Sprezzatura

Concealing the Effort of Art from Aristotle to Duchamp

Paolo D'Angelo

Columbia University Press

Sprezzatura

Pub Date: March 2018

ISBN: 9780231175821

192 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $30.00£24.00

Pub Date: March 2018

ISBN: 9780231540346

192 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $29.99£24.00

Sprezzatura

Concealing the Effort of Art from Aristotle to Duchamp

Paolo D'Angelo

Columbia University Press

The essence of art is to conceal art. A dancer or musician does not only need to perform with ability. There should also be a lack of visible effort that gives an impression of naturalness. To disguise technique and feign ease is to heighten beauty. To express this notion, Italian has a word with no exact equivalent in other languages, sprezzatura: a kind of unaffectedness or nonchalance.

In this book, the first to consider sprezzatura in its own right, philosopher of art Paolo D’Angelo reconstructs the history of concealing art, from ancient rhetoric to our own times. The word sprezzatura was coined in 1528 by Baldassarre Castiglione in The Book of the Courtier to mean a kind of grace with a special essence: the ability to conceal art. But the idea reaches back to Aristotle and Cicero and forward to avant-garde works such as Duchamp’s ready-mades, all of which share the suspicion of the overt display of skill. The precept that art must be hidden turns up in a number of fields, from cosmetics to interior design, politics to poetry, the English garden to shabby chic. Through exploring different articulations of this idea, D’Angelo shows the paradox of aesthetics: art hides that it is art, but in doing so it reveals itself to be art and becomes an assertion about art. When art is concealed, it appears as spontaneous as nature—yet, paradoxically, also reveals its indebtedness to technique. An erudite and surprising tour through aesthetics, philosophy, and art history, Sprezzatura presents a strikingly original argument with deceptive ease.
A brilliant and lively essay on a fundamental aesthetic concept. Broad-ranging both philosophically and historically, the author treats the wit and paradox of explaining a rhetorical and performative action of speech or art-making that must conceal its artfulness for the sake of beauty, eloquence, and grace. Lydia Goehr, Columbia University
In Sprezzatura, Paolo D’Angelo offers a ‘history of ideas’ that is typical of the best Italian scholarship in terms of its wide‐ranging erudition and historical breadth, which are all too rare in English‐language scholarship. It is very readable—hiding, as it were, the effort with which it was written. It shows how a ‘history of an idea’ can be written with both historical and philosophical panache. Paul Kottman, New School for Social Research
This is an important and unique book on art and aesthetics that brings together classical and modern aesthetic theories, from Schelling and Kant to Danto and Dickie. D’Angelo’s study is a tour de force through some of the most seminal texts of Western poetics, rhetoric, and philosophy, and it constitutes a mine of erudition and scholarly reflection. Massimo Verdicchio, University of Alberta
Preface to the First Edition
Note to the Second Italian Edition
1. Concealment
2. Part of Eloquence Is to Hide Eloquence
3. The Concealed Ornament
4. Art or Nature?
5. In the Garden
6. Iki
7. Those Who Cannot Dissimulate Cannot Rule Either
8. True Eloquence Mocks Eloquence
9. Ready-Mades
Notes
Index

About the Author

Paolo D’Angelo is professor of aesthetics at Roma Tre University. He is the author of a number of books on aesthetics and philosophy.