Benvenuto Cellini
Benvenuto Cellini was an Italian goldsmith
A goldsmith is a metalworker who specializes in working with gold and other precious metals. Since ancient times the techniques of a goldsmith have evolved very little in order to produce items of jewelry of quality standards. In modern times actual goldsmiths are rare...

, sculptor
Sculpture is three-dimensional artwork created by shaping or combining hard materials—typically stone such as marble—or metal, glass, or wood. Softer materials can also be used, such as clay, textiles, plastics, polymers and softer metals...

, painter
Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface . The application of the medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush but other objects can be used. In art, the term painting describes both the act and the result of the action. However, painting is...

, soldier
A soldier is a member of the land component of national armed forces; whereas a soldier hired for service in a foreign army would be termed a mercenary...

 and musician
A musician is an artist who plays a musical instrument. It may or may not be the person's profession. Musicians can be classified by their roles in performing music and writing music.Also....* A person who makes music a profession....

, who also wrote a famous autobiography
An autobiography is a book about the life of a person, written by that person.-Origin of the term:...

. He was one of the most important artists of Mannerism
Mannerism is a period of European art that emerged from the later years of the Italian High Renaissance around 1520. It lasted until about 1580 in Italy, when a more Baroque style began to replace it, but Northern Mannerism continued into the early 17th century throughout much of Europe...



Benvenuto Cellini was born in Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

, Italy. His parents were Giovanni Cellini, and Maria Lisabetta Granacci. They were married for eighteen years before the birth of their first child. Benvenuto was the second child of the family. The son of a musician and builder of musical instruments, Cellini's first major brush with the law came as an early teenager: He was banished from his native Florence for his alleged role in a brawl. As a result, he received his early artistic training not only from the Florentine goldsmith Marcone [Antonio di Sandro], but also from Francesco Castoro, a goldsmith of Siena. After further visits to Bologna and Pisa, Cellini was allowed to return to Florence and continue his work there.

Giovanni initially wished Benvenuto to join him in instrument making, and endeavoured to thwart his inclination for metalwork. When he was fifteen, his father reluctantly agreed to apprentice him to a goldsmith, Antonio di Sandro, nicknamed Marcone. At the age of sixteen, Benvenuto had already attracted attention in Florence by taking part in an affray with youthful companions. He escaped punishment by fleeing for six months to Siena
Siena is a city in Tuscany, Italy. It is the capital of the province of Siena.The historic centre of Siena has been declared by UNESCO a World Heritage Site. It is one of the nation's most visited tourist attractions, with over 163,000 international arrivals in 2008...

, where he worked for a goldsmith named Fracastoro (unrelated to the Veronese polymath
A polymath is a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas. In less formal terms, a polymath may simply be someone who is very knowledgeable...

). From Siena he moved to Bologna
Bologna is the capital city of Emilia-Romagna, in the Po Valley of Northern Italy. The city lies between the Po River and the Apennine Mountains, more specifically, between the Reno River and the Savena River. Bologna is a lively and cosmopolitan Italian college city, with spectacular history,...

, where he became a more accomplished flute
The flute is a musical instrument of the woodwind family. Unlike woodwind instruments with reeds, a flute is an aerophone or reedless wind instrument that produces its sound from the flow of air across an opening...

 player and made progress as a goldsmith. After a visit to Pisa
Pisa is a city in Tuscany, Central Italy, on the right bank of the mouth of the River Arno on the Tyrrhenian Sea. It is the capital city of the Province of Pisa...

 and two periods of living in Florence (where he was visited by the sculptor Torrigiano
Pietro Torrigiano
Pietro Torrigiano was an Italian sculptor of the Florentine school. According to Giorgio Vasari, he was one of the group of talented youths who studied art under the patronage of Lorenzo de' Medici in Florence....

), he moved to Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

, age nineteen.

Work in Rome

His first works in Rome were a silver casket, silver candlestick
A candlestick, chamberstick, or candelabrum is a holder for one or more candles, used for illumination, rituals, or decorative purposes. The name 'candlestick' derives from the fact that it is usually tall and stick-shaped.Candlesticks are also called candle holders...

s, and a vase
The vase is an open container, often used to hold cut flowers. It can be made from a number of materials including ceramics and glass. The vase is often decorated and thus used to extend the beauty of its contents....

 for the bishop of Salamanca, which won him the approval of Pope Clement VII
Pope Clement VII
Clement VII , born Giulio di Giuliano de' Medici, was a cardinal from 1513 to 1523 and was Pope from 1523 to 1534.-Early life:...

. Another celebrated work from Rome is the gold medallion of "Leda and the Swan
Leda and the Swan
Leda and the Swan is a motif from Greek mythology in which Zeus came to Leda in the form of a swan. According to later Greek mythology, Leda bore Helen and Polydeuces, children of Zeus, while at the same time bearing Castor and Clytemnestra, children of her husband Tyndareus, the King of Sparta. In...

