Don Íñigo López de Mendoza y de la Vega, Marquis of Santillana (August 19, 1398 – March 25, 1458) was a Castilian politician and poet who held an important position in society and literature during the reign of John II of Castile.
He is an important literary figure of fifteenth-century Spanish poetry and is credited with composing the first Petrarchan style sonnets in Spanish, referred to as the Sonetos fechos al modo (circa 1438-circa 1455), and the first to write formal literary criticism in Castile. In addition to these accomplished firsts, Santillana's allegorical poem, Comedieta de Ponça (1436) marks the first Spanish ars poetica. Although much of Santillana's work enjoyed significant prestige during his lifetime, Santillana is best known today for the composition of his serranillas, many of which can be found in anthologies and histories dealing with Spanish literature.
Santillana's work, which is extensive and varied, was significantly influenced by the works of Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio, making his body of poetry representative of the transition between medieval and Renaissance Spanish literature. While Santillana's poetry mainly deals with the topics of love, politics, morals, and religion, many critics point out that evidence of Santillana's artistic merit lies in the formality, thematic variety, and extensiveness of his work, all of which demonstrate that he was a dedicated poet.
Not only is Santillana considered one of the most enthusiastic and talented Spanish poets of his time, he is also considered a great literary patron. At a time when his country was experiencing political and social unrest, Santillana supported the translations of many Greek and Latin classics into Castilian and used his poetry as a voice of counsel and consolation in an effort to encourage intellectual and cultural progress in his country.
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