The Life of Benvenuto Cellini/Section XLVI to LIX


The King stretched forth his own hands and raised me very graciously. Then he told me that I ought to continue in his service, and that all that I had done was right and pleasing to him. Turning to the lords in his company, he spoke these words precisely: "I verily believe that a finer door could not be made for Paradise itself." When he had ceased speaking, although his speech had been entirely in my favour, I again thanked him respectfully, repeating, however, my request for leave to travel; for the heat of my indignation had not yet cooled down. His Majesty, feeling that I set too little store upon his unwonted and extraordinary condescension, commanded me with a great and terrible voice to hold my tongue, unless I wanted to incur his wrath; afterwards he added that he would drown me in gold, and that he gave me the leave I asked; and over and above the works he had commissioned,[1] he was very well satisfied with what I had done on my own account in the interval; I should never henceforth have any quarrels with him, because he knew my character; and for my part, I too ought to study the temper of his Majesty, as my duty required. I answered that I thanked God and his Majesty for everything; then I asked him to come and see how far I had advanced the great Colossus. So he came to my house, and I had the statue uncovered; he admired it extremely, and gave orders to his secretary to pay me all the money I had spent upon it, be the sum what it might, provided I wrote the bill out in my own hand. Then he departed, saying: "Adieu, mon ami." which is a phrase not often used by kings.


After returning to his palace, he called to mind the words I had spoken in our previous interview, some of which were so excessively humble, and others so proud and haughty, that they caused him no small irritation. He repeated a few of them in the presence of Madame d'Etampes and Monsignor di San Polo, a great baron of France.[2] This man had always professed much friendship for me in the past, and certainly, on that occasion, he showed his good-will, after the French fashion, with great cleverness. It happened thus: the King in the course of a long conversation complained that the Cardinal of Ferrara, to whose care he had entrusted me, never gave a thought to my affairs; so far as he was concerned, I might have decamped from the realm; therefore he must certainly arrange for committing me to some one who would appreciate me better, because he did not want to run a farther risk of losing me. At these words Monsieur de Saint Paul expressed his willingness to undertake the charge, saying that if the King appointed him my guardian, he would act so that I should never have the chance to leave the kingdom. The King replied that he was very well satisfied, if only Saint Paul would explain the way in which he meant to manage me. Madame sat by with an air of sullen irritation, and Saint Paul stood on his dignity, declining to answer the King's question. When the King repeated it, he said, to curry favour with Madame d'Etampes: "I would hang that Benvenuto of yours by the neck, and thus you would keep him forever in your kingdom." She broke into a fit of laughter, protesting that I richly deserved it. The King, to keep them company, began to laugh, and said he had no objection to Saint Paul hanging me, if he could first produce my equal in the arts; and although I had not earned such a fate, he gave him full liberty and license. In this way that day ended, and I came off safe and sound, for which may God be praised and thanked.


The King had now made peace with the Emperor, but not with the English, and these devils were keeping us in constant agitation.[3] His Majesty had therefore other things than pleasure to attend to. He ordered Piero Strozzi to go with ships of war into the English waters; but this was a very difficult undertaking, even for that great commander, without a paragon at his times in the art of war, and also without a paragon in his misfortunes. Several months passed without my receiving money or commissions; accordingly, I dismissed my work-people with the exception of the two Italians, whom I set to making two big vases out of my own silver; for these men could not work in bronze. After they had finished these, I took them to a city which belonged to the Queen of Navarre; it is called Argentana, and is distant several days' journey from Paris.[4] On arriving at this place, I found that the King was indisposed; and the Cardinal of Ferrara told his Majesty that I was come. He made no answer, which obliged me to stay several days kicking my heels. Of a truth, I never was more uncomfortable in my life; but at last I presented myself one evening and offered the two vases for the King's inspection. He was excessively delighted, and when I saw him in good humour, I begged his Majesty to grant me the favour of permitting me to travel into Italy; I would leave the seven months of my salary which were due, and his Majesty might condescend to pay me when I required money for my return journey. I entreated him to grant this petition, seeing that the times were more for fighting than for making statues; moreover, his Majesty had allowed a similar license to Bologna the painter, wherefore I humbly begged him to concede the same to me. While I was uttering these words the King kept gazing intently on the vases, and from time to time shot a terrible glance at me; nevertheless, I went on praying to the best of my ability that he would favour my petition. All of a sudden he rose angrily from his seat, and said to me in Italian: "Benvenuto, you are a great fool. Take these vases back to Paris, for I want to have them gilt." Without making any other answer he then departed.