" executed for the Gonfaloniere Gabbriello Cesarino, and which is now in the Vienna museum. He also took up the flute again, and was appointed one of the pope's court musicians.

In the attack upon Rome by Charles III, Duke of Bourbon
Charles III, Duke of Bourbon
Charles III, Duke of Bourbon was a French military leader, the Count of Montpensier and Dauphin of Auvergne. He commanded the Imperial troops of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in what became known as the Sack of Rome in 1527, where he was killed.-Biography:Charles was born at Montpensier...

, Cellini's bravery proved of signal service to the pontiff
A pontiff was, in Roman antiquity, a member of the principal college of priests . The term "pontiff" was later applied to any high or chief priest and, in ecclesiastical usage, to a bishop and more particularly to the Bishop of Rome, the Pope or "Roman Pontiff".-Etymology:The English term derives...

. According to his own accounts, he himself shot and injured Philibert of Châlon, prince of Orange
Philibert of Châlon
Philibert de Châlon was the last prince of Orange from the house of Châlon.Born at Nozeroy to John IV of Chalon-Arlay, Philibert served Emperor Charles V as commander in Italy, fighting in the War of the League of Cognac. He took part in the Sack of Rome and was killed during the final stages of...

. (Allegedly Cellini also killed Charles III, Duke of Bourbon
Charles III, Duke of Bourbon
Charles III, Duke of Bourbon was a French military leader, the Count of Montpensier and Dauphin of Auvergne. He commanded the Imperial troops of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in what became known as the Sack of Rome in 1527, where he was killed.-Biography:Charles was born at Montpensier...

 during the Siege of Rome.) His bravery led to a reconciliation with the Florentine magistrates, and he soon returned to his hometown. Here he devoted himself to crafting medals, the most famous of which are "Hercules
Hercules is the Roman name for Greek demigod Heracles, son of Zeus , and the mortal Alcmene...

 and the Nemean Lion", in gold repoussé work, and "Atlas
Atlas (mythology)
In Greek mythology, Atlas was the primordial Titan who supported the heavens. Although associated with various places, he became commonly identified with the Atlas Mountains in north-west Africa...

 supporting the Sphere", in chased gold, the latter eventually falling into the possession of Francis I of France
Francis I of France
Francis I was King of France from 1515 until his death. During his reign, huge cultural changes took place in France and he has been called France's original Renaissance monarch...


From Florence he went to the court of the duke of Mantua
Mantua is a city and comune in Lombardy, Italy and capital of the province of the same name. Mantua's historic power and influence under the Gonzaga family, made it one of the main artistic, cultural and notably musical hubs of Northern Italy and the country as a whole...

, and then again to Florence. On returning to Rome, he was employed in the working of jewellery
Jewellery or jewelry is a form of personal adornment, such as brooches, rings, necklaces, earrings, and bracelets.With some exceptions, such as medical alert bracelets or military dog tags, jewellery normally differs from other items of personal adornment in that it has no other purpose than to...

 and in the execution of dies for private medals and for the papal mint
Papal mint
The Papal Mint is the pope's institute for the production of hard cash. Papal Mint also refers to the buildings in Avignon, Rome, and elsewhere that used to house the mint...

. In 1529 his brother Cecchino killed a Corporal of the Roman Watch and in turn was wounded by an arquebusier, later dying of his wound. Soon afterward Benvenuto killed his brother's killer – an act of blood revenge but not justice as Cellini admits that his brother's killer had acted in self-defense. Cellini fled to Naples
Naples is a city in Southern Italy, situated on the country's west coast by the Gulf of Naples. Lying between two notable volcanic regions, Mount Vesuvius and the Phlegraean Fields, it is the capital of the region of Campania and of the province of Naples...

 to shelter from the consequences of an affray with a notary
Civil law notary
Civil-law notaries, or Latin notaries, are lawyers of noncontentious private civil law who draft, take, and record legal instruments for private parties, provide legal advice and give attendance in person, and are vested as public officers with the authentication power of the State...

, Ser Benedetto, whom he had wounded. Through the influence of several cardinal
Cardinal (Catholicism)
A cardinal is a senior ecclesiastical official, usually an ordained bishop, and ecclesiastical prince of the Catholic Church. They are collectively known as the College of Cardinals, which as a body elects a new pope. The duties of the cardinals include attending the meetings of the College and...

s, Cellini obtained a pardon. He found favor with the new pope, Paul III
Pope Paul III
Pope Paul III , born Alessandro Farnese, was Pope of the Roman Catholic Church from 1534 to his death in 1549. He came to the papal throne in an era following the sack of Rome in 1527 and rife with uncertainties in the Catholic Church following the Protestant Reformation...

