The greatest painting in Paris is not the Mona Lisa. It’s a different portrait by a different renaissance master, conveniently located only a hundred feet away from the Mona Lisa, in an adjacent Louvre gallery. It’s Rafael’s Baldassare Castiglione. Baldassare Castiglione, Count of Casatico, was a prominent, brilliant diplomat and courtier, who remains famous as the author of The Book of the Courtier, the quintessential book of Renaissance manners and etiquette. Castiglione was born in 1478; starting in 1494, he spent five years studying the new renaissance humanism before succeeding his father as Count at 21, whereupon he joined the Gonzaga court in nearby Mantua. He served as an ambassador for the Gonzagas until 1504, when he met the Duke of Urbino in Rome, and was recruited to the Urbino Court. Urbino was then the most urbane court in Italy, home and patron of poets, playwrights and painters. The greatest was Rafaello Sanzio, an Urbino native, and before long, Castiglione’s fast friend.