I went up to the Cardinal of Ferrara, who was present, and besought him, since he had already conferred upon me the great benefit of freeing me from prison in Rome, with many others besides, to do me this one favour more of procuring for me leave to travel into Italy. He answered that he should be very glad to do his best to gratify me in this matter; I might leave it without farther thought to him, and even if I chose, might set off at once, because he would act for the best in my interest with the King. I told the Cardinal that since I was aware his Majesty had put me under the protection of his most reverend lordship, if he gave me leave, I felt ready to depart, and promised to return upon the smallest hint from his reverence. The Cardinal then bade me go back to Paris and wait there eight days, during which time he would procure the King's license for me; if his Majesty refused to let me go, he would without fail inform me; but if I received no letters, that would be a sign that I might set off with an easy mind.


I obeyed the Cardinal, and returned to Paris, where I made excellent cases for my three silver vases. After the lapse of twenty days, I began my preparations, and packed the three vases upon a mule. This animal had been lent me for the journey to Lyons by the Bishop of Pavia, who was now once more installed in my castle.

Then I departed in my evil hour, together with Signor Ippolito Gonzaga, at that time in the pay of the King, and also in the service of Count Galeotto della Mirandola. Some other gentlemen of the said count went with us, as well as Lionardo Tedaldi, our fellow-citizen of Florence.

I made Ascanio and Pagolo guardians of my castle and all my property, including two little vases which were only just begun; those I left behind in order that the two young men might not be idle. I had lived very handsomely in Paris, and therefore there was a large amount of costly household furniture: the whole value of these effects exceeded 1500 crowns. I bade Ascanio remember what great benefits I had bestowed upon him, and that up to the present he had been a mere thoughtless lad; the time was now come for him to show the prudence of a man; therefore I thought fit to leave him in the custody of all my goods, as also of my honour. If he had the least thing to complain of from those brutes of Frenchmen, he was to let me hear at once, because I would take post and fly from any place in which I found myself, not only to discharge the great obligations under which I lay to that good King, but also to defend my honour. Ascanio replied with the tears of a thief and hypocrite: "I have never known a father better than you are, and all things which a good son is bound to perform for a good father will I ever do for you." So then I took my departure, attended by a servant and a little French lad.

It was just past noon, when some of the King's treasurers, by no means friends of mine, made a visit to my castle. The rascally fellows began by saying that I had gone off with the King's silver, and told Messer Guido and the Bishop of Pavia to send at once off after his Majesty's vases; if not, they would themselves despatch a messenger to get them back, and do me some great mischief. The Bishop and Messer Guido were much more frightened than was necessary; so they sent that traitor Ascanio by the post off on the spot. He made his appearance before me about midnight. I had not been able to sleep, and kept revolving sad thoughts to the following effect: "In whose hands have I left my property, my castle? Oh, what a fate is this of mine, which forces me to take this journey! May God grant only that the Cardinal is not of one mind with Madame d'Etampes, who has nothing else so much at heart as to make me lose the grace of that good King."


While I was thus dismally debating with myself, I heard Ascanio calling me. On the instant I jumped out of bed, and asked if he brought good or evil tidings. The knave answered: "They are good news I bring; but you must only send back those three vases for the rascally treasurers keep shouting, 'Stop, thief!' So the Bishop and Messer Guido say that you must absolutely send them back. For the rest you need have no anxiety, but may pursue your journey with a light heart." I handed over the vases immediately, two of them being my own property, together with the silver and much else besides.[5] I had meant to take them to the Cardinal of Ferrara's abbey at Lyons; for though people accused me of wanting to carry them into Italy, everybody knows quite well that it is impossible to export money, gold, or silver from France without special license. Consider, therefore, whether I could have crossed the frontier with those three great vases, which, together with their cases, were a whole mule's burden! It is certainly true that, since these articles were of great value and the highest beauty, I felt uneasiness in case the King should die, and I had lately left him in a very bad state of health; therefore I said to myself: "If such an accident should happen, having these things in the keeping of the Cardinal, I shall not lose them."

Well, to cut the story short, I sent back the mule with the vases, and other things of importance; then, upon the following morning, I travelled forward with the company I have already mentioned, nor could I, through the whole journey, refrain from sighing and weeping. Sometimes, however, I consoled myself with God by saying: "Lord God, before whose eyes the truth lies open! Thou knowest that my object in this journey is only to carry alms to six poor miserable virgins and their mother, my own sister. They have indeed their father, but he is very old, and gains nothing by his trade; I fear, therefore, lest they might too easily take to a bad course of life. Since, then, I am performing a true act of piety, I look to Thy Majesty for aid and counsel." This was all the recreation I enjoyed upon my forward journey.

