The Rhetoric of Work in Leon Battista Alberti
By Claudia Bertazzo
Rhetorics of Work, edited by Yannis Yannitsiotis, Dimitra Lampropoulou and Carla Salvaterra (Pisa University Press, 2008)
Abstract: One source of interest in doing research on Leon Battista Alberti is to see how a man of multiple talents from the 15th-century elites viewed the world of work, including craftsmanship and manual work in the broadest sense. Numerous references to this broad canvas occur throughout Alberti’s output. Analysis of such passages reveals too multifaceted a mind to be reduced to one line of interpretation. The author touches on subjects like discipline in learning, the importance of practice and natural aptitude for work, but also on higher concepts like nature’s unattainable perfection eluding the artist, or the basic distinction between art and crafts. Craftsmanship and the mechanical arts emerge in an unusually noble light for the times. Pursuing that line of thought, Alberti sees work as a means of social betterment and personal improvement, thanks especially to the economic independence that only professional know-how can ensure anyone lacking a source of unearned income. The complex perspectives dealt with are the mirror of the author, torn as he was between theory and application, between technical science and philosophy or letters.