, notwithstanding a fresh homicide during the interregnum
An interregnum is a period of discontinuity or "gap" in a government, organization, or social order...

 three days after the death of Pope Clement VII in September 1534. The fourth victim was a rival goldsmith who was working under Cellini's employment; Pompeo of Milan. Cellini reported in his autobiography that he had fallen in love with Pompeo and admired watching his magnificent physique as he worked near the furnace melting iron and bronze, and that he bore the hope of his affections to soon be acknowledged and returned by Pompeo. When Cellini learned that Pompeo was absent from work that day as his wife's lover, he admitted to visiting the Villa where his separated wife lived and meeting Pompeo at the door, stabbed him on the threshold. His wife he immediately stabbed afterward inside of the home for her 'betrayal'. The killings, the fourth and fifth that Cellini boasts of in his memoirs, was reported in his autobiography as nothing more than a 'justifiable accident during a heated argument' rather than by premeditated malice. He was saved from arrest only because of a safe-conduct by the Pope.

Ferrara and France

The plots of Pierluigi Farnese led to Cellini's retreat from Rome to Florence and Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

, where he was restored with greater honour than before. At the age of 37, upon returning from a visit to the French court, he was imprisoned on a charge (apparently false) of having embezzled during the war the gems of the pope's tiara
A tiara is a form of crown. There are two possible types of crown that this word can refer to.Traditionally, the word "tiara" refers to a high crown, often with the shape of a cylinder narrowed at its top, made of fabric or leather, and richly ornamented. It was used by the kings and emperors of...

. He was confined in the Castel Sant'Angelo
Castel Sant'Angelo
The Mausoleum of Hadrian, usually known as the Castel Sant'Angelo, is a towering cylindrical building in Parco Adriano, Rome, Italy. It was initially commissioned by the Roman Emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself and his family...

, escaped, was recaptured, and treated with great severity, and was in daily expectation of death on the scaffold. The intercession of Pierluigi's wife, and especially that of the Cardinal d'Este of Ferrara
Ferrara is a city and comune in Emilia-Romagna, northern Italy, capital city of the Province of Ferrara. It is situated 50 km north-northeast of Bologna, on the Po di Volano, a branch channel of the main stream of the Po River, located 5 km north...

, eventually secured Cellini's release, in gratitude for which he gave d'Este a splendid cup.

Cellini then worked at the court of Francis I at Fontainebleau
Fontainebleau is a commune in the metropolitan area of Paris, France. It is located south-southeast of the centre of Paris. Fontainebleau is a sub-prefecture of the Seine-et-Marne department, and it is the seat of the arrondissement of Fontainebleau...

 and Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

. However, he considered the duchesse d'Étampes
Anne de Pisseleu d'Heilly
Anne de Pisseleu d'Heilly , Duchess of Étampes, was the mistress of Francis I of France.She was a daughter of Adrien de Pisseleu, seigneur d'Heilly, a nobleman of Picardy, who, with the rise of his daughter at court, was made seigneur of Meudon, master of waters and forests of Île de France, of...

 to be set against him and refused to conciliate with the king's favorites. He could no longer silence his enemies by the sword, as he had silenced those in Rome. As a result, after about five years of invested work but continual jealousy and violence, Cellini returned to Florence, where he continued as a goldsmith and became the rival of sculptor Baccio Bandinelli who died a few years later in 1560.

Death in Florence

During the war with Siena, Cellini was appointed to strengthen the defences of his native city, and, though rather shabbily treated by his ducal patrons, he continued to gain the admiration of his fellow-citizens by the magnificent works which he produced. He was also named a member (Accademico) of the prestigious Accademia delle Arti del Disegno
Accademia delle Arti del Disegno
The Accademia delle Arti del Disegno of Florence promotes the safeguard of the works of art in Italy. Founded in 1563, it was the first academy of drawing established in Europe.- History of the Accademia :...

 of Florence, founded by the Duke Cosimo I de' Medici, at 13 January 1563, under the influence of the architect Giorgio Vasari
Giorgio Vasari
Giorgio Vasari was an Italian painter, writer, historian, and architect, who is famous today for his biographies of Italian artists, considered the ideological foundation of art-historical writing.-Biography:...

. He died in Florence in 1571 and was buried with great pomp in the church of the Santissima Annunziata. He had supported in Florence a widowed sister and her six daughters.

Personal relationships

Cellini is known to have taken some of his female models as mistresses, having an illegitimate daughter in 1544 with one of them while living in France, whom he named Costanza. After briefly attempting a clerical career, in 1562, he married a servant, Piera Parigi, with whom he claimed he had five children, of which only a son and two daughters survived him.

