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The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini by Benvenuto Cellini

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would she protect him in the grave, and that albeit he was dead, I need
never try to get that block of marble. Apropos of which, the broken
Bernardone, meeting me one day in the country, said that the Duchess had
assigned the marble. I replied: “Unhappy piece of stone! In the hands of
Bandinello it would certainly have come to grief; but in those of
Ammanato its fate is a hundred times worse.” Now I had received orders
from the Duke to make a clay model, of the same size as the marble would
allow; he also provided me with wood and clay, set up a sort of screen
in the Loggia where my Perseus stands, and paid me one workman. I went
about my business with all diligence, and constructed the wooden
framework according to my excellent system. Then I brought the model
successfully to a conclusion, without caring whether I should have to
execute it in marble, since I knew the Duchess was resolved I should not
get the commission. Consequently I paid no heed to that. Only I felt
very glad to undergo this labour, hoping to make the Duchess, who was
after all a person of intelligence, as indeed I had the means of
observing at a later period, repent of having done so great a wrong both
to the marble and herself. Giovanni the Fleming also made a model in the
cloister of S. Croce; Vinzenzio Danti of Perugia another in the house of
Messer Ottaviano de’ Medici; the son of Moschino began a third at Pisa,
and Bartolommeo Ammanato a fourth in the Loggia, which we divided
between us. 2

When I had blocked the whole of mine out well, and wanted to begin upon
the details of the head, which I had already just sketched out in
outline, the Duke came down from the palace, and Giorgetto, the painter,
[3] took him into Ammanato’s workshed. This man had been engaged there
with his own hands several days, in company with Ammanato and all his
workpeople. While, then, the Duke was inspecting Ammanato’s model, I
received intelligence that he seemed but little pleased with it. In
spite of Giorgetto’s trying to dose him with his fluent nonsense, the
Duke shook his head, and turning to Messer Gianstefano, [4] exclaimed:
“Go and ask Benvenuto if his colossal statue is far enough forward for
him to gratify us with a glance at it.” Messer Gianstefano discharged
this embassy with great tact, and in the most courteous terms. He added
that if I did not think my work quite ready to be seen yet, I might say
so frankly, since the Duke knew well that I had enjoyed but little
assistance for so large an undertaking. I replied that I entreated him
to do me the favour of coming; for though my model was not far advanced,
yet the intelligence of his Excellency would enable him to comprehend
perfectly how it was likely to look when finished. This kindly gentleman
took back my message to the Duke, who came with pleasure. No sooner had
he entered the enclosure and cast his eyes upon my work, than he gave
signs of being greatly satisfied. Then he walked all round it, stopping
at each of the four points of view, exactly as the ripest expert would
have done. Afterwards he showed by nods and gestures of approval that it
pleased him; but he said no more than this: “Benvenuto, you have only to
give a little surface to your statue.” Then he turned to his attendants,
praising my performance, and saying: “The small model which I saw in his
house pleased me greatly, but this has far exceeded it in merit.”

Note 1. 'I loro Operai.'

Note 2. Gian Bologna, or Jean Boullogne, was born at Douai about 1530.
He went, while a very young man, to Rome, and then settled at Florence.
There he first gained reputation by a Venus which the Prince Francesco
bought. The Neptune on the piazza at Bologna, which is his work, may
probably have been executed from the model he made in competition upon
this occasion. Vincenzo Danti was born at Perugia in 1530. He produced
the bronze statute of Pope Julius III., which may still be seen in his
native city. Simone Cioli, called Il Mosca, was a very fair sculptor who
died in 1554, leaving a son, Francesco, called Il Moschino, who was also
a sculptor, and had reached the age of thirty at this epoch. It is
therefore to this Moschino probably that Cellini refers above.

Note 3. Giorgio Vasari.

Note 4. Probably Gianstefano Lalli.