We were one day distant from Lyons, and it was close upon the hour of twenty-two, when the heavens began to thunder with sharp rattling claps, although the sky was quite clear at the time.[6] I was riding a crossbow shot before my comrades. After the thunder the heavens made a noise so great and horrible that I thought the last day had come; so I reined in for a moment, while a shower of hail began to fall without a drop of water. At first the hail was somewhat larger than pellets from a popgun, and when these struck me, they hurt considerably. Little by little it increased in size, until the stones might be compared to balls from a crossbow. My horse became restive with fright; so I wheeled round, and returned at a gallop to where I found my comrades taking refuge in a fir-wood. The hail now grew to the size of big lemons. I began to sing a Miserere; and while I was devoutly uttering this psalm to God, there fell a stone so huge that it smashed the thick branch of the pine under which I had retired for safety. Another of the hailstones hit my horse upon the head, and almost stunned him; one struck me also, but not directly, else it would have killed me. In like manner, poor old Lionardo Tedaldi, who like me was kneeling on the ground, received so shrewd a blow that he fell grovelling upon all fours. When I saw that the fir bough offered no protection, and that I ought to act as well as to intone my Misereres, I began at once to wrap my mantle round my head. At the same time I cried to Lionardo, who was shrieking for succour, "Jesus! Jesus!" that Jesus would help him if he helped himself. I had more trouble in looking after this man's safety than my own. The storm raged for some while, but at last it stopped; and we, who were pounded black and blue, scrambled as well as we could upon our horses. Pursuing the way to our lodging for the night, we showed our scratches and bruises to each other; but about a mile farther on we came upon a scene of devastation which surpassed what we had suffered, and defies description. All the trees were stripped of their leaves and shattered; the beasts in the field lay dead; many of the herdsmen had also been killed; we observed large quantities of hailstones which could not have been grasped with two hands. Feeling then that we had come well out of a great peril, we acknowledged that our prayers to God and Misereres had helped us more than we could have helped ourselves. Returning thanks to God, therefore, we entered Lyons in the course of the next day, and tarried there eight days. At the end of this time, being refreshed in strength and spirits, we resumed our journey, and passed the mountains without mishap. On the other side I bought a little pony, because the baggage which I carried had somewhat overtired my horses.


After we had been one day in Italy, the Count Galeotto della Mirandola joined us. He was travelling by post; and stopping where we were, he told me that I had done wrong to leave France; I ought not to journey forwards, for, if I returned at once, my affairs would be more prosperous than ever. On the other hand, if I persisted in my course, I was giving the game up to my enemies, and furnishing them with opportunities to do me mischief. By returning I might put a stop to their intrigues; and those in whom I placed the most confidence were just the men who played most traitorously. He would not say more than that he knew very well all about it; and, indeed, the Cardinal of Ferrara had now conspired with the two rogues I left in charge of all my business. Having repeated over and over again that I ought absolutely to turn back, he went onward with the post, while I, being influenced by my companions, could not make my mind up to return. My heart was sorely torn asunder, at one moment by the desire to reach Florence as quickly as I could, and at another by the conviction that I ought to regain France. At last, in order to end the fever of this irresolution, I determined to take the post for Florence. I could not make arrangements with the first postmaster, but persisted in my purpose to press forward and endure an anxious life at Florence.[7]

I parted company with Signor Ippolito Gonzaga, who took the route for Mirandola, while I diverged upon the road to Parma and Piacenza. In the latter city I met Duke Pier Luigi upon the street, who stared me in the face, and recognised me.[8] Since I knew him to have been the sole cause of my imprisonment in the castle of S. Angelo, the sight of him made my blood boil. Yet being unable to escape from the man, I decided to pay him my respects, and arrived just after he had risen from table in the company of the Landi, who afterwards murdered him. On my appearance he received me with unbounded marks of esteem and affection, among which he took occasion to remark to the gentlemen present that I was the first artist of the world in my own line, and that I had been for a long while in prison at Rome. Then he turned to me and said: "My Benvenuto, I was deeply grieved for your misfortune, and knew well that you were innocent, but could not do anything to help you. In short, it was my father, who chose to gratify some enemies of yours, from whom, moreover, he heard that you had spoken ill of him. I am convinced this was not true, and indeed I was heartily sorry for your troubles." These words he kept piling up and repeating until he seemed to be begging my pardon. Afterwards he inquired about the work I had been doing for his Most Christian Majesty; and on my furnishing him with details, he listened as attentively and graciously as possible. Then he asked if I had a mind to serve him. To this I replied that my honour would not allow me to do so; but that if I had completed those extensive works begun for the King, I should be disposed to quit any great prince merely to enter his Excellency's service.