Aside from his marriage, Cellini was officially accused or charged at least three times of the crime of sodomy
Sodomy is an anal or other copulation-like act, especially between male persons or between a man and animal, and one who practices sodomy is a "sodomite"...

 with men, and on one occasion with a woman.
  • 14 January 1523 he was sentenced to pay 12 staia of flour for relations with a boy named Domenico di ser Giuliano da Ripa.
  • While in Paris, a former model and lover brought charges against him of using her "after the Italian fashion."( i.e. Sodomy)
  • In Florence in 1548, Cellini was accused by a woman named Margherita, for having certain familiarities with her son, Vincenzo.
  • 26 February 1556, his apprentice Fernando di Giovanni di Montepulciano accused his mentor of having sodomised him many times. This time the penalty was a hefty fifty golden scudi
    Italian scudo
    The scudo was the name for a number of coins used in Italy until the 19th century. The name, like that of the French écu and the Spanish and Portuguese escudo, was derived from the Latin scutum . From the 16th century, the name was used in Italy for large silver coins...

     fine, and four years of prison, remitted to four years of house arrest thanks to the intercession of the Medici
    The House of Medici or Famiglia de' Medici was a political dynasty, banking family and later royal house that first began to gather prominence under Cosimo de' Medici in the Republic of Florence during the late 14th century. The family originated in the Mugello region of the Tuscan countryside,...


Towards the end of his life during a public altercation before Duke Cosimo, Bandinelli had called out to him Sta cheto, soddomitaccio! (Shut up, you filthy sodomite!) Cellini described this as an "atrocious insult."


Besides his works in gold and silver, Cellini executed sculpture
Sculpture is three-dimensional artwork created by shaping or combining hard materials—typically stone such as marble—or metal, glass, or wood. Softer materials can also be used, such as clay, textiles, plastics, polymers and softer metals...

s of grander scale. The most distinguished of these is the bronze
Bronze is a metal alloy consisting primarily of copper, usually with tin as the main additive. It is hard and brittle, and it was particularly significant in antiquity, so much so that the Bronze Age was named after the metal...

 group of Perseus with the Head of Medusa
Perseus with the Head of Medusa
Perseus with the Head of Medusa is a recurring theme in artwork, depicting an event from Greek mythology in which the hero Perseus holds up the severed head of the gorgon Medusa....

, a work (first suggested by Duke Cosimo I de Medici) now in the Loggia dei Lanzi
Loggia dei Lanzi
The Loggia dei Lanzi, also called the Loggia della Signoria, is a building on a corner of the Piazza della Signoria in Florence, Italy, adjoining the Uffizi Gallery. It consists of wide arches open to the street, three bays wide and one bay deep. The arches rest on clustered pilasters with...

 at Florence, his attempt to surpass Michelangelo
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni , commonly known as Michelangelo, was an Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet, and engineer who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art...

's David
David (Michelangelo)
David is a masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture created between 1501 and 1504, by the Italian artist Michelangelo. It is a marble statue of a standing male nude. The statue represents the Biblical hero David, a favoured subject in the art of Florence...

 and Donatello
Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi , also known as Donatello, was an early Renaissance Italian artist and sculptor from Florence...

's Judith and Holofernes. The casting of this work caused Cellini much trouble and anxiety, but it was hailed as a masterpiece as soon as it was completed. The original relief from the foot of the pedestal—Perseus and Andromeda
Andromeda (mythology)
Andromeda is a princess from Greek mythology who, as divine punishment for her mother's bragging, the Boast of Cassiopeia, was chained to a rock as a sacrifice to a sea monster. She was saved from death by Perseus, her future husband. Her name is the Latinized form of the Greek Ἀνδρομέδη...

—is in the Bargello
The Bargello, also known as the Bargello Palace or Palazzo del Popolo is a former barracks and prison, now an art museum, in Florence, Italy.-Terminology:...

, and replaced by a cast.

By 1996, centuries of environmental pollution
Pollution is the introduction of contaminants into a natural environment that causes instability, disorder, harm or discomfort to the ecosystem i.e. physical systems or living organisms. Pollution can take the form of chemical substances or energy, such as noise, heat or light...

 exposure had streaked and banded the statue. In December of that year it was removed from the Loggia and transferred to the Uffizi
The Uffizi Gallery , is a museum in Florence, Italy. It is one of the oldest and most famous art museums of the Western world.-History:...

 for cleaning and restoration. It was a slow, years-long process, and the restored statue was not returned to its home until June 2000.

Decorative art and portraiture

Among his art works, many of which have perished, were a colossal Mars for a fountain at Fontainebleau and the bronzes of the doorway, coins for the Papal and Florentine states, a life-sized silver Jupiter, and a bronze bust of Bindo Altoviti. The works of decorative art are florid in style.

In addition to the bronze statue of Perseus and the medallions already referred to, the works of art in existence today are a medallion of Clement VII commemorating the peace between the Christian princes, 1530, with a bust of the pope on the reverse and a figure of Peace setting fire to a heap of arms in front of the temple of Janus
Janus (mythology)
In ancient Roman religion and mythology, Janus is the god of beginnings and transitions, thence also of gates, doors, doorways, endings and time. He is usually a two-faced god since he looks to the future and the past...

, signed with the artist's name; a signed portrait medal of Francis; a medal of Cardinal Pietro Bembo
Pietro Bembo
Pietro Bembo was an Italian scholar, poet, literary theorist, and cardinal. He was an influential figure in the development of the Italian language, specifically Tuscan, as a literary medium, and his writings assisted in the 16th-century revival of interest in the works of Petrarch...

