(b. 1483, Urbino, d. 1520, Roma)

Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione

Oil on canvas, 82 x 67 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

The Portrait of Baldassarre Castiglione, a literary figure active at the court of Urbino in the early years of the 16th century, may or may not have been painted by Raphael. According to a letter of 1516 from Pietro Bembo to Cardinal Bibbiena, "The Portrait of M. Baldassar Castiglione... [and that of Duke Guidobaldo di Montefeltro] would seem to be by the hand of one of Raphael's pupils". But the high quality and masterful combination of pictorial elements which distinguish the painting (note the affection inherent in the intelligent and calm face of Castiglione) lead one to believe that the master participated in some way in its execution. Certainly the shaded tonalities of the clothing and the unusually light background indicate the hand of a skillful and experienced painter.

Baldassare Castiglione, a humanist and a writer, was one of the most important men of the Italian Renaissance. His popular book "Il cortegiano" (The Courtier) summed up the tastes and culture of the Renaissance, it gives insights into the thinking and culture at the court of Urbino at the turn of the 16th century, and is written in a style that is delightfully clear and precise. Rubens admired Raphael's portrait of Castiglione so much that he copied it.