Hereby it may be seen how the power and goodness of God never leave unpunished any sort or quality of men who act unjustly toward the innocent. This man did what was equivalent to begging my pardon in the presence of those very persons who subsequently took revenge on him for me and many others whom he had massacred. Let then no prince, however great he be, laugh at God's justice, in the way that many whom I know are doing, and who have cruelly maltreated me, as I shall relate at the proper time. I do not write these things in any worldly spirit of boasting, but only to return thanks to God, my deliverer in so many trials. In those too which daily assail me, I always carry my complaint to Him, and call on Him to be my defender. On all occasions, after I have done my best to aid myself, if I lose courage and my feeble forces fail, then is the great might of God manifested, which descends unexpectedly on those who wrongfully injure their neighbours, or neglect the grave and honourable charge they have received from Him.


When I returned to my inn, I found that the Duke had sent me abundance to eat and drink of very excellent quality. I made a hearty meal, then mounted and rode toward Florence. There I found my sister with six daughters, the eldest of whom was marriageable and the youngest still at nurse. Her husband, by reason of divers circumstances in the city, had lost employment from his trade. I had sent gems and French jewellery, more than a year earlier, to the amount of about two thousand ducats, and now' brought with me the same wares to the value of about one thousand crowns. I discovered that, whereas I made them an allowance of four golden crowns a month, they always drew considerable sums from the current sale of these articles. My brother-in-law was such an honest fellow, that, fearing to give me cause for anger, he had pawned nearly everything he possessed, and was devoured by interest, in his anxiety to leave my moneys untouched. It seems that my allowance, made by way of charity, did not suffice
CEL V02 D269 eleonora di toledo and ferdinando de medici.jpg
eleonora di toledo and ferdinando de medici
( bronzind )

for the needs of the family. When then I found him so honest in his dealings, I felt inclined to raise his pension; and it was my intention, before leaving Florence, to make some arrangement for all of his daughters.[9]


The Duke of Florence at this time, which was the month of August 1545, had retired to Poggio a Cajano, ten miles distant from Florence. Thither then I went to pay him my respects, with the sole object of acting as duty required, first because I was a Florentine, and next because my forefathers had always been adherents of the Medicean party, and I yielded to none of them in affection for this Duke Cosimo. As I have said, then, I rode to Poggio with the sole object of paying my respects, and with no intention of accepting service under him, as God, who does all things well, did then appoint for me.

When I was introduced, the Duke received me very kindly; then he and the Duchess put questions concerning the works which I had executed for the King.[10] I answered willingly and in detail. After listening to my story, he answered that he had heard as much, and that I spoke the truth. Then he assumed a tone of sympathy, and added: "How small a recompense for such great and noble masterpieces! Friend Benvenuto, if you feel inclined to execute something for me too, I am ready to pay you far better than that King of yours has done, for whom your excellent nature prompts you to speak so gratefully." When I understood his drift, I described the deep obligations under which I lay to his Majesty, who first obtained my liberation from that iniquitous prison, and afterwards supplied me with the means of carrying out more admirable works than any artist of my quality had ever had the chance to do. While I was thus speaking, my lord the Duke writhed on his chair, and seemed as though he could not bear to hear me to the end. Then, when I had concluded, he rejoined:" If you are disposed to work for me, I will treat you in a way that will astonish you, provided the fruits of your labours give me satisfaction, of which I have no doubt." I, poor unhappy mortal, burning with desire to show the noble school[11] of Florence that, after leaving her in youth, I had practised other branches of the art than she imagined, gave answer to the Duke that I would willingly ere<5l for him in marble or in bronze a mighty statue on his fine piazza. He replied that, for a first essay, he should like me to produce a Perseus; he had long set his heart on having such a monument, and he begged me to begin a model for the same.v I very gladly set myself to the task, and in a few weeks I finished my model, which was about a cubit high, in yellow wax and very delicately finished in all its details. I had made it with the most thorough study and art.[12]

The Duke returned to Florence, but several days passed before I had an opportunity of showing my model. It seemed indeed as though he had never set eyes on me or spoken with me, and this caused me to augur ill of my future dealings with his Excellency. Later on, however, one day after dinner, I took it to his wardrobe, where he came to inspect it with the Duchess and a few gentlemen of the court. No sooner had he seen it than he expressed much pleasure, and extolled it to the skies; wherefrom I gathered some hope that he might really be a connoisseur of art. After having well considered it for some time, always with greater satisfaction, he began as follows: "If you could only execute this little model, Benvenuto, with the same perfection on a large scale, it would be the finest piece in the piazza." I replied: "Most excellent my lord, upon the piazza are now standing works by the great Donatello and the incomparable Michel Angelo, the two greatest men who have ever lived since the days of the ancients.[13] But since your Excellence encourages my model with such praise, I feel the heart to execute it at least thrice as well in bronze."[14] No slight dispute arose upon this declaration; the Duke protesting that he understood these matters perfectly, and was quite aware what could be done. I rejoined that my achievements would resolve his dubitations and debates; I was absolutely sure of being able to perform far more than I had promised for his Excellency, but that he must give me means for carrying my work out, else I could not fulfil my undertaking. In return for this his Excellency bade me formulate my demands in a petition, detailing all my requirements; he would see them liberally attended to.