IT pleased God, who rules all things for our good--I mean, for those who
acknowledge and believe in Him; such men never fail to gain His
protection--that about this time a certain rascal from Vecchio called
Piermaria d’Anterigoli, and surnamed Lo Sbietta, introduced himself to
me. He is a sheep-grazier; and being closely related to Messer Guido
Guidi, the physician, who is now provost of Pescia, I lent ear to his
proposals. The man offered to sell me a farm of his for the term of my
natural life. I did not care to go and see it, since I wanted to
complete the model of my colossal Neptune. There was also no reason why
I should visit the property, because Sbietta only sold it to me for the
income. [1] This he had noted down at so many bushels of grain, so much
of wine, oil, standing corn, chestnuts, and other produce. I reckoned
that, as the market then ran, these together were worth something
considerably over a hundred golden crowns in gold; and I paid him 650
crowns, which included duties to the state. Consequently, when he left a
memorandum written in his own hand, to the effect that he would always
keep up these products of the farm in the same values during my
lifetime, I did not think it necessary to inspect it. Only I made
inquiries, to the best of my ability, as to whether Sbietta and his
brother Ser Filippo were well off enough to give me good security. Many
persons of divers sorts, who knew them, assured me that my security was
excellent. We agreed to call in Ser Pierfrancesco Bertoldi, notary at
the Mercantanzia; and at the very first I handed him Sbietta’s
memorandum, expecting that this would be recited in the deed. But the
notary who drew it up was so occupied with detailing twenty-two
boundaries described by Sbietta, [2] that, so far as I can judge, he
neglected to include in the contract what the vendor had proposed to
furnish. While he was writing, I went on working; and since it took him
several hours, I finished a good piece of my Neptune’s head.

After the contract was signed and sealed, Sbietta began to pay me the
most marked attentions, which I returned in like measure. He made me
presents of kids, cheese, capons, fresh curds, and many sorts of fruits,
until I began to be almost ashamed of so much kindness. In exchange for
these courtesies I always took him from the inn to lodge with me when he
came into Florence, often inviting a relative or two who happened to
attend him. On one of these occasions he told me with a touch of
pleasantry that it was really shameful for me to have bought a farm,
and, after the lapse of so many weeks, not yet to have left my business
for three days in the hands of my workpeople, so as to have come to look
at it. His wheedling words and ways induced me to set off, in a bad hour
for my welfare, on a visit to him. Sbietta received me in his own house
with such attentions and such honours as a duke might covet. His wife
caressed me even more than he did; and these excellent relations
continued between us until the plans which he and his brother Ser
Filippo had in mind were fully matured.

Note 1. What Cellini means is that Sbietta was to work the farm, paying
Cellini its annual value. It appears from some particulars which follow
that the 'entrate' were to be paid in kind.

Note 2. The word 'confini,' which I have translated 'boundaries,' may
mean 'limiting conditions.'


MEANWHILE I did not suspend my labours on the Neptune, which was now
quite blocked out upon an excellent system, undiscovered and unknown
before I used it. Consequently, although I knew I should not get the
marble for the reasons above narrated, I hoped to have it soon
completed, and to display it on the piazza simply for my satisfaction.

It was a warm and pleasant season; and this, together with the
attentions of those two rascals, disposed me to set out one Wednesday,
which happened to be a double holiday, for my country-house at
Trespiano. [1] Having spent some time over an excellent lunch, it was
past twenty o’clock when I reached Vicchio. There, at the towngate, I
met Ser Filippo, who appeared to know already whither I was bound. He
loaded me with attentions, and took me to Sbietta’s house, where I found
that fellow’s strumpet of a wife, who also overwhelmed me with caresses.
I gave the woman a straw hat of the very finest texture, the like of
which she told me she had never seen. Still, up to this time, Sbietta
had not put in his appearance.