; and the celebrated gold, enamel and ivory salt-cellar (known as Saliera
The Cellini Salt Cellar is a part-enamelled gold table sculpture by Benvenuto Cellini. It was completed in 1543 for Francis I of France, from models that had been prepared many years earlier for Cardinal Ippolito d'Este...

) made for Francis I of France at Vienna. This intricate 26-cm-high sculpture, of a value conservatively estimated at 58,000,000 schilling, was commissioned by Francis I. Its principal figures are a naked sea god and a woman sitting opposite each other with legs entwined, symbolically representing the planet Earth. Saliera was stolen from the Kunsthistorisches Museum
Kunsthistorisches Museum
The Kunsthistorisches Museum is an art museum in Vienna, Austria. Housed in its festive palatial building on Ringstraße, it is crowned with an octagonal dome...

 on 11 May 2003 by a thief who climbed scaffolding and smashed windows to enter the museum. The thief set off the alarms, but these were ignored as false, and the theft remained undiscovered until 8:20 AM. On 21 January 2006 the Saliera was recovered by the Austrian police and is supposed to be returned to the Kunsthistorisches Museum in the coming days.
One of the most important works by Cellini from late in his career was a life-size nude crucifix carved from marble. Although originally intended to be placed over his tomb, this crucifix was sold to the Medici family who gave it to Spain. Today the crucifix is in the Escorial Monastery near Madrid, where it has usually been displayed in an altered form—the monastery added a loincloth and a crown of thorns. For detailed information about this work, see the text by Juan López Gajate in the Further Reading section of this article.
Cellini, while employed at the papal mint at Rome during the papacy of Clement VII and later of Paul III, created the dies of several coins and medals, some of which still survive at this now defunct mint. He was also in the service of Alessandro de Medici, first duke of Florence, for whom he made in 1535 a forty-soldi piece with a bust of the duke on one side and standing figures of the saint
A saint is a holy person. In various religions, saints are people who are believed to have exceptional holiness.In Christian usage, "saint" refers to any believer who is "in Christ", and in whom Christ dwells, whether in heaven or in earth...

s Cosima and Damian on the other. Some connoisseurs attribute to his hand several plaques, "Jupiter crushing the Giants", "Fight between Perseus and Phineus", a Dog, etc. Other works such as the portrait bust shown are not directly attributed but are instead attributed to his workshop.

Lost works

The important works which have perished include the uncompleted chalice
A chalice is a goblet or footed cup intended to hold a drink. This can also refer to;* Holy Chalice, the vessel which Jesus used at the Last Supper to serve the wine* Chalice , a type of smoking pipe...

 intended for Clement VII; a gold cover for a prayer book as a gift from Pope Paul III to Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
Charles V was ruler of the Holy Roman Empire from 1519 and, as Charles I, of the Spanish Empire from 1516 until his voluntary retirement and abdication in favor of his younger brother Ferdinand I and his son Philip II in 1556.As...

 – both described at length in his autobiography; large silver statues of Jupiter, Vulcan
Vulcan (mythology)
Vulcan , aka Mulciber, is the god of beneficial and hindering fire, including the fire of volcanoes in ancient Roman religion and Roman Neopaganism. Vulcan is usually depicted with a thunderbolt. He is known as Sethlans in Etruscan mythology...

 and Mars, wrought for Francis I during his sojourn in Paris; a bust of Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman and a distinguished writer of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the gradual transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire....

; and a silver cup for the cardinal of Ferrara. The magnificent gold "button", or morse (a clasp for a cape), made by Cellini for the cape of Clement VII, the competition for which is so graphically described in his autobiography, appears to have been sacrificed by Pope Pius VI
Pope Pius VI
Pope Pius VI , born Count Giovanni Angelo Braschi, was Pope from 1775 to 1799.-Early years:Braschi was born in Cesena...

, with many other priceless specimens of the goldsmith's art, in furnishing the 30,000,000 francs demanded by Napoleon I
Napoleon I
Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader during the latter stages of the French Revolution.As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1815...

 at the conclusion of the campaign against the Papal States
Papal States
The Papal State, State of the Church, or Pontifical States were among the major historical states of Italy from roughly the 6th century until the Italian peninsula was unified in 1861 by the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia .The Papal States comprised territories under...

 in 1797. According to the terms of the treaty, the pope was permitted to pay a third of that sum in plate and jewels. Fortunately there are in the print room of the British Museum
British Museum
The British Museum is a museum of human history and culture in London. Its collections, which number more than seven million objects, are amongst the largest and most comprehensive in the world and originate from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its...

 three watercolour drawings of this splendid morse by F. Bertoli, done at the instance of an Englishman named Talman in the first half of the 18th century. The obverse and reverse, as well as the rim, are drawn full size, and moreover the morse with the precious stones set therein, including a diamond then considered the second largest in the world, is fully described. Benvenuto's works are mentioned as "priceless" in Mark Twain
Mark Twain
Samuel Langhorne Clemens , better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist...