It is certain that if I had been cunning enough to secure by contract all I wanted for my work, I should not have incurred the great troubles which came upon me through my own fault. But he showed the strongest desire to have the work done, and the most perfect willingness to arrange preliminaries. I therefore, not discerning that he was more a merchant than a duke, dealt very frankly with his Excellency, just as if I had to do with a prince, and not with a commercial man. I sent in my petition, to which he replied in large and ample terms. The memorandum ran as follows: "Most rare and excellent my patron, petitions of any validity and compacts between us of any value do not rest upon words or writings; the whole point is that I should succeed in my work according to my promise; and if I so succeed, I feel convinced that your most illustrious Excellency will very well remember what you have engaged to do for me." This language so charmed the Duke both with my ways of acting and of speaking that he and the Duchess began to treat me with extraordinary marks of favour.


Being now inflamed with a great desire to begin working, I told his Excellency that I had need of a house where I could install myself and erect furnaces, in order to commence operations in clay and bronze, and also, according to their separate requirements, in gold and silver. I knew that he was well aware how thoroughly I could serve him in those several branches, and I required some dwelling fitted for my business. In order that his Excellency might perceive how earnestly I wished to work for him, I had already chosen a convenient house, in a quarter much to my liking.[15] As I did not want to trench upon his Excellency for money or anything of that sort, I had brought with me from France two jewels, with which I begged him to purchase me the house, and to keep them until I earned it with my labour. These jewels were excellently executed by my workmen, after my own designs. When he had inspected them with minute attention, he uttered these spirited words, which clothed my soul with a false hope: "Take back your jewels, Benvenuto! I want you, and not them; you shall have your house free of charges." After this, he signed a rescript underneath the petition I had drawn up, and which I have always preserved among my papers. The rescript ran as follows: "Let the house be seen to, and who is the vendor, and at what price; for we wish to comply with Benvenuto' s request."[16] I naturally thought that this would secure me in possession of the house; being over and above convinced that my performances must far exceed what I promised.

His Excellency committed the execution of these orders to his majordomo, who was named Ser Pier Francesco Riccio.[17] The man came from Prato, and had been the Duke's pedagogue. I talked, then, to this donkey, and described my requirements, for there was a garden adjoining the house, on which I wanted to erect, a workshop. He handed the matter over to a paymaster, dry and meagre, who bore the name of Lattanzio Gorini. This flimsy little fellow, with his tiny spider's hands and small gnat's voice, moved about the business at a snail's pace; yet in an evil hour he sent me stones, sand, and lime enough to build perhaps a pigeon-house with careful management. When I saw how coldly things were going forward, I began to feel dismayed; however, I said to myself: "Little beginnings sometimes have great endings; "and I fostered hope in my heart by noticing how many thousand ducats had recently been squandered upon ugly pieces of bad sculpture turned out by that beast of a Buaccio Bandinelli.[18] So I rallied my spirits and kept prodding at Lattanzio Gorini, to make him go a little faster. It was like shouting to a pack of lame donkeys with a blind dwarf for their driver. Under these difficulties, and by the use of my own money, I had soon marked out the foundations of the workshop and cleared the ground of trees and vines, labouring on, according to my wont, with fire, and perhaps a trifle of impatience.

On the other side, I was in the hands of Tasso the carpenter, a great friend of mine, who had received my instructions for making a wooden framework to set up the Perseus. This Tasso was a most excellent craftsman, the best, I believe, who ever lived in his own branch of art.[19] Personally, he was gay and merry by temperament; and whenever I went to see him, he met me laughing, with some little song in falsetto on his lips. Half in despair as I then was, news coming that my affairs in France were going wrong, and these in Florence promising but ill through the lukewarmness of my patron, 1 could never stop listening till half the song was finished; and so in the end I used to cheer up a little with my friend, and drove away, as well as I was able, some few of the gloomy thoughts which weighed upon me.