Toward the end of the afternoon we all sat down to supper in excellent
spirits. Later on, they gave me a well appointed bedroom, where I went
to rest in a bed of the most perfect cleanliness. Both of my servants,
according to their rank, were equally well treated. On the morrow, when
I rose, the same attentions were paid me. I went to see my farm, which
pleased me much; and then I had some quantities of grain and other
produce handed over. But when I returned to Vicchio, the priest Ser
Filippo said to me: “Benvenuto do not be uneasy; although you have not
found here quite everything you had the right to look for, yet put your
mind to rest; it will be amply made up in the future, for you have to
deal with honest folk. You ought, by the way, to know that we have sent
that labourer away, because he was a scoundrel.” The labourer in
question bore the name of Mariano Rosegli; and this man now kept
frequently repeating in my ear: “Look well after yourself; in the end
you will discover which of us here is the greatest villain.” The
country-fellow, when he spoke those words, smiled with an evil kind of
sneer, and jerked his head as though to say: “Only go up there, and you
will find out for yourself.”

I was to some extent unfavourably influenced by these hints, yet far
from forming a conception of what actually happened to me. So, when I
returned from the farm, which is two miles distant from Vicchio, toward
the Alpi, [2] I met the priest, who was waiting for me with his
customary politeness. We then sat down together to breakfast; it was not
so much a dinner as an excellent collation. Afterwards I took a walk
through Vicchio--the market had just opened--and noticed how all the
inhabitants fixed their eyes upon me, as on something strange. This
struck me particularly in the case of a worthy old man, who has been
living for many years at Vicchio, and whose wife bakes bread for sale.
He owns some good property at the distance of about a mile; however, he
prefers this mode of life, and occupies a house which belongs to me in
the town of Vicchio. This had been consigned to me together with the
farm above mentioned, which bears the name of Della Fonte. The worthy
old man spoke as follows: “I am living in your house, and when it falls
due I shall pay you your rent; but if you want it earlier, I will act
according to your wishes. You may reckon on never having any disputes
with me.” While we were thus talking I noticed that he looked me hard in
the face, which compelled me to address him thus: “Prithee, tell me,
friend Giovanni, why you have more than once stared at me in that way?”
He replied: “I am quite willing to tell you, if, being the man of worth
I take you for, you will promise not to say that I have told you.” I
gave the promise and he proceeded: “You must know then that that
worthless priest, Ser Filippo, not many days since, went about boasting
of his brother Sbietta’s cleverness, and telling how he had sold his
farm to an old man for his lifetime, and that the purchaser could hardly
live the year out. You have got mixed up with a set of rogues; therefore
take heed to living as long as you are able, and keep your eyes open,
for you have need of it. I do not choose to say more.”

Note 1. From Cellini’s 'Ricordi' it appears that he bought a farm at
this village, north-east of Florence, on October 26, 1548. In 1556 he
also purchased land there.

Note 2. The Alpi are high mountain pastures in the Apennines.


DURING my promenade through the market, I met Giovan Battista Santini,
and he and I were taken back to supper by the priest. As I have related
above, we supped at the early hour of twenty, because I made it known
that I meant to return to Trespiano. Accordingly they made all ready;
the wife of Sbietta went bustling about in the company of one Cecchino
Buti, their knave of all work. After the salads had been mixed and we
were preparing to sit down to table, that evil priest, with a certain
nasty sort of grin, exclaimed: “I must beg you to excuse me, for I
cannot sup with you; the reason is that some business of importance has
occurred which I must transact for my brother Sbietta. In his absence I
am obliged to act for him.” We all begged him to stay, but could not
alter his determination; so he departed and we began our supper. After
we had eaten the salads on some common platters, and they were preparing
to serve the boiled meat, each guest received a porringer for himself.
Santini, who was seated opposite me at table exclaimed: “Do you notice
that the crockery they give you is different from the rest? Did you ever
see anything handsomer?” I answered that I had not noticed it. He also
prayed me to invite Sbietta’s wife to sit down with us; for she and that
Cecchino Buti kept running hither and thither in the most extraordinary
fuss and hurry. At last I induced the woman to join us; when she began
to remonstrate: “You do not like my victuals, since you eat so little.”
I answered by praising the supper over and over again, and saying that I
had never eaten better or with heartier appetite. Finally, I told her
that I had eaten quite enough. I could not imagine why she urged me so
persistently to eat. After supper was over, and it was past the hour of
twenty-one, I became anxious to return to Trespiano, in order that I
might recommence my work next morning in the Loggia. Accordingly I bade
farewell to all the company, and having thanked our hostess, took my

