The Life of Benvenuto Cellini/Section XXXIII to XLV


I had but just dismounted from my horse, when one of those excellent people who rejoice in mischief-making came to tell me that. Pagolo Micceri had taken a house for the little hussy Caterina and her mother, and that he was always going there, and whenever he mentioned me, used words of scorn to this effect: "Benvenuto set the fox to watch the grapes,[1] and thought I would not eat them! Now he is satisfied with going about and talking big, and thinks I am afraid of him. But I have girt this sword and dagger to my 8 side in order to show him that my steel can cut as well as his, and that I too am a Florentine, of the Micceri, a far better family than his Cellini." The scoundrel who reported this poisonous gossip spoke it with such good effect that I felt a fever in the instant swoop upon me; and when I say fever, I mean fever, and no mere metaphor. The insane passion which took possession of me might have been my death, had I not resolved to give it vent as the occasion offered. I ordered the Ferrarese workman, Chioccia, to come with me, and made a servant follow with my horse. When we reached the house where that worthless villain was, I found the door ajar, and entered. I noticed that he carried sword and dagger, and was sitting on a big chest with his arm round Caterina's neck; at the moment of my arrival, I could hear that he and her mother were talking about me. Pushing the door open, I drew my sword, and set the point of it at his throat, not giving him the time to think whether he too carried steel. At the same instant I cried out: "Vile coward! recommend your soul to God, for you are a dead man." Without budging from his seat, he called three times: "Mother, mother, help me!"

Though I had come there fully determined to take his life, half my fury ebbed away when I heard this idiotic exclamation. I ought to add that I had told Chioccia not to let the girl or her mother leave the house, since I meant to deal with those trollops after I had disposed of their bully. So I went on holding my sword at his throat, and now and* then just pricked him with the point, pouring out a torrent of terrific threats at the same time. But when I found he did not stir a finger in his own defence, I began to wonder what I should do next; my menacing attitude could not be kept up forever; so at last it came into my head to make them marry, and complete my vengeance at a later period. Accordingly, I formed my resolution, and began: "Take that ring, coward, from your finger, and marry her, that I may get satisfaction from you afterwards according to your deserts." He replied at once: "If only you do not kill me, I will do whatever you command."

"Then," said I, "put that ring upon her hand." When the sword's point was withdrawn a few inches from his throat, he wedded her with the ring. But I added: "This is not enough. I shall send for two notaries, in order that the marriage may be ratified by contract." Bidding Chioccia go for the lawyers, I turned to the girl and her mother, and, using the French language, spoke as follows: "Notaries and witnesses are coming; the first of you who blabs about this affair will be killed upon the spot; nay, I will murder you all three. So beware, and keep a quiet tongue in your heads." To him I said in Italian:

"If you offer any resistance to what I shall propose, upon the slightest word you utter I will stab you till your guts run out upon this floor." He answered:

"Only promise not to kill me, and I will do whatever you command." The notaries and witnesses arrived; a contract, valid and in due form, was drawn up; then my heat and fever left me. I paid the lawyers and took my departure.

On the following day Bologna came to Paris on purpose, and sent for me through Mattio del Nasaro. I went to see him; and he met me with a glad face, entreating me to regard him as a brother, and saying that he would never speak about that work again, since he recognised quite well that I was right.


If I did not confess that in some of these episodes I acted wrongly, the world might think I was not telling the truth about those in which I say I acted rightly. Therefore I admit that it was a mistake to inflict so singular a vengeance upon Pagolo Micceri. In truth, had I believed him to be so utterly feeble, I should not have conceived the notion of branding him with such infamy as I am going to relate. Not satisfied with having made him take a vicious drab to wife, I completed my revenge by inviting her to sit to me as a model, and dealing with her thus. I gave her thirty sous a day, paid in advance, and a good meal, and obliged her to pose before me naked. Then I made her serve my pleasure, out of spite against her husband, jeering at them both the while. Furthermore, I kept her for hours together in position, greatly to her discomfort. This gave her as much annoyance as it gave me pleasure; for she was beautifully made, and brought me much credit as a model. At last, noticing that I did not treat her with the same consideration as before her marriage, she began to grumble and talk big in her French way about her husband, who was now serving the Prior of Capua, a brother of Piero Strozzi.[2]On the first occasion when she did this, the mere mention of the fellow roused me to intolerable fury; still I bore it, greatly against the grain, as well as I was able, reflecting that I could hardly find so suitable a subject for my art as she was. So I reasoned thus in my own mind: "I am now taking two different kinds of revenge. In the first place, she is married; and what I am doing to her husband is something far more serious than what he did to me, when she was only a girl of loose life. If then I wreak my spite so fully upon him, while upon her I inflict the discomfort of posing in such strange attitudes for such a length of time— which, beside the pleasure I derive, brings me both profit and credit through my art—what more can I desire?" While I was turning over these calculations, the wretch redoubled her insulting speeches, always prating big about her husband, till she goaded me beyond the bounds of reason. Yielding myself up to blind rage, I seized her by the hair, and dragged her up and down my room, beating and kicking her till I was tired. There was no one who could come to her assistance. When I had well pounded her she swore that she would never visit me again. Then for the first time I perceived that I had acted very wrongly; for I was losing a grand model, who brought me honour through my art. Moreover, when I saw her body all torn and bruised and swollen, I reflected that, even if I persuaded her to return, I should have to put her under medical treatment for at least a fortnight before I could make use of her.


