Art Chowder May | June 2017, Issue 9 - Page 38

Sprezzatura THE ART OF EFFORTLESSNESS BY MELVILLE HOLMES “Whence one may say that art is true art which does not appear to be art; nor should one strive for any other art except to conceal art for if it is discovered, it quite destroys our credit and brings us into small esteem.” Baldassare Castiglione Il Libro del Cortegiano 1528 In Michelangelo’s Theory of Art (1961), Renaissance scholar Robert J. Cle- ments sought to piece together the great artist’s thought on art by means of the slim evidence contained in his few writings and words and ideas at- tributed to him by others. One theme therein is described in this way, “This is what one has most to labor for…in creating works of painting…to do the work that it may appear, although la- bored over a great deal, as if it had been done almost hurriedly and al- most without any work, and quite ef- fortlessly, even though this is not the case.” 1 Baldassare Castiglione (1478-1529) promoted a very similar concept in his widely circulated book about the qualities “most befitting a gentleman who lives at the court of princes.” In his Book of the Courtier he stated. “I find one universal rule…which seems to me worth more in this matter than any other…and that is to avoid affec- tation to the uttermost…and, to use possibly a new word, to practice in everything a certain sprezzatura (or “nonchalance”) that shall conc