I had not gone three miles before I felt as though my stomach was on
fire, and suffered such pain that it seemed a thousand years till I
arrived at Trespiano. However, it pleased God that I reached it after
nightfall with great toil, and immediately proceeded to my farm, where I
went to bed. During the night I got no sleep, and was constantly
disturbed by motions of my bowels. When day broke, feeling an intense
heat in the rectum, I looked eagerly to see what this might mean, and
found the cloth covered with blood. Then in a moment I conceived that I
had eaten something poisonous, and racked my brains to think what it
could possibly have been. It came back to my memory how Sbietta’s wife
had set before me plates, and porringers, and saucers different from the
others, and how that evil priest, Sbietta’s brother, after giving
himself such pains to do me honour, had yet refused to sup with us.
Furthermore, I remembered what the priest had said about Sbietta’s doing
such a fine stroke of business by the sale of his farm to an old man for
life, who could not be expected to survive a year. Giovanni Sardella had
reported these words to me. All things considered, I made my mind up
that they must have administered a dose of sublimate in the sauce, which
was very well made and pleasant to the taste, inasmuch as sublimate
produces all the symptoms. I was suffering from. Now it is my custom to
take but little sauce or seasoning with my meat, excepting salt; and yet
I had eaten two moderate mouthfuls of that sauce because it was so
tasteful. On further thinking, I recollected how often that wife of
Sbietta had teased me in a hundred ways to partake more freely of the
sauce. On these accounts I felt absolutely certain that they had given
me sublimate in that very dish.


ALBEIT I was suffering so severely, I forced myself to work upon my
Colossus in the Loggia; but after a few days I succumbed to the malady
and took to my bed. No sooner did the Duchess hear that I was ill, than
she caused the execution of that unlucky marble to be assigned to
Bartolommeo Ammanato. [1] He sent word to me through Messer….
living…. Street, that I might now do what I liked with my model
since he had won the marble. This Messer…. was one of the lovers
of Bartolommeo Ammanato’s wife; and being the most favoured on account
of his gentle manners and discretion, Ammanato made things easy for him.
There would be much to say upon this topic; however, I do not care to
imitate his master, Bandinello, who always wandered from the subject in
his talk. Suffice it to say that I told Ammanato’s messenger I had
always imagined it would turn out thus; let the man strain himself to
the utmost in proof of gratitude to Fortune for so great a favour so
undeservedly conferred on him by her.

All this while I stayed with sorry cheer in bed, and was attended by
that most excellent man and physician, Maestro Francesco da Montevarchi.
Together with him Maestro Raffaello de’ Pilli undertook the surgical
part of my case, forasmuch as the sublimate had so corroded the
intestines that I was unable to retain my motions. When Maestro
Francesco saw that the poison had exerted all its strength, being indeed
insufficient in quantity to overcome my vigorous constitutions, he said
one day: “Benvenuto, return thanks to God, for you have won the battle.
Have no anxiety, since I mean to cure you in spite of the rogues who
sought to work your ruin.” Maestro Raffaello then put in: “This will be
one of the finest and most difficult cures which was ever heard of; for
I can tell you, Benvenuto, that you swallowed a good mouthful of
sublimate.” Thereupon Maestro Francesco took him up and said: “It may
possibly have been some venomous caterpillar.” I replied: “I know for
certain what sort of poison it was, and who gave it to me;” upon which
we all were silent. They attended me more than six full months, and I
remained more than a whole year before I could enjoy my life and vigour.

Note 1. What follows has been so carefully erased, possibly by Cellini’s
own hand, in the autograph, that it is illegible. Laura Battiferra,
Ammanato’s wife, was a woman of irreproachable character, whom Cellini
himself praised in a sonnet.