I had got all the above-mentioned things in order, and was making vigorous preparations for my great undertaking—indeed a portion of the lime had been already used—when I received sudden notice to appear before the majordomo. I found him, after his Excellency's dinner, in the hall of the clock.[20] On entering, I paid him marked respect, and he received me with the greatest stiffness. Then he asked who had installed me in the house, and by whose authority I had begun to build there, saying he marvelled much that I had been so headstrong and foolhardy. I answered that I had been installed in the house by his Excellency, and that his lordship himself, in the name of his Excellency, had given the orders to Lattanzio Gorini. "Lattanzio brought stone, sand, and lime, and provided what I wanted, saying he did so at your lordship's orders." When I had thus spoken, the brute turned upon me with still greater tartness, vowing that neither I nor any of those whom I had mentioned spoke the truth. This stung me to the quick, and I exclaimed: "'O majordomo,so long as your lordship[21] chooses to use language befitting the high office which you hold, I shall revere you, and speak to you as respectfully as I do to the Duke; if you take another line with me, I shall address you as but one Ser Pier Francesco Riccio." He flew into such a rage that I thought he meant to go mad upon the spot, anticipating the time ordained by Heaven for him to do so.[22] Pouring forth a torrent of abuse, he roared out that he was surprised at himself for having let me speak at all to a man of his quality. Thereupon my blood was up, and I cried: "Mark my words, then, Ser Pier Francesco Riccio! I will tell you what sort of men are my equals, and who are yours—mere teachers of the alphabet to children!" His face contracted with a spasm, while he raised his voice and repeated the same words in a still more insulting tone. I, too, assumed an air of menace, and matching his own arrogance with something of the same sort, told him plainly that men of my kind were worthy to converse with popes and emperors, and great kings, and that perhaps there were not two such men alive upon this earth, while ten of his sort might be met at every doorway. On hearing these words he jumped upon a window-seat in the hall there, and defied me to repeat what I had said. I did so with still greater heat and spirit, adding I had no farther mind to serve the Duke, and that I should return to France, where I was always welcome. The brute remained there stupefied and pale as clay; I went off furious, resolved on leaving Florence; and would to God that I had done so! The Duke cannot, I think, have been informed at once of this diabolical scene, for I waited several days without hearing from him. Giving up all thoughts of Florence, except what concerned the settlement of my sister's and nieces' affairs, I made preparations to provide for them as well as I could with the small amount of money I had brought, and then to return to France and never set my foot in Italy again. This being my firm purpose, I had no intention to ask leave of the Duke or anybody, but to decamp as quickly as I could; when one morning the majordomo, of his own accord, sent very humbly to entreat my presence, and opened a long pedantic oration, in which I could discover neither method, nor elegance, nor meaning, nor head, nor tail. I only gathered from it that he professed himself a good Christian, wished to bear no man malice, and asked me in the Duke's name what salary I should be willing to accept. Hearing this, I stood awhile on guard, and made no answer, being firmly resolved not to engage myself. When he saw that I refused to reply, he had at least the cleverness to put in: "Benvenuto, dukes expect to be answered; and what I am saying to you, I am saying from his Excellency's lips." Then I rejoined that if the message came from his Excellency, I would gladly reply, and told him to report to the Duke that I could not accept a position inferior to that of any one employed by him as artist. The majordomo answered:

"Bandinelli receives two hundred crowns a year; if then you are contented with that, your salary is settled." I agreed upon these terms, adding that what I might earn in addition by the merit of my performances, could be given after they were seen; that point I left entirely to the good judgment of his Excellency. Thus, then, against my will, I pieced the broken thread again, and set to work; the Duke continually treating me with the highest imaginable marks of favour.


I received frequent letters from France, written by my most faithful friend Messer Guido Guidi. As yet they told nothing but good news; and Ascanio also bade me enjoy myself without uneasiness, since, if anything happened, he would let me know at once. Now the King was informed that I had commenced working for the Duke of Florence, and being best man in the world, he often asked: "Why does not Benvenuto come back to us?" He put searching questions on the subject to my two workmen, both of whom replied that I kept writing I was well off where I was, adding they thought I did not want to re-enter the service of his Majesty. Incensed by these presumptuous words, which were none of my saying, the King exclaimed: "Since he left us without any cause, I shall not recall him; let him e'en stay where he is." Thus the thievish brigands brought matters exactly to the pass they desired; for if I had returned to France, they would have become mere workmen under me once more, whereas, while I remained away, they were their own masters and in my place; consequently, they did everything in their power to prevent my coming back.


While the workshop for executing my Perseus was in building, I used to work in a ground-floor room. Here I modelled the statue in plaster, giving it the same dimensions as the bronze was meant to have, and intending to cast it from this mould. But finding that it would take rather long to carry it out in this way, I resolved upon another expedient, especially as now a wretched little studio had been erected, brick on brick, so miserably built that the mere recollection of it gives me pain. So then I began the figure of Medusa, and constructed the skeleton in iron. Afterwards I put on the clay, and when that was modelled, baked it.

