Born in Mantua in 1478, Baldassare Castiglione was in the service of Guidobaldo da Montefeltro and then Francesco Maria della Rovere at the court of Urbino from 1504 to 1513. Sent as ambassador to Rome in 1513, he made friends with Raphael. A refined poet in the vulgar tongue and in Latin and a successful diplomat, Castiglione owed his fame largely to the book 11 cortegiano (The Courtier), written between 1513 and 1518 and published in 1528. The work, in the form of a dialogue, is a discussion of the ideal qualities of the courtier: the book proved an almost immediate success at all the courts of Europe. Raphael painted the portrait painting of his friend between 1514 and 1515; it is one of the finest art works of painter in the genre. The painting composition, which cuts off the sitter's arm, normally included in the framing of the Renaissance portrait, brings us close to the figure of Castiglione: our gaze meets the writer's and we are struck by his expression and psychology, so accurately caught by Raphael. The symphony of blacks and grays in the sleeve and the convincing representation of the texture of the fur, in a delicate harmony with sandy color of the background, constitute one of Raphael's most superb achievements.
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