AT this time [1] the Duke went to make his triumphal entry into Siena,
and Ammanato had gone there some months earlier to construct the arches.
A bastard of his, who stayed behind in the Loggia, removed the cloths
with which I kept my model of Neptune covered until it should be
finished. As soon as I knew this, I complained to Signor Don Francesco,
the Duke’s son, who was kindly disposed toward me, and told him how they
had disclosed my still imperfect statue; had it been finished, I should
not have given the fact a thought. The Prince replied with a threatening
toss of his head: “Benvenuto, do not mind your statue having been
uncovered, because these men are only working against themselves; yet if
you want me to have it covered up, I will do so at once.” He added many
other words in my honour before a crowd of gentlemen who were there. I
then begged his Excellency to give me the necessary means for finishing
it, saying that I meant to make a present of it together with the little
model to his Highness. He replied that he gladly accepted both gifts,
and that he would have all the conveniences I asked for put at my
disposal. Thus, then, I fed upon this trifling mark of favour, which, in
fact, proved the salvation of my life; for having been overwhelmed by so
many evils and such great annoyances all at one fell swoop, I felt my
forces failing; but this little gleam of encouragement inspired me with
some hope of living.

Note 1. October 28, 1560.


A YEAR had now passed since I bought the farm of Della Fonte from
Sbietta. In addition to their attempt upon my life by poisoning and
their numerous robberies, I noticed that the property yielded less than
half what had been promised. Now, in addition to the deeds of contract,
I had a declaration written by Sbietta’s own hand, in which he bound
himself before witnesses to pay me over the yearly income I have
mentioned. Armed with these documents, I had recourse to the Lords
Counsellors. At that time Messer Alfonso Quistello was still alive and
Chancellor of the Exchequer; he sat upon the Board, which included
Averardo Serristori and Federigo de’ Ricci. I cannot remember the names
of all of them, but I know that one of the Alessandri was a member.
Suffice it to say, the counsellors of that session were men of weight
and worth. When I had explained my cause to the magistracy, they all
with one voice ruled that Sbietta should give me back my money, except
Federigo de’ Ricci, who was then employing the fellow himself; the
others unanimously expressed sorrow to me that Federigo de’ Ricci
prevented them from despatching the affair. Averardo Serristori and
Alessandri in particular made a tremendous stir about it, but Federigo
managed to protect matters until the magistracy went out of office;
whereupon Serristori, meeting me one morning after they had come out
upon the Piazza dell’ Annunziata, cried aloud, without the least regard
to consequences: “Federigo de’ Ricci has been so much stronger than all
of us put together that you have been massacred against our will.” I do
not intend to say more upon this topic, since it would be too offensive
to the supreme authorities of state; enough that I was cruelly wronged
at the will of a rich citizen, only because he made use of that


THE DUKE was staying at Livorno, where I went to visit him in order
merely to obtain release from his service. Now that I felt my vigour
returning, and saw that I was used for nothing, it pained me to lose
time which ought to have been spent upon my art. I made my mind up,
therefore, went to Livorno, and found my prince, who received me with
exceeding graciousness. Now I stayed there several days, and went out
riding daily with his Excellency. Consequently I had excellent
opportunities for saying all I wanted, since it was the Duke’s custom to
ride four miles out of Livorno along the sea-coast to the point where he
was erecting a little fort. Not caring to be troubled with a crowd of
people, he liked me to converse with him. So then, on one of these
occasions, having observed him pay me some remarkable attentions, I
entered into the affair of Sbietta and spoke as follows: “My lord, I
should like to narrate to your most illustrious Excellency a very
singular incident, which will explain why I was prevented from finishing
that clay model of Neptune on which I was working in the Loggia. Your
Excellency must know that I bought a farm for my life from Sbietta--” To
cut the matter short, I related the whole story in detail, without
contaminating truth with falsehood. Now when I came to the poison, I
remarked that if I had ever proved an acceptable servant in the sight of
his most illustrious Excellency, he ought not to punish Sbietta or those
who administered the poison, but rather to confer upon them some great
benefit, inasmuch as the poison was not enough to kill me, but had
exactly sufficed to cleanse me of a mortal viscosity from which I
suffered in my stomach and intestines. “The poison,” quoth I, “worked so
well, that whereas, before I took it, I had perhaps but three or four
years to live, I verily believe now that it has helped me to more than
twenty years by bettering my constitution. For this mercy I return
thanks to God with greater heartiness than ever; and this proves that a
proverb I have sometimes heard spoken is true, which runs as follows:--

‘God send us evil, that may work us good.’”

