Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Sprezzatura 2.0

Wikipedia defines Sprezzatura as follows:

an Italian word originating from Baldassare Castiglione's The Book of the Courtier, where it is defined by the author as "a certain nonchalance, so as to conceal all art and make whatever one does or says appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it".

I find it somewhat amusing that the writer should use a foreign (French) word, nonchalance, to help define another foreign word, but there it is. Without effort.
The next three or four posts will be an exploration of this concept of sprezzatura, or without effort, and its Italian cousin, menefreghismo, which is a somewhat coarse way of saying "I don't give a ...damn". The French and Italians not only have a word to describe it, but a gesture to punctuate it as well. The famous Gallic shrug. In Italy the gesture is similar but perhaps more emphatic. The closest we get to it in America is probably "whatever, dude."

Voxsartoria long ago promised me a suit of his for dissection. I won't mention who made it but if you have followed his numerous internet incarnations, you could probably figure it out. The coat was made by a fairly well-known tailor, and the trouser was sub-contracted to an even more famous trouser maker but sold under the label of the first. Both are located in Naples, one of the few stylistic regions that I have not discussed much in this blog, so this promises to be interesting on many levels. Partly because it prompts one to think a lot about sprezzatura, both in how one approaches style, but also how one approaches ones work or craft. It also becomes a reflection on luxury, exclusivity, and the talismanic power certain items can have over our behavior and mindset.


Anonymous said...

I don't think most Americans think of "nonchalance" as a French word, it's so ingrained in the language.

Unfortunately, the word "sprezzatura" has forever been ruined for me after a scandal involving a New Republic writer. He got caught posting (or having someone else post) positive comments in his defense under the username "Sprezzatura," which, in the circumstances, was highly ironic, considering how much effort he spent. Ultimately, his sock puppetry was unraveled.

Well at least "menefreghismo" is unsullied.

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