Gold Salt cellar by Cellini
Benvenuto Cellini (November 3, 1500 - February 13, 1571) was an Italian goldsmith, painter, sculptor, soldier and musician of the Renaissance.
" 1 Life
" 2 Works
" 3 Cellini in Literature
" 4 References
" 5 Further reading
" 6 See also
" 7 External links
Benvenuto Cellini was born in Florence, Italy, where his family had been landowners in the Val d'Ambra for three generations. His father, Giovanni Cellini, built and played musical instruments; he married Maria Lisabetta Granacci, and eighteen years elapsed before they had children. Benvenuto was the second child.
The father 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. Benvenuto had already attracted attention in his native town, after a fray with youthful companions, he was banished for six months to Siena, where he worked for Francesco Castoro (Fracastoro), a goldsmith; from there he moved to Bologna, where he became a more accomplished flute-player and made progress in the goldsmith's art. After visiting Pisa, and after twice resettling in Florence (where he was visited by the sculptor Torrigiano, he decamped to Rome, age nineteen.
His first attempt at his craft here was a silver casket, followed by some silver candlesticks, and later by a vase for the bishop of Salamanca, which introduced him to the favourable notice of Pope Clement VII; likewise at a later date one of his celebrated works, the gold medallion of "Leda and the Swan" - the head and torso of Leda cut in hard stone - executed for the Gonfaloniere Gabbriello Cesarino, which is now in the Vienna museum; he also reverted to music, practised flute-playing, and was appointed one of the pope's court-musicians. In the attack upon Rome by the Constable de Bourbon, which occurred immediately after, the bravery and address of Cellini proved of signal service to the pontiff; if we may believe his own accounts, his was the very hand which shot the Bourbon dead, and he afterwards killed Philibert, Prince of Orange.
Bust of Benvenuto Cellini on the Ponte Vecchio, Florence
His exploits paved the way for a reconciliation with the Florentine magistrates, and he returned shortly to his native place. Here he assiduously devoted himself to the execution of medals, the most famous of which (executed a short while later) are "Hercules and the Nemean Lion", in gold repouss? work, and "Atlas supporting the Sphere", in chased gold, the latter eventually falling into the possession of Francis I.
From Florence he went to the court of the duke of Mantua, and then again to Florence and to Rome, where he was employed not only in the working of jewelry, but also in the execution of dies for private medals and for the papal mint. Here in 1529 he killed his brother's murderer; and soon had to flee to Naples to shelter himself from the consequences of an affray with a notary, Ser Benedetto, whom he wounded. Through the influence of several of the cardinals he obtained a pardon; and on the elevation of Pope Paul III to the pontifical throne he was reinstated in his former position of favour, notwithstanding a fresh homicide of a goldsmith which he had committed more by accident than of malice prepense in the interregnum.
Once more the plots of Pierluigi Farnese, a natural son of Paul III, led to his retreat from Rome to Florence and Venice, and once more he was restored with greater honour than before. On returning from a visit to the court of Francis I, being now aged thirty-seven, he was imprisoned on a charge (apparently false) of having embezzled during the war the gems of the pontifical tiara; he remained some while confined in the Castel Sant'Angelo, escaped, was recaptured, and treated with great severity, and was in daily expectation of death on the scaffold.
At last, however, he was released at the intercession of Pierluigi's wife, and more especially of the Cardinal d'Este of Ferrara, to whom he presented a splendid cup. For a while, he worked at the court of Francis I, at Fontainebleau and Paris; but he considered the duchesse d'?tampes to be set against him, and the intrigues of the king's favourites, whom he would not stoop to conciliate and could not venture to silence by the sword, as he had silenced his enemies in Rome, led him, after about five years of laborious and sumptuous work, and of continually-recurring jealousies and violences, to retire in 1545 in disgust to Florence, where he employed his time in works of art, and exasperated his temper in rivalries with the uneasy-natured sculptor Baccio Bandinelli.
The first collision between the two had occurred several years before when Pope Clement VII commissioned Cellini to mint his coinage. Now, in an altercation before Duke Cosimo, Bandinelli insultingly stigmatized Benvenuto as guilty of gross immorality, calling out to him Sta cheto, soddomitaccio! (Shut up, you filthy sodomite!); in his autobiography Cellini recalls repelling rather than denying the charge, claiming to be unworthy of such a divine and royal diversion. Certainly his art, often celebratory of the young male form, is a testimonial to his appreciation of that beauty. Some of Cellini's homoerotic classical references
His biography omits the four charges against him of sodomy:
" At the age of 23 with a boy named Domenico di ser Giuliano da Ripa, an accusation was settled with a small fine (perhaps thanks to his youth at the time).
" An accusation in Paris, involving a female lover, which he braved out in court.
" In Florence in 1548, Cellini was accused by a women named Margherita, for having certain familiarities with her son, Vincenzo. Perhaps this was a private quarrel, one from which he simply fled, and undeserving of attention.
" Finally, in 1556, his apprentice Fernando, after being fired for an altercation, accused his mentor of: (as the indictment read) Cinque anni ha tenuto per suo ragazzo Fernando di Giovanni di Montepulciano, giovanetto con el quale ha usato carnalmente moltissime volte col nefando vitio della soddomia, tenendolo in letto come sua moglie (For five years he kept as his boy Fernando di Giovanni di Montepulciano, a youth whom he used carnally in the abject vice of sodomy numerous instances, keeping him in his bed as a wife.) This time the penalty was a hefty fifty golden scudi fine, and four years of prison, remitted to four years of house arrest thanks to the intercession of the Medicis.
He is also known to have taken some of his female models as mistresses, having an illegitimate daughter with one of them while living in France. After briefly attempting a clerical career, in 1562, he married a servant, with whom he had fivechildren, of which only a son and two daughters survived him.
It is notable that his references to his boy models (and possibly lovers) are more tender and affectionate than his references to women, including his wife. In his sculpture, the male is always more convincingly modelled than the female - his Venus of Fontainebleau, while notable, is unconvincing as a representation of the realistic female body.
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 died in Florence in 1571 and was buried with great pomp in the church of the Annunziata. He had supported in Florence a widowed sister and her six daughters.
Perseus with the Head of Medusa in the Loggia dei Lanzi gallery on the edge of the Piazza della Signoria in Florence; picture taken after the statue's cleaning and restoration
Besides the works in gold and silver which have been adverted to, Cellini executed several pieces of sculpture on a grander scale. The most distinguished of these is the bronze group of "Perseus holding the head of Medusa", a work (first suggested by Duke Cosimo I de Medici) now in the Loggia dei Lanzi at Florence, full of the fire of genius