The Life of Benvenuto Cellini/Section XXI to XXXII


At the end of a month and a half the King returned to Paris; and I, who had been working day and night, went to present myself before him, taking my model, so well blocked out that my intention could be clearly understood. Just about that time, the devilries of war between the Emperor and King had been stirred up again, so that I found him much harassed by anxieties.[1] I spoke, however, with the Cardinal of Ferrara, saying I had brought some models which his Majesty had ordered, and begging him, if he found an opportunity, to put in a word whereby I might be able to exhibit them; the King, I thought, would take much pleasure in their sight. This the Cardinal did; and no sooner had he spoken of the models, than the King came to the place where I had set them up. The first of these was intended for the door of the palace at Fontainebleau. I had been obliged to make some alterations in the architecture of this door, which was wide and low, in their vicious French style. The opening was very nearly square, and above it was a hemicycle, flattened like the handle of a basket; here the King wanted a figure placed to represent the genius of Fontainebleau. I corrected the proportions of the doorway, and placed above it an exact; half circle; at the sides I introduced projections, with socles and cornices properly corresponding: then, instead of the columns demanded by this disposition of parts, I fashioned two satyrs, one upon each side. The first of these was in somewhat more than half-relief, lifting one hand to support the cornice, and holding a thick club in the other; his face was fiery and menacing, instilling fear into the beholders. The other had the same posture of support; but I varied his features and some other details; in his hand, for instance, he held a lash with three balls attached to chains. Though I called them satyrs, they showed nothing of the satyr except little horns and a goatish head; all the rest of their form was human. In the lunette above I placed a female figure lying in an attitude of noble grace; she rested her left arm on a stag's neck, this animal being one of the King's emblems. On one side I worked little fawns in half-relief, with some wild boars and other game in lower relief; on the other side were hounds and divers dogs of the chase of several species, such as may be seen in that fair forest where the fountain springs. The whole of this composition was enclosed in an oblong, each angle of which contained a Victory in bas-relief, holding torches after the manner of the ancients. Above the oblong was a salamander, the King's particular device, with many other ornaments appropriate to the Ionic architecture of the whole design.


When the King had seen this model, it restored him to cheerfulness, and distracted his mind from the fatiguing debates he had been holding during the past two hours. Seeing him cheerful as I wished, I uncovered the other model, which he was far from expecting, since he not unreasonably judged that the first had work in it enough. This one was a little higher than two cubits; it figured a fountain shaped in a perfect square, with handsome steps all round, intersecting each other in a way which was unknown in France, and is indeed very uncommon in Italy. In the middle of the fountain I set a pedestal, projecting somewhat above the margin of the basin, and upon this a nude male figure, of the right proportion to the whole design, and of a very graceful form. In his right hand he raised a broken lance on high; his left hand rested on a scimitar; he was poised upon the left foot, the right being supported by a helmet of the richest imaginable workmanship. At each of the four angles of the fountain a figure was sitting, raised above the level of the base, and accompanied by many beautiful and appropriate emblems.

The King began by asking me what I meant to represent by the fine fancy I had embodied in this design, saying that he had understood the door without explanation, but that he could not take the conception of my fountain, although it seemed to him most beautiful: at the same time, he knew well that I was not like those foolish folk who turn out something with a kind of grace, but put no intention into their performances. I then addressed myself to the task of exposition; for having succeeded in pleasing him with my work, I wanted him to be no less pleased with my discourse. "Let me inform your sacred Majesty," I thus began, "that the whole of this model is so exactly made to scale, that, if it should come to being executed in the large, none of its grace and lightness will be sacrificed. The figure in the middle is meant to stand fifty-four feet above the level of the ground." At this announcement the King made a sign of surprise. "It is, moreover, intended to represent the god Mars. The other figures embody those arts and sciences in which your Majesty takes pleasure, and which you so generously patronise. This one, upon the right hand, is designed for Learning; you will observe that the accompanying emblems indicate Philosophy, and her attendant branches of knowledge. By the next I wished to personify the whole Art of Design, including Sculpture, Painting, and Architecture. The third is Music, which cannot be omitted from the sphere of intellectual culture. That other, with so gracious and benign a mien, stands for Generosity, lacking which the mental gifts bestowed on us by God will not be brought to view. I have attempted to portray your Majesty, your very self, in the great central statue; for you are truly a god Mars, the only brave upon this globe, and all your bravery you use with justice and with piety in the defence of your own glory." Scarcely had he allowed me to finish this oration, when he broke forth with a strong voice: "Verily I have found a man here after my own heart." Then he called the treasurers who were appointed for my supplies, and told them to disburse whatever I required, let the cost be what it might. Next, he laid his hand upon my shoulder, saying: "Mon ami (which is the same as my friend), I know not whether the pleasure be greater for the prince who finds a man after his own heart, or for the artist who finds a prince willing to furnish him with means for carrying out his great ideas." I answered that, if I was really the man his Majesty described, my good fortune was by far the greater. He answered laughingly: "Let us agree, then, that our luck is equal!" Then I departed in the highest spirits, and went back to my work.