The Duke listened to my story through more than two miles of travel,
keeping his attention fixed, and only uttering: “Oh, the villains!” I
said, in conclusion, that I felt obliged to them, and opened other and
more cheerful subjects of conversation.

I kept upon the look-out for a convenient day; and when I found him well
disposed for what I wanted, I entreated his most illustrious Excellency
to dismiss me in a friendly spirit, so that I might not have to waste
the few years in which I should be fit to do anything. As for the
balance due upon my Perseus, he might give this to me when he judged it
opportune. Such was the pith of my discourse: but I expanded it with
lengthy compliments, expressing my gratitude toward his most illustrious
Excellency. To all this he made absolutely no answer, but rather seemed
to have taken my communication ill. On the following day Messer
Bartolommeo Concino, [1] one of the Duke’s secretaries, and among the
chiefest, came to me, and said with somewhat of a bullying air: “The
Duke bids me tell you that if you want your dismissal, he will grant it;
but if you choose work, he will give you plenty: God grant you may have
the power to execute all he orders.” I replied that I desired nothing
more than work to do, and would rather take it from the Duke than from
any man whatever in the world. Whether they were popes, emperors, or
kings, I should prefer to serve his most illustrious Excellency for a
halfpenny than any of the rest of them for a ducat. He then remarked:
“If that is your mind, you and he have struck a bargain without the need
of further speech. So, then, go back to Florence, and be unconcerned;
rely on the Duke’s goodwill towards you.” Accordingly I made my way
again to Florence.

Note 1. This man was the son of a peasant at Terranuova, in Valdarno. He
acquired great wealth and honour at the court of Duke Cosimo, and was
grandfather of the notorious Maréchal d’Ancre.


IMMEDIATELY after my arrival, there came to visit me a certain
Raffaellone Scheggia, whose trade was that of a cloth-of-gold weaver. He
began thus: “My Benvenuto, I should like to reconcile you with Piermaria
Sbietta.” I replied that nobody could settle the affairs between us
except the Lords Counsellors; in the present court Sbietta would not
have a Federigo de’ Ricci to support him, a man willing, for the bribe
of a couple of fatted kids, without respect of God or of his honour, to
back so infamous a cause and do so vile a wrong to sacred justice. When
I had uttered these words, and many others to the like effect, Raffaello
kept on blandly urging that it was far better to eat a thrush in peace
than to bring a fat capon to one’s table, even though one were quite
sure to get it, after a hot fight. He further reminded me that lawsuits
had a certain way of dragging on, and that I could employ the time far
better upon some masterpiece of art, which would bring me not only
greater honour, but greater profit to boot. I knew that he was speaking
the mere truth, and began to lend ear to his arguments. Before long,
therefore, we arranged the matter of this way: Sbietta was to rent the
farm from me at seventy golden crowns in gold the year during the whole
term of my natural life. But when we came to the contract, which was
drawn up by Ser Giovanni, son of Ser Matteo da Falgano, Sbietta objected
that the terms we had agreed on would involve our paying the largest
duties to the revenue. He was not going to break his word; therefore we
had better draw the lease for five years, to be renewed on the expiry of
the term. He undertook to abide by his promise to renew, without raising
further litigation. That rascal, the priest, his brother, entered into
similar engagements; and so the lease was drawn for five years.