I had no assistants except some little shopboys, among whom was one of great beauty; he was the son of a prostitute called La Gambetta. I made use of the lad as a model, for the only books which teach this art are the natural human body. Meanwhile, as I could not do everything alone, I looked about for workmen in order to put the business quickly through; but I was unable to find any. There were indeed some in Florence who would willingly have come, but Bandinello prevented them, and after keeping me in want of aid awhile, told the Duke that I was trying to entice his work-people because I was quite incapable of setting up so great a statue by myself. I complained to the Duke of the annoyance which the brute gave me, and begged him to allow me some of the labourers from the Opera.[23] My request inclined him to lend ear to Bandinello's calumnies; and when I noticed that, I set about to do my utmost by myself alone. The labour was enormous: I had to strain every muscle night and day; and just then the husband of my sister sickened, and died after a few days' illness. He left my sister, still young, with six girls of all ages, on my hands. This was the first great trial I endured in Florence, to be made the father and guardian of such a distressed family.


In my anxiety that nothing should go wrong, I sent for two hand-labourers to clear my garden of rubbish. They came from Ponte Vecchio, the one an old man of sixty years, the other a young fellow of eighteen. After employing them about three days, the lad told me that the old man would not work, and that I had better send him away, since, beside being idle, he prevented his comrade from working. The little I had to do there could be done by himself, without throwing money away on other people. The youth was called Bernardino Mannellini, of Mugello. When I saw that he was so inclined to labour, I asked whether he would enter my service, and we agreed upon the spot. He groomed my horse, gardened, and soon essayed to help me in the workshop, with such success that by degrees he learned the art quite nicely. I never had a better assistant than he proved. Having made up my mind to accomplish the whole affair with this man's aid, I now let the Duke know that Bandinello was lying, and that I could get on famously without his work-people.

Just at this time I suffered slightly in the loins, and being unable to work hard, I was glad to pass my time in the Duke's wardrobe with a couple of young goldsmiths called Gianpagolo and Domenico Poggini,[24] who made a little golden cup under my direction. It was chased in bas-relief with figures and other pretty ornaments, and his Excellency meant it for the Duchess to drink water out of. He furthermore commissioned me to execute a golden belt, which I enriched with gems and delicate masks and other fancies. The Duke came frequently into the wardrobe, and took great pleasure in watching me at work and talking to me. When my health improved, I had clay brought, and took a portrait of his Excellency, considerably larger than life-size, which I modelled while he stayed with me for pastime. He was highly delighted with this piece, and conceived such a liking for me that he earnestly begged me to take up my working quarters in the palace, selecting rooms large enough for my purpose, and fitting them up with furnaces and all I wanted, for he greatly enjoyed watching the processes of art. I replied that this was impossible; I should not have finished my undertakings in a hundred years.


The Duchess also treated me with extraordinary graciousness, and would have been pleased if I had worked for her alone, forgetting Perseus and everything besides. I for my part, while these vain favours were being showered upon me, knew only too well that my perverse and biting fortune could not long delay to send me some fresh calamity, because I kept ever before my eyes the great mistake I had committed while seeking to do a good action. I refer to my affairs in France. The King could not swallow the displeasure he felt at my departure; and yet he wanted me to return, if only this could be brought about without concessions on his part. I thought that I was entirely in the right, and would not bend submissively, because I judged that if I wrote in humble terms, those enemies of mine would say in their French fashion that I had confessed myself to blame, and that certain misdoings with which they wrongfully taxed me were proved true. Therefore I stood upon my honour, and wrote in terms of haughty coldness, which was precisely what those two traitors, my apprentices, most heartily desired. In my letters to them I boasted of the distinguished kindness shown me in my own birthplace by a prince and princess the absolute masters of Florence. Whenever they received one of these despatches, they went to the King, and besieged his Majesty with entreaties for the castle upon the same terms as he had granted it to me. The King, who was a man of great goodness and perspicacity, would never consent to the presumptuous demands of those scoundrels, since he scented the malignity of their aims. Yet, wishing to keep them in expectation, and to give me the opportunity of coming back, he caused an angry letter to be written to me by his treasurer, Messer Giuliano Buonaccorsi, a burgher of Florence. The substance was as follows: If I wanted to preserve the reputation for honesty which I had hitherto enjoyed, it was my plain duty, after leaving France with no cause whatsoever, to render an account of all that I had done and dealt with for his Majesty.

