This chapter introduces the main themes of the book, providing background about how the professional improprieties of a select group of writers and visual artists in sixteenth-century Italy were encoded in their works of art in complex ways. It also describes a performative practice, a mode of behavior: the art of being conspicuous, with art meaning everything from talent and knack to empirically acquired skill. It notes that a key factor was the growth of the print industry, which allowed a number of writers—the polygraphs writing in the vernacular—to distance themselves from court culture and survive somewhat independently of it, through the print marketplace. Another factor was the development of a vigorous patronage system, which created wider opportunities for artists than previously existed and gave them the possibility of reaching a level of fame not attained in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.
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