My ill-luck willed that I was not wide-awake enough to play the like comedy with Madame d'Etampes. That evening, when she heard the whole course of events from the King's own lips, it bred such poisonous fury in her breast that she exclaimed with anger: "If Benvenuto had shown me those fine things of his, he would have given me some reason to be mindful of him at the proper moment." The King sought to excuse me, but he made no impression on her temper. Being informed of what had passed, I waited fifteen days, during which they made a tour through Normandy, visiting Rouen and Dieppe; then, when they returned to S. Germainen-Laye, I took the handsome little vase which I had made at the request of Madame d'Etampes, hoping, if I gave it her, to recover the favour I had lost. With this in my hand, then, I announced my presence to her nurse, and showed the gift which I had brought her mistress; the woman received me with demonstrations of good-will, and said that she would speak a word to Madame, who was still engaged upon her toilette; I should be admitted on the instant, when she had discharged her embassy. The nurse made her report in full to Madame, who retorted scornfully: "Tell him to wait." On hearing this, I clothed myself with patience, which of all things I find the most difficult. Nevertheless, I kept myself under control until the hour for dinner was past. Then, seeing that time dragged on, and being maddened by hunger, I could no longer hold out, but flung off, sending her most devoutly to the devil.

I next betook myself to the Cardinal of Lorraine, and made him a present of the vase, only petitioning his Eminence to maintain me in the King's good graces. He said there was no need for this; and if there were need he would gladly speak for me. Then he called his treasurer, and whispered a few words in his ear. The treasurer waited till I took my leave of the Cardinal; after which he said to me:

"Benvenuto, come with me, and I will give you a glass of good wine to drink/' I answered, not understanding what he meant: "For Heaven's sake, Mr. Treasurer, let me have but one glass of wine and a mouthful of bread; for I am really fainting for want of food. I have fasted since early this morning up to the present moment, at the door of Madame d'Etampes; I went to give her that fine piece of silver-gilt plate, and took pains that she would be informed of my intention; but she, with the mere petty will to vex me, bade me wait; now I am famished, and feel my forces failing; and, as God willed it, I have bestowed my gift and labour upon one who is far more worthy of them. I only crave of you something to drink; for being rather too bilious by nature, fast upsets me so that I run the risk now of falling from exhaustion to the earth." While I was pumping out these words with difficulty, they brought some admirable wine and other delicacies for a hearty meal. I refreshed myself, and having recovered my vital spirits, found that my exasperation had departed from me.

The good treasurer handed me a hundred crowns in gold. I sturdily refused to accept them. He reported this to the Cardinal, who swore at him, and told him to make me take the money by force, and not to show himself again till he had done so. The treasurer returned, much irritated, saying he had never been so scolded before by the Cardinal; but when he pressed the crowns upon me, I still offered some resistance. Then, quite angry, he said he would use force to make me take them. So I accepted the money. When I wanted to thank the Cardinal in person, he sent word by one of his secretaries that he would gladly do me a service whenever the occasion offered. I returned the same evening to Paris. The King heard the whole history, and Madame d'Etampes was well laughed at in their company. This increased her animosity against me, and led to an attack upon my life, of which I shall speak in the proper time and place.


