Friday, September 21, 2007

Sprezzatura ...

... Ted Williams and Bill Clinton. Writing as Performance: Revealing "the calculation that underlies the appearance of effortlessness."

As Dave Lull points out, we've linked to this before: Uh-oh ... It's just when I see that word sprezzatura ....

Of course, sprezzatura has its perils: If you don't look like you're working at something, some people may think you're not working at it.


  1. I must admit that I have never heard someone using the archaic “sprezzatura” in everyday speech, although words derived by the same root are quite common. After reading the Harvard Magazine article that you linked I was more puzzled than before.
    The apparently effortless act employed in creating art does not, in my opinion, have the connotation of nonchalance. “Sprezzatura” sounds to me the result of a disdainful, harsh attitude rather than a graceful attempt to hide self-awareness. The nonchalant man, consciously hiding his efforts, acts as if things came naturally to him but he is not deeply concerned with the judgment of others. To show sprezzatura, instead, means to aim at inducing in others reverence and establish one’s superiority over them.

  2. Interesting points, May. If memory serves, in Burckhardt's book on the Renaissance, the term is discussed at some length in the chapter on Alberti. When I have time I'll look it up. As I recall, the idea is not to let effort show in something that obviously takes skill and practice. It should look effortless, even if it is not. The opposite, I suppose, of "labored."