's The Prince and the Pauper
The Prince and the Pauper
The Prince and the Pauper is an English-language novel by American author Mark Twain. It was first published in 1881 in Canada before its 1882 publication in the United States. The book represents Twain's first attempt at historical fiction...


Autobiography and other writings

The autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini was started in the year 1558 at the age of 58 and ended abruptly just before his last trip to Pisa around the year 1563 when Cellini was approximately 63 years old. The memoirs give a detailed account of his singular career, as well as his loves, hatreds, passions, and delights, written in an energetic, direct, and racy style. They show a great self-regard and self-assertion, sometimes running into extravagances which are impossible to credit. He even writes in a complacent way of how he contemplated his murders before carrying them out. He writes of his time in Paris:
Parts of his tale recount some extraordinary events and phenomena; such as his stories of conjuring up a legion of devils in the Colosseum
The Colosseum, or the Coliseum, originally the Flavian Amphitheatre , is an elliptical amphitheatre in the centre of the city of Rome, Italy, the largest ever built in the Roman Empire...

, after one of his not innumerous mistresses had been spirited away from him by her mother; of the marvelous halo of light which he found surrounding his head at dawn and twilight after his Roman imprisonment, and his supernatural visions and angelic protection during that adversity; and of his being poisoned on two separate occasions.

The autobiography has been translated into English by Thomas Roscoe, by John Addington Symonds
John Addington Symonds
John Addington Symonds was an English poet and literary critic. Although he married and had a family, he was an early advocate of male love , which he believed could include pederastic as well as egalitarian relationships. He referred to it as l'amour de l'impossible...

, and by Anne Macdonell. It has been considered and published as a classic, and commonly regarded as one of the most colourful autobiographies (certainly the most important autobiography from the Renaissance). Cellini also wrote treatises on the goldsmith's art, on sculpture, and on design.

In the works of others

  • The life of Cellini also inspired the French historical novel
    Historical novel
    According to Encyclopædia Britannica, a historical novel is-Development:An early example of historical prose fiction is Luó Guànzhōng's 14th century Romance of the Three Kingdoms, which covers one of the most important periods of Chinese history and left a lasting impact on Chinese culture.The...

    ist Alexandre Dumas, père
    Alexandre Dumas, père
    Alexandre Dumas, , born Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie was a French writer, best known for his historical novels of high adventure which have made him one of the most widely read French authors in the world...

    . His 1843 novelL'Orfèvre du roi, ou Ascanio is based on Cellini's years in France, centered on Ascanio, an apprentice of Cellini. Dumas' trademark plot twists and intrigues feature in the novel, in this case involving Cellini, the duchesse d'Étampes, and other members of the court. Cellini is portrayed as a passionate and troubled man, plagued by the inconsistencies of life under the "patronage" of a false and somewhat cynical court. That novel was the basis for Paul Meurice
    Paul Meurice
    Paul Meurice was a French novelist and playwright best known for his friendship with Victor Hugo.- Biography :...

    's 1852 play Benvenuto Cellini which in turn was the basis for Louis Gallet
    Louis Gallet
    Louis Gallet was an inexhaustible French writer of operatic libretti, plays, romances, memoirs, pamphlets, and innumerable articles, who is remembered above all for his adaptations of fiction—and Scripture— to provide librettos of cantatas and opera, notably by composers Georges...

    's libretto
    A libretto is the text used in an extended musical work such as an opera, operetta, masque, oratorio, cantata, or musical. The term "libretto" is also sometimes used to refer to the text of major liturgical works, such as mass, requiem, and sacred cantata, or even the story line of a...

     for Camille Saint-Saëns
    Camille Saint-Saëns
    Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns was a French Late-Romantic composer, organist, conductor, and pianist. He is known especially for The Carnival of the Animals, Danse macabre, Samson and Delilah, Piano Concerto No. 2, Cello Concerto No. 1, Havanaise, Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, and his Symphony...

    ' 1890 opera Ascanio
    Ascanio is a grand opera in five acts and seven tableaux by composer Camille Saint-Saëns. The opera's French libretto, by Louis Gallet, is based on the 1852 play Benvenuto Cellini by French playwright Paul Meurice which was in turn based on the 1843 historical novel by Alexandre Dumas, père...

  • Balzac mentions Cellini's Saliera in his 1831 novel La Peau de chagrin
    La Peau de chagrin
    La Peau de chagrin is an 1831 novel by French novelist and playwright Honoré de Balzac . Set in early 19th-century Paris, it tells the story of a young man who finds a magic piece of shagreen that fulfills his every desire. For each wish granted, however, the skin shrinks and consumes a portion of...