Far back in my autobiography I ought to have recorded the friendship which I won with the most cultivated, the most affectionate, and the most companionable man of worth I ever knew in this world. He was Messer Guido Guidi, an able physician and doctor of medicine, and a nobleman of Florence.[2] The infinite troubles brought upon me by my evil fortune caused me to omit the mention of him at an earlier date; and though my remembrance may be but a trifle, I deemed it sufficient to keep him always in my heart. Yet, finding that the drama of my life requires his presence, I shall introduce him here at the moment of my greatest trials, in order that, as he was then my comfort and support, I may now recall to memory the good he did me.[3]

Well, then, Messer Guido came to Paris; and not long after making his acquaintance, I took him to my castle, and there assigned him his own suite of apartments. We enjoyed our lives together in that place for several years. The Bishop of Pavia, that is to say, Monsignore de' Rossi, brother of the Count of San Secondo, also arrived.[4] This gentleman I removed from his hotel, and took him to my castle, assigning him in like manner his own suite of apartments, where he sojourned many months with serving-men and horses. On another occasion I lodged Messer Luigi Alamanni and his sons for some months. It was indeed God's grace to me that I should thus, in my poor station, be able to render services to men of great position and acquirements.

But to return to Messer Guido. We enjoyed our mutual friendship during all the years I stayed in Paris, and often did we exult together on being able to advance in art and knowledge at the cost of that so great and admirable prince, our patron, each in his own branch of industry. I can indeed, and with good conscience, affirm that all I am, whatever of good and beautiful I have produced, all this must be ascribed to that extraordinary monarch. So, then, I will resume the thread of my discourse concerning him and the great things I wrought for him.


I had a tennis-court in my castle, from which I drew considerable profit. The building also contained some little dwellings inhabited by different sorts of men, among whom was a printer of books of much excellence in his own trade. Nearly the whole of his premises lay inside the castle, and he was the man who printed Messer Guido's first fine book on medicine, [5] Wanting to make use of his lodging, I turned him out, but not without some trouble. There was also a manufacturer of saltpetre; and when I wished to assign his apartments to some of my German workmen, the fellow refused to leave the place. I asked him over and over again in gentle terms to give me up my rooms, because I wanted to employ them for my work-people in the service of the King. The more moderately I spoke, the more arrogantly did the brute reply; till at last I gave him three days' notice to quit. He laughed me in the face, and said that he would begin to think of it at the end of three years. I had not then learned that he was under the protection of Madame d'Etampes; but had it not been that the terms on which I stood toward that lady made me a little more circumspect than I was wont to be, I should have ousted him at once; now, however, I thought it best to keep my temper for three days. When the term was over, I said nothing, but took Germans, Italians, and Frenchmen, bearing arms, and many hand-labourers whom I had in my employ, and in a short while gutted all his house and flung his property outside my castle. I resorted to these somewhat rigorous measures because he had told me that no Italian whom he knew of had the power or spirit to remove one ring of iron from its place in his house. Well, after the deed was done, he came to find me, and I said to him: "I am the least of all Italians in Italy, and yet I have done nothing to you in comparison with what I have the heart to do, and will do if you utter a single further word/' adding other terms of menace and abuse. The man, dumbfounded and affrighted, got his furniture together as well as he was able; then he ran off to Madame d'Etampes, and painted a picture of me like the very fiend. She being my great enemy, painted my portrait still blacker to the King, with all her greater eloquence and all her greater weight of influence. As I was afterwards informed, his Majesty twice showed signs of irritation and was minded to use me roughly: but Henry the Dauphin, his son, now King of France, who had received some affronts from that imperious woman, together with the Queen of Navarre, sister to King Francis, espoused my cause so cleverly that he passed the matter over with a laugh. So with God's assistance I escaped from a great danger.


I had to deal in like manner with another fellow, but I did not ruin his house; I only threw all his furniture out of doors. This time Madame d'Etampes had the insolence to tell the King: "I believe that devil will sack Paris one of these days." The King answered with some anger that I was only quite right to defend myself from the low rabble who put obstacles in the way of my serving him.