The receipt of this letter gave me such pleasure that, if I had consulted my own palate, I could not have wished for either more or less. I sat down to write an answer, and filled nine pages of ordinary paper. In this document I described in detail all the works which I had executed, and all the adventures I had gone through while performing them, and all the sums which had been spent upon them. The payments had always been made through two notaries and one of his Majesty's treasurers; and I could show receipts from all the men into whose hands they passed, whether for goods supplied or labour rendered. I had not pocketed one penny of the money, nor had I received any reward for my completed works. I brought back with me into Italy nothing but some marks of favour and most royal promises, truly worthy of his Majesty. "Now, though I cannot vaunt myself of any recompense beyond the salaries appointed for my maintenance in France, seven hundred golden crowns of which are still due, inasmuch as I abstained from drawing them until I could employ them on my return-journey; yet knowing that malicious foes out of their envious hearts have played some knavish trick against me, I feel confident that truth will prevail. I take pride in his Most Christian Majesty, and am not moved by avarice. I am indeed aware of having performed for him far more than I undertook; and albeit the promised reward has not been given me, my one anxiety is to remain in his Majesty's opinion that man of probity and honour which I have always been. If your Majesty entertains the least doubt upon this point, I will fly to render an account of my conduct, at the risk even of my life. But noticing in what slight esteem I am held, I have had no mind to come back and make an offer of myself, knowing that I shall never lack for bread whithersoever I may go. If, however, I am called for, I will always answer." The letter contained many further particulars worthy of the King's attention, and proper to the preservation of my honour. Before despatching it, I took it to the Duke, who read it with interest; then I sent it into France, addressed to the Cardinal of Ferrara.

  1. The MSS. in this phrase vary, and the meaning is not quite clear. According to one reading, the sense avould be: "Though the works he had commissioned were not yet begun." But this involves an awkward use of the word dipoi.
  2. François de Bourbon, Comte de Saint Paul, one of the chief companions in arms and captains of François I.
  3. The peace of Crépy was concluded September 18, 1544. The English had taken Boulogne four days earlier. Peace between France and England was not concluded till June 7, 1546.
  4. Argentan, the city of the Duchy of Alençon. Margaret, it will be remembered, had been first married to the Due d'Alençon, and after his death retained his fiefs.
  5. Con l'argento e ogni cosa. These words refer perhaps to the <vases: "the silver and everything pertaining to them."
  6. E l'aria era bianchissima. Perhaps this ought to be: "and the air blazed with lightnings.' Goethe takes it as I do above.
  7. The text here is obscure. The words "venire a tribulare" might mean "to get, by any means, however inconvenient, to Florence." I have chosen another interpretation in the text, as more consonant with the Italian idiom. For Cellini's use of tribulare or tribolare, see lib. i. 112, andando a tribolare la vita tua.
  8. Pier Luigi Farnese was not formally invested with the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza until September 1545. Cellini, therefore, gives him this title as Duke of Castro. He was assassinated on September 10, 1547. The Landi, among other noblemen of the duchy, took part in a conspiracy which had its ground in Pier Luigi's political errors no less than in his intolerable misgovernment and infamous private life.
  9. Though this paragraph is confused, the meaning seems to be that Cellini's brother-in-law did not use the money which accrued from the sale of jewellery, and got into debt, because his allowance was inadequate, and he was out of work.
  10. This Duchess was Eleonora di Toledo, well known to us through Bronzino's portrait.
  11. This school was the Collegia dei Maestri di Belle Arti in Florence, who had hitherto known of Cellini mainly as a goldsmith.
  12. This is probably the precious model now existing in the Bargello Palace at Florence, in many points more interesting than the completed bronze statue under the Loggia de' Lanzi.
  13. Donatello's Judith and Holofernes; Michel Angelo's David.
  14. It is difficult to give the exact sense of pertanto and per c he in the text; but I think the drift of the sentence is rendered above.
  15. This house is in the Via del Rosaio, entered from Via della Pergola, No. 6527.
  16. The petition and the rescript are in existence, and confirm Cellini's veracity in this transacton. See Bianchi, p. 587.
  17. Varchi, St. Fior., lib. xv. 44, gives to this man the character of a presumptuous conceited simpleton.
  18. Cellini calls this man, his bitter foe and rival, Buaccio or the great ox, blockhead, instead of Baccio, which is shortened for Bartolommeo.
  19. See Vol. I., p. 100. Vasari introduced him, together with Cosimo's other favoured artists, in a fresco of the Palazzo Vecchio at Florence. See Plon, p. 124.
  20. One of the rooms in the Palazzo Vecchio, so called because the famous cosmographical timepiece, made about 1484 for Lorenzo de y Medici by Lorenzo della Volpaia, stood there.
  21. It was the custom at that epoch to address princes by the title of Signore or Nostra Signoria; gentlemen (armigeri) had the title of Messer; simple Ser was given to plebeians with some civil or ecclesiastical dignity.
  22. Vasari, in his Life of Montorsoli, says in effect that this Riccio died about 1559, after having been insane several years.
  23. That is, the Opera del Duomo, or permanent establishment for attending to the fabric of the Florentine Cathedral.
  24. These two brothers were specially eminent as die-casters. Gianpagolo went to Spain, and served Philip II.