  • Cellini was also the subject of an eponymous opera
    Benvenuto Cellini (opera)
    Benvenuto Cellini is an opera in two acts with music by Hector Berlioz and libretto by Léon de Wailly and Henri Auguste Barbier. It was the first of Berlioz's operas. The story is loosely based on the memoirs of the Florentine sculptor Benvenuto Cellini. The opera is technically very challenging...

     by Hector Berlioz
    Hector Berlioz
    Hector Berlioz was a French Romantic composer, best known for his compositions Symphonie fantastique and Grande messe des morts . Berlioz made significant contributions to the modern orchestra with his Treatise on Instrumentation. He specified huge orchestral forces for some of his works; as a...

     and a Broadway
    Broadway theatre
    Broadway theatre, commonly called simply Broadway, refers to theatrical performances presented in one of the 40 professional theatres with 500 or more seats located in the Theatre District centered along Broadway, and in Lincoln Center, in Manhattan in New York City...

    Musical theatre
    Musical theatre is a form of theatre combining songs, spoken dialogue, acting, and dance. The emotional content of the piece – humor, pathos, love, anger – as well as the story itself, is communicated through the words, music, movement and technical aspects of the entertainment as an...

    , The Firebrand of Florence
    The Firebrand of Florence
    The Firebrand of Florence is a Broadway musical in two acts, written by Kurt Weill , Ira Gershwin , and Edwin Justus Mayer and Gershwin, based on Mayer's play. The show opened at the Alvin Theatre on March 22, 1945 and closed on April 28 of the same year after 43 performances...

    , by Ira Gershwin
    Ira Gershwin
    Ira Gershwin was an American lyricist who collaborated with his younger brother, composer George Gershwin, to create some of the most memorable songs of the 20th century....

     and Kurt Weill
    Kurt Weill
    Kurt Julian Weill was a German-Jewish composer, active from the 1920s, and in his later years in the United States. He was a leading composer for the stage who was best known for his fruitful collaborations with Bertolt Brecht...

  • Cellini's life is an occasional point of reference in the writing of Mark Twain. Cellini's autobiography is one of the books Tom Sawyer
    Tom Sawyer
    Thomas "Tom" Sawyer is the title character of the Mark Twain novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer . He appears in three other novels by Twain: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn , Tom Sawyer Abroad , and Tom Sawyer, Detective .Sawyer also appears in at least three unfinished Twain works, Huck and Tom...

     mentions as inspiration while freeing Jim in the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
    Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
    Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a novel by Mark Twain, first published in England in December 1884 and in the United States in February 1885. Commonly named among the Great American Novels, the work is among the first in major American literature to be written in the vernacular, characterized by...

    . His work is mentioned in The Prince and the Pauper
    The Prince and the Pauper
    The Prince and the Pauper is an English-language novel by American author Mark Twain. It was first published in 1881 in Canada before its 1882 publication in the United States. The book represents Twain's first attempt at historical fiction...

    in Chapter VII: "Its furniture was all of massy gold, and beautified with designs which well-nigh made it priceless, since they were the work of Benvenuto." In "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
    A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
    A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court is an 1889 novel by American humorist and writer Mark Twain. The book was originally titled A Yankee in King Arthur's Court...

    ", chapter XVII, Cellini is alluded to as the epitome of brutal, immoral, and yet deeply religious aristocracy.
  • In "Rappaccini's Daughter
    Rappaccini's Daughter
    "Rappaccini's Daughter" is a short story written by Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1844 concerning a medical researcher in medieval Padua. It was published in the collection Mosses from an Old Manse.-Plot summary:...

    " by Nathaniel Hawthorne
    Nathaniel Hawthorne
    Nathaniel Hawthorne was an American novelist and short story writer.Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in 1804 in the city of Salem, Massachusetts to Nathaniel Hathorne and the former Elizabeth Clarke Manning. His ancestors include John Hathorne, a judge during the Salem Witch Trials...

    , an antidote to poison is presented in a vase "wrought by the hands of Benvenuto Cellini."
  • Herman Melville
    Herman Melville
    Herman Melville was an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, and poet. He is best known for his novel Moby-Dick and the posthumous novella Billy Budd....

     compares his character Ahab, at the captain's first appearance, to a sculpture by Cellini. From Moby-Dick
    Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, was written by American author Herman Melville and first published in 1851. It is considered by some to be a Great American Novel and a treasure of world literature. The story tells the adventures of wandering sailor Ishmael, and his voyage on the whaleship Pequod,...

    chap. 28; "His whole high, broad form, seemed made of solid bronze, and shaped in an unalterable mould, like Cellini's cast Perseus."
  • Judy Abbott mentions Benvenuto Cellini's autobiography in Jean Webster
    Jean Webster
    Jean Webster was an American writer and author of many books including Daddy-Long-Legs and Dear Enemy...

    's schoolgirl romance novel Daddy-Long-Legs
    Daddy-Long-Legs (novel)
    Daddy Long-Legs is a 1912 epistolary novel by the American writer Jean Webster. It follows the protagonist, a young girl named Jerusha "Judy" Abbott, through her college years. She writes the letters to her benefactor, a rich man whom she has never seen....

  • In Les Misérables
    Les Misérables
    Les Misérables , translated variously from the French as The Miserable Ones, The Wretched, The Poor Ones, The Wretched Poor, or The Victims), is an 1862 French novel by author Victor Hugo and is widely considered one of the greatest novels of the nineteenth century...