The rage of this vindictive woman kept continually on the increase. She sent for a painter who was established at Fontainebleau, where the King resided nearly all his time. The painter was an Italian and a Bolognese, known then as II Bologna; his right name, however, was Francesco Primaticcio.[6] Madame d'Etampes advised him to beg that commission for the fountain which his Majesty had given me, adding that she would support him with all her ability; and upon this they agreed. Bologna was in an ecstasy of happiness, and thought himself sure of the affair, although such things were not in his line of art. He was, however, an excellent master of design, and had collected round him a troop of workpeople formed in the school of Rosso, our Florentine painter, who was undoubtedly an artist of extraordinary merit; his own best qualities indeed were derived from the admirable manner of Rosso, who by this time had died.
CEL V02 D203 francesco primatico.jpg
francesco primaticcio
( by himself )

These ingenious arguments, and the weighty influence of Madame d'Etampes, prevailed with the King; for they kept hammering at him night and day, Madame at one time, and Bologna at another. What worked most upon his mind was that both of them combined to speak as follows: "How is it possible, sacred Majesty, that Benvenuto should accomplish the twelve silver statues which you want? He has not finished one of them yet. If you employ him on so great an undertaking, you will, of necessity, deprive yourself of those other things on which your heart is set. A hundred of the ablest craftsmen could not complete so many great works as this one able man has taken in hand to do. One can see clearly that he has a passion for labour; but this ardent temper will be the cause of your Majesty's losing both him and his masterpieces at the same moment." By insinuating these and other suggestions of the same sort at a favourable opportunity, the King consented to their petition; and yet Bologna had at this time produced neither designs nor models for the fountain.


It happened that just at this period an action was brought against me in Paris by the second lodger I had ousted from my castle, who pretended that on that occasion I had stolen a large quantity of his effects. This lawsuit tormented me beyond measure, and took up so much of my time that I often thought off decamping in despair from the country. Now the French are in the habit of making much capital out off any action they commence against a foreigner, or against such persons as they notice to be indolent in litigation. No sooner do they observe that they are getting some advantage in the suit, than they find the means to sell it; some have even been known to give a lawsuit in dowry with their daughters to men who make a business out of such transactions. They have another ugly custom, which is that the Normans, nearly all of them, traffic in false evidence; so that the men who buy up lawsuits, engage at once the services of four or six of these false witnesses, according to their need; their adversary, if he neglect to produce as many on the other side, being perhaps unacquainted with the custom, is certain to have the verdict given against him. All this happened in my case, and thinking it a most disgraceful breach of justice, I made my appearance in the great hall of Paris, to defend my right. There I saw a judge, lieutenant for the King in civil causes, enthroned upon a high tribunal. He was tall, stout, and fat, and of an extremely severe countenance. All round Mm on each side stood a crowd of solicitors and advocates, ranged upon the right hand and the left. Others were coming, one by one, to explain their several causes to the judge. From time to time, too, I noticed that the attorneys at the side of the tribunal talked all at once: and much admiration was roused in me by that extraordinary man, the very image of Pluto, who listened with marked attention first to one and then to the other, answering each with learning and sagacity. I have always delighted in watching and experiencing every kind of skill; so I would not have lost this spectacle for much. It happened that the hall being very large, and filled with a multitude of folk, they were strict in excluding every one who had no business there, and kept the door shut with a guard to hold it. Sometimes the guardian, in his effort to prevent the entrance of some improper person, interrupted the judge by the great noise he made, and the judge in anger turned to chide him. This happened frequently, so that my attention was directed to the fact. On one occasion, when two gentlemen were pushing their way in as spectators, and the porter was opposing them with violence, the judge raised his voice, and spoke the following words precisely as I heard them: "Keep peace, Satan, begone, and hold your tongue." These words in the French tongue sound as follows: Phe phe, Satan, phe phe, ale, phe! Now I had learned the French tongue well; and on hearing this sentence, the meaning of that phrase used by Dante came into my memory, when he and his master Virgil entered the doors of Hell. Dante and the painter Giotto were together in France, and particularly in the city of Paris, where, owing to the circumstances I have just described, the hall of justice may be truly called a hell. Dante then, who also understood French well, made use of the phrase in question, and it has struck me as singular that this interpretation has never yet been

1 Paix, paix, Satan, allez, paix. The line in Dante to which Cellini alludes is the first of the seventh canto of the Inferno. His suggestion is both curious and ingenious but we ha've no reason to think that French judges used the same imprecations, when interrupted, in the thirteenth as they did in the sixteenth century, or that what Cellini heard on this occasion was more than an accidental similarity of sounds, striking his quick ear and awakening his lively memory. put upon the passage; indeed, it confirms my opinion that the commentators make him say things which never came into his head.