THOUGH I want to enter upon other topics, and to leave all this
rascality alone awhile, I am forced to narrate what happened at the
termination of this five years’ contract. Instead of abiding by their
promised word, those two rogues declared they meant to give me up my
farm, and would not keep it any longer upon lease. I not unnaturally
complained, but they retorted by ostentatiously unfolding the deed; and
I found myself without any defense against their chicanery. When it came
to this, I told them that Duke and Prince of Florence would not suffer
folk to be so infamously massacred in their cities. That menace worked
so forcibly upon their minds that they once more despatched Raffaello
Schegcia, the same man who negotiated the former arrangement. I must add
that they professed their unwillingness to pay the same rent of seventy
crowns as during the five years past, while I replied that I would not
take a farthing less. So then Raffaello came to look me up, and spoke to
this effect: “My Benvenuto, you know that I am acting in your interest.
Now these men have placed themselves entirely in my hands;” and he
showed me a writing to this effect signed by them. Not being aware that
he was their close relative, I thought he would be an excellent
arbitrator, and therefore placed myself also absolutely in his hands.
This man of delicate honour then came one evening about a half hour
after sunset, in the month of August, and induced me with the strongest
pressure to draw up the contract then and there. He did so because he
knew that if he waited till the morning, the deceit he wished to
practise on me must have failed. Accordingly the deed was executed, to
the effect that they were to pay me a rent of sixty-five crowns, in two
half-yearly installments, during the term of my natural life.
Notwithstanding I rebelled against it, and refused to sit down quietly
under the injustice, all was to no purpose. Raffaello exhibited my
signature, and every one took part against me. At the same time he went
on protesting that he acted altogether in my interest and as my
supporter. Neither the notary nor any others who heard of the affair,
knew that he was a relative of those two rogues; so they told me I was
in the wrong. Accordingly, I was forced to yield with the best grace I
could; and what I have now to do is to live as long as I can manage.

Close after these events, that is to say, in the December of 1566
following, I made another blunder. I bought half of the farm Del Poggio
from them, or rather from Sbietta, for two hundred crowns. [1] It
marches with my property of La Fonte. Our terms were that the estate
should revert at the term of three years, [2] and I gave them a lease of
it. I did this for the best; but I should have to dilate too long upon
the topic were I to enter into all the rascalities they practised on me.
Therefore, I refer my cause entirely to God, knowing that He hath ever
defended me from those who sought to do me mischief.

Note 1. 'Scudi di moneta,' not 'd’oro.'

Note 2. This seems to be the meaning of 'compare con riservo di tre
anni.' Cellini elsewhere uses the equivalent term 'patto resolutivo.'
See Tassi, vol. ii. p. 583.


HAVING quite completed my crucifix, I thought that if I raised it some
feet above the ground, it would show better than it did upon a lower
level. After I had done so, it produced a far finer effect than even it
had made before, and I was greatly satisfied. So then I began to exhibit
it to every one who had the mind to see it.

As God willed, the Duke and the Duchess heard about it. On their arrival
then from Pisa, both their Excellencies arrived one day quite
unexpectedly, attended by all the nobles of their court, with the sole
purpose of inspecting my crucifix. They were so much delighted, that
each of these princes lavished endless praises on it, and all the lords
and gentlefolk of their suites joined in chorus. Now, when I saw how
greatly they were taken with the piece, I began to thank them with a
touch of humour, saying that, if they had not refused me the marble for
the Neptune, I should never have undertaken so arduous a task, the like
whereof had not been attempted by any sculptor before me.” “It is true,”
I added, “that this crucifix has cost me hours of unimaginable labour;
yet they have been well expended, especially now when your most
illustrious Excellencies have bestowed such praises on it. I cannot hope
to find possessors of it worthier than you are; therefore I gladly
present it to you as a gift.” [1]

