughout history quite like the Italians. From the Roman calendar and the creator of the modern orchestra (Claudio Monteverdi) to the beginnings of ballet and the creator of modern political science (Niccolò Machiavelli), Sprezzatura highlights fifty great Italian cultural achievements in a series of fifty information-packed essays in chronological order.
In the early 16th century, Count Baldassare Castiglione penned his famous Book of the Courtier, synthesizing the ideals of the medieval courtly gentleman with the new "Renaissance man." Above all, the courtier should exhibit the qualities of grace and sprezzatura, which D'Epiro and Pinkowish accurately describe as "an assumed air of doing difficult things with an effortless mastery and an air of nonchalance." In 50 bite-sized chapters that are as delicious as they are short, D'Epiro and Pinkowish (What Are the Seven Wonders of the World?) take readers through a whirlwind tour of 25 centuries of culture and history on the Italian peninsula. From the calendar and Roman law to the Montessori method and Enrico Fermi, readers can delight in the defeats and accomplishments of a most varied group of men and women. Most books extolling the Italians conveniently delete the dark side of Italian history; this one honestly leaves in many of the more brutal details. The writing is engaging, and the authors' lively and descriptive style almost compensates for a lack of illustrations. One of the book's great merits is that it will surely stimulate readers to return to their Ovid, Livy, Dante and Boccaccio; in addition, one can gain greater appreciation for such masterpieces as Rossellini's Rome, Open City and Giuseppe Di Lampedusa's The Leopard. Although the authors only hint at it, sprezzatura is anything but effortless: mastery of any skill requires more perspiration than inspiration. Or, as D'Epiro and Pinkowish point out, the "social mask," or the "disjunction between appearance and reality," is "the very patina of civilization." (Oct.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.