Well, then, to return to my affairs. When certain decisions of the court were sent me by those lawyers, and I perceived that my cause had been unjustly lost, I had recourse for my defence to a great dagger which I carried; for I have always taken pleasure in keeping fine weapons. The first man I attacked was the plaintiff* who had sued me; and one evening I wounded him in the legs and arms so severely, taking care, however, not to kill him, that I deprived him of the use of both his legs. Then I sought out the other fellow who had bought the suit, and used him also in such wise that he dropped it. Returning thanks to God for this and every other dispensation, and hoping to be left awhile without worries, I bade the young men of my household, especially the Italians, for God's sake to attend each diligently to the work I set him, and to help me till such time as I could finish the things I had in hand. I thought they might soon be completed, and then I meant to return to Italy, being no longer able to put up with the rogueries of those Frenchmen; the good King too, if he once grew angry, might bring me into mischief for many of my acts in self-defence. I will describe who these Italians were; the first, and the one I liked best, was Ascanio, from Tagliacozzo in the kingdom of Naples; the second was Pagolo, a Roman of such humble origin that he did not know his own father. These were the two men who had been with me in Rome, and whom I had taken with me on the journey. Another Roman had also come on purpose to enter my service; he too bore the name of Pagolo, and was the son of a poor nobleman of the family of the Macaroni; he had small acquirements in our art, but was an excellent and courageous swordsman. I had another from Ferrara called Bartolommeo Chioccia. There was also another from Florence named Pagolo Micceri; his brother, nicknamed "II Gatta," was a clever clerk, but had spent too much money in managing the property of Tommaso Guadagni, a very wealthy merchant. This Gatta put in order for me the books in which I wrote the accounts of his most Christian Majesty and my other employers. Now Pagolo Micceri, having learned how to keep them from his brother, went on doing this work for me in return for a liberal salary. He appeared, so far as I could judge, to be a very honest lad, for I noticed him to be devout, and when I heard him sometimes muttering psalms, and sometimes telling his beads, I reckoned much upon his feigned virtue. Accordingly I called the fellow apart and said to him, "Pagolo, my dearest brother, you know what a good place you have with me, and how you had formerly nothing to depend on; besides, you are a Florentine. I have also the greater confidence in you because I observe that you are pious and religious, which is a thing that pleases me. I beg you therefore to assist me, for I cannot put the same trust in any of your companions: so then I shall ask you to keep watch over two matters of the highest importance, which might prove a source of much annoyance to me. In the first place, I want you to guard my property from being stolen, and not touch it yourself. In the next place, you know that poor young girl, Caterina; I keep her principally for my art's sake, since I cannot do without a model; but being a man also, I have used her for my pleasures, and it is possible that she may bear me a child. Now I do not want to maintain another man's bastards, nor will I sit down under such an insult. If any one in this house had the audacity to attempt anything of the sort, and I were to become aware of it, I verily believe that I should kill both her and him. Accordingly, dear brother, I entreat you to be my helper; should you notice anything, tell it me at once; for I am sure to send her and her mother and her fellow to the gallows. Be you the first upon your watch against falling into this snare." The rascal made a sign of the cross from his head to his feet and cried out: "O blessed Jesus! God preserve me from ever thinking of such a thing! In the first place, I am not given to those evil ways; in the next place, do you imagine I am ignorant of your great benefits toward me?" When I heard these words, which he uttered with all appearance of simplicity and affection for me, I believed that matters stood precisely as he asserted.


Two days after this conversation, M. Mattio del Nazaro took the occasion of some feast-day to invite me and my work-people to an entertainment in a garden.[7] He was an Italian in the King's service, and practised the same art as we did with remarkable ability. I got myself in readiness, and told Pagolo that he might go abroad too and amuse himself with us; the annoyances arising from that lawsuit being, as I judged, now settled down. The young man replied in these words: "Upon my word, it would be a great mistake to leave the house so unprotected. Only look how much of gold, silver, and jewels you have here. Living as we do in a city of thieves, we ought to be upon our guard by day and night. I will spend the time in religious exercises, while I keep watch over the premises. Go then with mind at rest to take your pleasure and divert your spirits. Some other day another man will take my place as guardian here."