    , Marius' chapter contains the line "There are Benvenuto Cellinis in the galleys, even as there are Villons in language."
  • In The Labours of Hercules
    The Labours of Hercules
    The Labours of Hercules is a short story collection written by Agatha Christie and first published in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company in 1947 and in the UK by Collins Crime Club in September of the same year...

    , writer Agatha Christie
    Agatha Christie
    Dame Agatha Christie DBE was a British crime writer of novels, short stories, and plays. She also wrote romances under the name Mary Westmacott, but she is best remembered for her 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections , and her successful West End plays.According to...

     uses a fictional goblet created by Benvenuto Cellini as the starting point for the short story "The Apples of the Hesperides".
  • Surrealist
    Surrealism is a cultural movement that began in the early 1920s, and is best known for the visual artworks and writings of the group members....

     artist, Salvador Dalí
    Salvador Dalí
    Salvador Domènec Felip Jacint Dalí i Domènech, Marquis de Púbol , commonly known as Salvador Dalí , was a prominent Spanish Catalan surrealist painter born in Figueres,Spain....

     was also highly influenced by the life of Cellini, centering many etchings and sketches around his story and passions.
  • Lois McMaster Bujold
    Lois McMaster Bujold
    Lois McMaster Bujold is an American author of science fiction and fantasy works. Bujold is one of the most acclaimed writers in her field, having won the prestigious Hugo Award for best novel four times, matching Robert A. Heinlein's record. Her novella The Mountains of Mourning won both the Hugo...

     loosely bases the character Prospero Beneforte in her 1992 fantasy novel The Spirit Ring
    The Spirit Ring
    The Spirit Ring is a fantasy novel by Lois McMaster Bujold, published in 1992.-Plot synopsis:The Spirit Ring is loosely based on Agricola's De re metallica, as well as on a folk tale, and the life of Benvenuto Cellini, as is explained in the Author's Notes that follow the last chapter. To these...

    on Cellini and his works.
  • In The Girl from Missouri
    The Girl from Missouri
    The Girl from Missouri is a 1934 American romantic comedy-drama film starring Jean Harlow and Franchot Tone. The movie was written by Anita Loos and directed by Jack Conway.-Plot:...

    (1934), Jean Harlow
    Jean Harlow
    Jean Harlow was an American film actress and sex symbol of the 1930s. Known as the "Blonde Bombshell" and the "Platinum Blonde" , Harlow was ranked as one of the greatest movie stars of all time by the American Film Institute...

    's character Eadie is offered a gift of an "authentic Cellini" sculpture by wealthy industrialist Frank Cousins (played by Lewis Stone
    Lewis Stone
    Lewis Shepard Stone was an American actor.Born in Worcester, Massachusetts, son of Bertrand Stone and Philena Heald Ball. Stone's hair grew gray by the time he was twenty. He fought in the Spanish-American War, then returned to a career as a writer. He soon began acting...

  • In How to Steal a Million
    How to Steal a Million
    How to Steal a Million is a 1966 heist comedy film, directed by William Wyler and starring Peter O'Toole, Audrey Hepburn, and Hugh Griffith. It is set and filmed in France, though the characters speak entirely in English...

    (1966), Audrey Hepburn
    Audrey Hepburn
    Audrey Hepburn was a British actress and humanitarian. Although modest about her acting ability, Hepburn remains one of the world's most famous actresses of all time, remembered as a film and fashion icon of the twentieth century...

     and Peter O'Toole
    Peter O'Toole
    Peter Seamus Lorcan O'Toole is an Irish actor of stage and screen. O'Toole achieved stardom in 1962 playing T. E. Lawrence in Lawrence of Arabia, and then went on to become a highly-honoured film and stage actor. He has been nominated for eight Academy Awards, and holds the record for most...

     conspire to steal a fake Cellini sculpture in order to prevent it from being authenticated.
  • The American poet Frank Bidart
    Frank Bidart
    Frank Bidart is an American academic and poet.-Biography:In 1957, he began to study at the University of California at Riverside and went on to Harvard, where he was a student and friend of Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop...

     studies Cellini in "The Third Hour of the Night", a long poem from his 2005 book Star Dust.

Further reading

  • López Gajate, Juan. El Cristo Blanco de Cellini. San Lorenzo del Escorial: Escurialenses, 1995.
  • Pope-Hennessy, John Wyndham. Cellini. New York: Abbeville Press, 1985.
  • Parker, Derek
    Derek Parker
    Derek Parker is a British writer and broadcaster. He is the author of numerous works on literature, ballet, and opera, and with his wife Julia of several books about astrology.-Biography:...

    : Cellini. London, Sutton, 2004.
  • Angela Biancofiore, Benvenuto Cellini artiste-écrivain: l'homme à l'oeuvre, Paris, L'Harmattan, 1998

External links

More images of the restored Perseus
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