sprezzatura

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

Borrowed from Italian sprezzatura (nonchalance), which was coined in 1528 by Baldassare Castiglione; the term gained currency in English in the mid-20th century, often to describe art.

Noun[edit]

sprezzatura (usually uncountable, plural sprezzaturas)

  1. (chiefly art, music) The art of performing a difficult task so gracefully that it looks effortless; calculated nonchalance.
    • 1959, Charles S. Singleton, transl., The Book of the Courtier, translation of Il libro del Cortegiano by Baldassare Castiglione, The First Book, page 43:
      [] I have found quite a universal rule which in this matter seems to me valid above all others, and in all human affairs whether in word or deed: and that is to avoid affectation in every way possible as though it were some very rough and dangerous reef; and (to pronounce a new word perhaps) to practice in all things a certain sprezzatura [nonchalance][sic], so as to conceal all art and make whatever is done or said appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it.
    • 2002 February 19, Ben Ratliff, “Seeming So Nonchalant Can Be Harder Than It Looks”, in The New York Times[1], ISSN 0362-4331:
      Cassandra Wilson's music is the essence of sprezzatura, or calculated nonchalance, that special attitude described nearly 500 years ago by Baldassare Castiglione in “The Courtier,” his primer on how to ingratiate yourself with the aristocracy.
    • 2013 August 18, Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, “Unloading the Weightiness of Brahms With a Few Flicks”, in The New York Times[2], ISSN 0362-4331:
      Mr. Mork played with soulful intensity (and impeccable intonation), and the interplay between him and Mr. Repin, with nicely coordinated gestures and phrasings, was enjoyable to watch. But Mr. Repin’s technical struggles were all too evident — the very opposite of sprezzatura.
    • 2022, W. David Marx, chapter 4, in Status and Culture, Viking, →ISBN:
      In men's fashion the ultimate style move is sprezzatura, embracing intentional errors such as undone buttons and misaligned neckties. Gianni Agnelli, the head of Fiat, wore watches over his shirtsleeves.

Further reading[edit]


Italian[edit]

Etymology[edit]

From sprezzare (to despise) +‎ -tura. In the sense of nonchalance used by Baldassare Castiglione in Il Cortegiano, published in 1528.

Pronunciation[edit]

  • IPA(key): /spret.t͡saˈtu.ra/
  • Rhymes: -ura
  • Hyphenation: sprez‧za‧tù‧ra

Noun[edit]

sprezzatura f (plural sprezzature)

  1. (music, art) nonchalance; sprezzatura
    • 1528, Baldassare Castiglione, “XXVI”, in Il Cortegiano:
      [] trovo una regula universalissima, la qual mi par valer circa questo in tutte le cose umane che si facciano o dicano piú che alcuna altra, e ciò è fuggir quanto piú si po, e come un asperissimo e pericoloso scoglio, la affettazione; e, per dir forse una nova parola, usar in ogni cosa una certa sprezzatura, che nasconda l’arte e dimostri ciò che si fa e dice venir fatto senza fatica e quasi senza pensarvi.
      [] have found quite a universal rule which in this matter seems to me valid above all others, and in all human affairs whether in word or deed: and that is to avoid affectation in every way possible as though it were some very rough and dangerous reef; and (to pronounce a new word perhaps) to practice in all things a certain Sprezzatura [nonchalance], so as to conceal all art and make whatever is done or said appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it.

Descendants[edit]

  • English: sprezzatura

Further reading[edit]