After speaking to this effect, I prayed them, before they took their
leave, to deign to follow me into the ground-floor of my dwelling. They
rose at once with genial assent, left the workshop, and on entering the
house, beheld my little model of the Neptune and the fountain, which had
not yet been by the Duchess. This struck her with such force that she
raised a cry of indescribable astonishment, and turning to the Duke,
exclaimed: “Upon my life, I never dreamed it could be one-tenth part so
beautiful!” The Duke replied by repeating more than once: “Did I not
tell you so?” Thus they continued talking together for some while
greatly in my honour. Afterwards the Duchess called me to her side; and
when she had uttered many expressions of praise which sounded like
excuses (they might indeed have been construed into asking for
forgiveness), she told me that she should like me to quarry a block of
marble to my taste, and then to execute the work. In reply to these
gracious speeches I said that, if their most illustrious Excellencies
would provide me with the necessary accommodations, I should gladly for
their sakes put my hand to such an arduous undertaking. The Duke
responded on the moment: “Benvenuto, you shall have all the
accommodations you can ask for; and I will myself give you more besides,
which shall surpass them far in value.” With these agreeable words they
left me, and I remained highly satisfied.

Note 1. The Duchess would not take the crucifix as a gift. The Duke
bought it for fifteen hundred golden crowns, and transferred it to the
Pitti in 1565. It was given by the Grand Duke Francesco in 1576 to
Philip II., who placed it in the Escorial, where it now is.


MANY weeks passed, but of me nothing more was spoken. This neglect drove
me half mad with despair. Now about that time the Queen of France sent
Messer Baccio del Bene to our Duke for a loan of money, which the Duke
very graciously supplied, as rumour went. Messer Baccio del Bene and I
had been intimate friends in former times; so when we renewed our
acquaintance in Florence, we came together with much mutual
satisfaction. In course of conversation he related all the favours shown
him by his most illustrious Excellency, and asked me what great works I
had in hand. In reply, I narrated the whole story of the Neptune and the
fountain, and the great wrong done me by the Duchess. He responded by
telling me how her Majesty of France was most eager to complete the
monument of her husband Henri II., and how Daniello da Volterra [1] had
undertaken a great equestrian statue in bronze, but the time had already
elapsed in which he promised to perform it, and that a multitude of the
richest ornaments were required for the tomb. If, then, I liked to
return to France and occupy my castle, she would supply me with all the
conveniences I could ask for, provided only I cared to enter her
service. These proposals he made on the part of the Queen. I told Messer
Baccio to beg me from the Duke; if his most illustrious Excellency was
satisfied, I should very willingly return to France. He answered
cheerfully: “We will travel back together!” and considered the affair
settled. Accordingly, next day, in course of conversation with the Duke,
he alluded to myself, declaring that if his Excellency had no objection,
the Queen would take me into her employ. The Duke replied without a
moment’s hesitation: “Benvenuto’s ability in his profession is known to
the whole world; but at the present time he does not care to go on
working.” Then they touched on other topics; and upon the day following
I called on Messer Baccio, who reported what had passed between them.
Then I lost all patience, and exclaimed: “Oh, me! His most illustrious
Excellency gave me nothing to do, while I was bringing to perfection one
of the most difficult master-pieces ever executed in this world; and it
stands me in more than two hundred crowns, which I have paid out of my
poverty! Oh, what could I not have done if his Excellency had but set me
to work! I tell you in pure truth, that they have done me a great
wrong!” The good-natured gentleman repeated to the Duke what I had
answered. The Duke told him we were joking, and that he wanted me for
his own service. The result was that in my irritation I more than once
made up my mind to make off without asking leave. However, the Queen
preferred to drop negotiations, in fear of displeasing the Duke; and so
I remained here, much to my regret.

Note 1. This painter is chiefly famous for his “Descent from the Cross”
in the Church of the Trinità de’ Monti at Rome. He died in 1566.


ABOUT that time the Duke went on a journey, attended by all his court
and all his sons, except the prince, who was in Spain. They travelled
through the Sienese Maremma, and by this route he reached Pisa. The
poison from the bad air of those marshes first attacked the Cardinal,
who was taken with a pestilential fever after a few days, and died at
the end of a brief illness. He was the Duke’s right eye, handsome and
good, and his loss was most severely felt. I allowed several days to
elapse, until I thought their tears were dried, and then I betook myself
to Pisa.

End of Part Two

End of Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini

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