Thinking that I could go off with a quiet mind, I took Pagolo, Ascanio, and Chioccia to the garden, where we spent a large portion of the day agreeably. Toward the middle of the afternoon, however, when it began to draw toward sundown, a suspicion came into my head, and I recollected the words which that traitor had spoken with his feigned simplicity. So I mounted my horse, and with two servants to attend me, returned to the castle, where I all but caught Pagolo and that little wretch Caterina in flagrante. No sooner had I reached the place, than that French bawd, her mother, screamed out: "Pagolo! Caterina! here is the master!" When I saw the pair advancing, overcome with fright, their clothes in disorder, not knowing what they said, nor, like people in a trance, where they were going, it was only too easy to guess what they had been about. The sight drowned reason in rage, and I drew my sword, resolved to kill them both. The man took to his heels; the girl flung herself upon her knees, and shrieked to Heaven for mercy. In my first fury I wanted to strike at the male; but before I had the time to catch him up, second thoughts arose which made me think it would be best for me to drive them both away together. I had so many acts of violence upon my hands, that if I killed him I could hardly hope to save my life. I said then to Pagolo: "Had I seen with my own eyes, scoundrel, what your behaviour and appearance force me to believe, I should have run you with this sword here ten times through the guts. Get out of my sight; and if you say a Paternoster, let it be San Giuliano's."[8] Then I drove the whole lot forth, mother and daughter, lamming into them with fist and foot. They made their minds up to have the law of me, and consulted a Norman advocate, who advised them to declare that I had used the girl after the Italian fashion; what this meant I need hardly explain.[9] The man argued: "At the very least, when this Italian hears what you are after, he will pay down several hundred ducats, knowing how great the danger is, and how heavily that offence is punished in France."

Upon this they were agreed. The accusation was brought against me, and I received a summons from the court.


The more I sought for rest, the more I was annoyed with all sorts of embarrassments. Being thus daily exposed to divers persecutions, I pondered which of two courses I ought to take; whether to decamp and leave France to the devil, or else to fight this battle through as I had done the rest, and see to what end God had made me. For a long while I kept anxiously revolving the matter. At last I resolved to make off, dreading to tempt my evil fortune, lest this should bring me to the gallows. My dispositions were all fixed; I had made arrangements for putting away the property I could not carry, and for charging the lighter articles, to the best of my ability, upon myself and servants; yet it was with great and heavy reluctance that I looked forward to such a departure. I had shut myself up alone in a little study. My young men were advising me to fly; but I told them that it would be well for me to meditate this step in solitude, although I very much inclined to their opinion. Indeed, I reasoned that if I could escape imprisonment and let the storm pass over, I should be able to explain matters to the King by letter, setting forth the trap which had been laid to ruin me by the malice of my enemies. And as I have said above, my mind was made up to this point; when, just as I rose to act on the decision, some power took me by the shoulder and turned me round, and I heard a voice which cried with vehemence: "Benvenuto, do as thou art wont, and fear not!" Then, on the instant, I changed the whole course of my plans, and said to my Italians: "Take your good arms and come with me; obey me to the letter; have no other thought, for I am now determined to put in my appearance. If I were to leave Paris, you would vanish the next day in smoke; so do as I command, and follow me." They all began together with one heart and voice to say: "Since we are here, and draw our livelihood from him, it is our duty to go with him and bear him out so long as we have life to execute what he proposes. He has hit the mark better than we did in this matter; for on the instant when he leaves the place, his enemies will send us to the devil. Let us keep well in mind what great works we have begun here, and what vast importance they possess; we should not know how to finish them without him, and his enemies would say that he had taken flight because he shrank before such undertakings." Many other things bearing weightily upon the subject were said among them. But it was the young Roman, Macaroni, who first put heart into the company; and he also raised recruits from the Germans and the Frenchmen, who felt well disposed toward me.

We were ten men, all counted. I set out, firmly resolved not to let myself be taken and imprisoned alive. When we appeared before the judges for criminal affairs, I found Caterina and her mother waiting; and on the moment of my arrival, the two women were laughing with their advocate. I pushed my way in, and called boldly for the judge, who was seated, blown out big and fat, upon a tribunal high above the rest. On catching sight of me, he threatened with his head, and spoke in a subdued voice: "Although your name is Benvenuto, this time you are an ill-comer." I understood his speech, and called out the second time:

"Despatch my business quickly. Tell me what I have come to do here." Then the judge turned to Caterina, and said: "Caterina, relate all that happened between you and Benvenuto." She answered that I had used her after the Italian fashion. The judge turned to me and said: "You hear what Caterina deposes, Benvenuto." I replied: "If I have consorted with her after the Italian fashion, I have only done the same as you folk of other nations do." He demurred: "She means that you improperly abused her." I retorted that, so far from being the Italian fashion, it must be some French habit, seeing she knew all about it, while I was ignorant; and I commanded her to explain precisely how I had consorted with her. Then the impudent baggage entered into plain and circumstantial details regarding all the filth she lyingly accused me of. I made her repeat her deposition three times in succession. When she had finished, I cried out with a loud voice: "Lord judge, lieutenant of the Most Christian King, I call on you for justice. Well I know that by the laws of his Most Christian Majesty both agent and patient in this kind of crime are punished with the stake. The woman confesses her guilt; I admit nothing whatsoever of the sort with regard to her; her go-between of a mother is here, who deserves to be burned for either one or the other offence. Therefore I appeal to you for justice." These words I repeated over and over again at the top of my voice, continually calling out: "To the stake with her and her mother!" I also threatened the judge that, if he did not send her to prison there before me, I would go to the King at once, and tell him how his lieutenant in criminal affairs of justice had wronged me. When they heard what a tumult I was making, my adversaries lowered their voices, but I lifted mine the more. The little hussy and her mother fell to weeping, while I shouted to the judge: "Fire, fire! to the stake with them!"

The coward on the bench, finding that the matter was not going as he intended, began to use soft words and excuse the weakness of the female sex. Thereupon I felt that I had won the victory in a nasty encounter; and, muttering threats between my teeth, I took myself off, not without great inward satisfaction. Indeed, I would gladly have paid five hundred crowns down to have avoided that appearance in court. However, after escaping from the tempest, I thanked God with all my heart, and returned in gladness with my young men to the castle.


When adverse fortune, or, if we prefer to call it, our malignant planet, undertakes to persecute a man, it never lacks new ways of injuring him. So now, when I thought I had emerged from this tempestuous sea of troubles, and hoped my evil star would leave me quiet for a moment, it began to set two schemes in motion against me before I had recovered my breath from that great struggle. Within three days two things happened, each of which brought my life into extreme hazard. One of these occurred in this way: I went to Fontainebleau to consult with the King; for he had written me a letter saying he wanted me to stamp the coins of his whole realm, and enclosing some little drawings to explain his wishes in the matter; at the same time he left me free to execute them as I liked; upon which I made new designs according to my own conception, and according to the ideal of art. When I reached Fontainebleau, one of the treasurers commissioned by the King to defray my expenses (he was called Monsignor della Fa[10]) addressed me in these words: "Benvenuto, the painter Bologna has obtained commission from the King to execute your great Colossus, and all the orders previously given as on your behalf have been transferred to him.[11] We are all indignant; and it seems to us that that countryman of yours has acted towards you in a most unwarrantable manner. The work was assigned you on the strength of your models and studies. He is robbing you of it, only through the favour of Madame d'Etampes; and though several months have passed since he received the order, he has not yet made any sign of commencing it."

I answered in surprise: "How is it possible that I should have heard nothing at all about this?" He then informed me that the man had kept it very dark, and had obtained the King's commission with great difficulty, since his Majesty at first would not concede it; only the importunity of Madame d'Etampes secured this favour for him.

When I felt how greatly and how wrongfully I had been betrayed, and saw a work which I had gained with my great toil thus stolen from me, I made my mind up for a serious stroke of business, and marched off with my good sword at my side to find Bologna.[12] He was in his room, engaged in studies; after telling the servant to introduce me, he greeted me with some of his Lombard compliments, and asked what good business had brought me hither. I replied:

"A most excellent business, and one of great importance. "He then sent for wine, and said: "Before we begin to talk, we must drink together, for such is the French custom." I answered:"Messer Francesco, you must know that the conversation we have to engage in does not call for drinking at the commencement; after it is over, perhaps we shall be glad to take a glass/' Then I opened the matter in this way: "All men who wish to pass for persons of worth allow it to be seen that they are so by their actions; if they do the contrary, they lose the name of honest men. I am aware that you knew the King had commissioned me with that great Colossus; it had been talked of these eighteen months past; yet neither you nor anybody else came forward to speak a word about it. By my great labours I made myself known to his Majesty, who approved of my models and gave the work into my hands. During many months I have heard nothing to the contrary; only this morning I was informed that you have got hold of it, and have filched it from me. I earned it by the talents I displayed, and you are robbing me of it merely by your idle talking."


To this speech Bologna answered: "O Benvenuto! all men try to push their affairs in every way they can. If this is the King's will, what have you to say against it? You would only throw away your time, because I have it now, and it is mine. Now tell me what you choose, and I will listen to you." I replied: "I should like you to know, Messer Francesco, that I could say much which would prove irrefragably, and make you admit, that such ways of acting as you have described and used are not in vogue among rational animals. I will, however, come quickly to the point at issue; give close attention to my meaning, because the affair is serious." He made as though he would rise from the chair on which he was sitting, since he saw my colour heightened and my features greatly discomposed. I told him that the time had not yet come for moving; he had better sit and listen to me. Then I recommenced: "Messer Francesco, you know that I first received the work, and that the time has long gone by during which my right could be reasonably disputed by any one. Now I tell you that I shall be satisfied if you will make a model, while I make another in addition to the one I have already shown. Then we will take them without any clamour to our great King; and whosoever in this way shall have gained the credit of the best design will justly have deserved the commission. If it falls to you, I will dismiss from my mind the memory of the great injury you have done me, and will bless your hands, as being worthier than mine of so glorious a performance. Let us abide by this agreement, and we shall be friends; otherwise we must be enemies; and God, who always helps the right, and I, who know how to assert it, will show you to what extent you have done wrong." Messer Francesco answered: "The work is mine, and since it has been given me, I do not choose to put what is my own to hazard." To this I retorted:

"Messer Francesco, if you will not take the right course which is just and reasonable, I will show you another which shall be like your own, that is to say, ugly and disagreeable. I tell you plainly that if I ever hear that you have spoken one single word about this work of mine, I will kill you like a dog. We are neither in Rome, nor in Bologna, nor in Florence; here one lives in quite a different fashion; if then it comes to my ears that you talk about this to the King or anybody else, I vow that I will kill you. Reflect upon the way you mean to take, whether that for good which I formerly described, or this latter bad one I have just now set before you."

The man did not know what to say or do, and I was inclined to cut the matter short upon the spot rather than to postpone action. Bologna found no other words than these to utter: "If I act like a man of honesty, I shall stand in no fear." I replied: "You have spoken well, but if you act otherwise, you will have to fear, because the affair is serious." Upon this I left him, and betook myself to the King. With his Majesty I disputed some time about the fashion of his coinage, a point upon which we were not of the same opinion; his council, who were present, kept persuading him that the moneys ought to be struck in the French style, as they had hitherto always been done. I urged in reply that his Majesty had sent for me from Italy in order that I might execute good work; if he now wanted me to do the contrary, I could not bring myself to submit. So the matter was postponed till another occasion, and I set off again at once for Paris.

  1. Cellini refers to the renewal of hostilities in May 1542.
  2. Son of Giuliano Guidi and Costanza, a daughter of Domenico Ghirlandajo. Francois I. sent for him some time before 1542, appointed him his own physician, and professor of medicine in the Royal College. He returned to Florence in 1548.
  3. Qui mifaccia memoria di quel bene, This is obscure. Quel bene may mean the happiness of his friendship.
  4. We have already met with him in the Castle of S. Angelo. His brother, the Count, was general in the French army. This brought the Bishop to Paris, whence he returned to Italy in 1545.
  5. Chirurgia e Graco in Latinum Con-versa, Vido Vidio Florentino interprete, &c. Excudebat Petrus Galterius Luteciæ Parisiorum, prid. Cat. Mai. 1544. So this printer was Pierre Sauthier.
  6. Primaticcio, together with Rosso, introduced Italian painting into France. Vasari says he came to Paris in 1541. He died in 1570. He was, like many other of the Lombard artists, an excellent master of stucco.
  7. Matteo del Nassaro, a native of Verona, was employed in France as engraver, die-caster, and musician.
  8. See Boccaccio, Decam., Gior. ii. Nov. ii.
  9. Qual modo's'intendeva contro natura, ciòè in soddomia.
  10. His name in full was Jacques de la Fa. He and his son Pierre after him held the office of trésorier de l'epargne. See Plon, p. 63.
  11. By Colossus, Cellini means the fountain with the great statue of Mars.
  12. i.e., Primaticcio.