Well, to return to Caterina. I sent my old serving-woman, named Ruberta, who had a most kindly disposition, to help her dress. She brought food and drink to the miserable baggage; and after rubbing a little bacon fat into her worst wounds, they ate what was left of the meat together. When she had finished dressing, she went off blaspheming and cursing all Italians in the King's service, and so returned with tears and murmurs to her home.

Assuredly, upon that first occasion, I felt I had done very wrong, and Ruberta rebuked me after this fashion: "You are a cruel monster to maltreat such a handsome girl so brutally." When I excused my conduct by narrating all the tricks which she and her mother had played off upon me under my own roof, Ruberta scoldingly replied that that was nothing—that was only French manners, and she was sure there was not a husband in France without his horns. When I heard this argument, I laughed aloud, and then told Ruberta to go and see how Caterina was, since I should like to employ her again while finishing the work I had on hand. The old woman took me sharply up, saying that I had no savoir vivre:

"Only wait till daybreak, and she will come of herself; whereas, if you send to ask after her or visit her, she will give herself airs and keep away."

On the following morning Caterina came to our door, and knocked so violently, that, being below, I ran to see whether it was a madman or some member of the household. When I opened, the creature laughed and fell upon my neck, embracing and kissing me, and asked me if I was still angry with her. I said, "No! "Then she added: "Let me have something good to break my fast on." So I supplied her well with food, and partook of it at the same table in sign of reconciliation. Afterwards I began to model from her, during which occurred some amorous diversions; and at last, just at the same hour as on the previous day, she irritated me to such a pitch that I gave her the same drubbing. So we went on several days, repeating the old round like clockwork. There was little or no variation in the incidents.

Meanwhile, I completed my work in a style which did me the greatest credit. Next I set about to cast it in bronze. This entailed some difficulties, to relate which would be interesting from the point of view of art; but since the whole history would occupy too much space, I must omit it. Suffice it to say, that the figure came out splendidly, and was as fine a specimen of foundry as had ever been seen.[3]


While this work was going forward, I set aside certain hours of the day for the salt-cellar, and certain others for the Jupiter. There were more men engaged upon the former than I had at my disposal for the latter, so the salt-cellar was by this time completely finished. The King had now returned to Paris; and when I paid him my respects, I took the piece with me. As I have already related, it was oval in form, standing about two-thirds of a cubit, wrought of solid gold, and worked entirely with the chisel. While speaking of the model, I said before how I had represented Sea and Earth, seated, with their legs interlaced, as we observe in the case of firths and promontories; this attitude was therefore metaphorically appropriate. The Sea carried a trident in his right hand, and in his left I put a ship of delicate workmanship to hold the salt. Below him were his four sea-horses, fashioned like our horses from the head to the front hoofs; all the rest of their body, from the middle backwards, resembled a fish, and the tails of these creatures were agreeably interwoven. Above this group the Sea sat throned in an attitude of pride and dignity; around him were many kinds of fishes and other creatures of the ocean. The water was represented with its waves, and enamelled in the appropriate colour. I had portrayed earth under the form of a very handsome woman, holding her horn of plenty, entirely nude like the male figure; in her left hand I placed a little temple of Ionic architecture, most delicately wrought, which was meant to contain the pepper. Beneath her were the handsomest living creatures which the earth produces; and the rocks were partly enamelled, partly left in gold. The whole piece reposed upon a base of ebony, properly proportioned, but with a projecting cornice, upon which I introduced four golden figures in rather more than half-relief. They represented Night, Day, Twilight, and Dawn. I put, moreover, into the same frieze four other figures, similar in size, and intended for the four chief winds; these were executed, and in part enamelled, with the most exquisite refinement.[4]

When I exhibited this piece to his Majesty, he uttered a loud outcry of astonishment, and could not satiate his eyes with gazing at it. Then he bade me take it back to my house, saying he would tell me at the proper time what I should have to do with it. So I carried it home, and sent at once to invite several of my best friends; we dined gaily together, placing the salt-cellar, in the middle of the table, and thus we were the first to use it. After this, I went on working at my Jupiter in silver, and also at the great vase I have already described, which was richly decorated with a variety of ornaments and figures.


At that time Bologna, the painter, suggested to the King that it would be well if his Majesty sent him to Rome, with letters of recommendation, to the end that he might cast the foremost masterpieces of antiquity, namely, the Laocoon, the Cleopatra, the Venus, the Commodus, the Zingara, and the Apollo.[5] These, of a truth, are by far the finest things in Rome. He told the King that when his Majesty had once set eyes upon those marvellous works, he would then, and not till then, be able to criticise the arts of design, since everything which he had seen by us moderns was far removed from the perfection of the ancients. The King accepted his proposal, and gave him the introductions he required. Accordingly that beast went off, and took his bad luck with him. Not having the force and courage to contend with his own hands against me, he adopted the truly Lombard device of depreciating my performances by becoming a copyist of antiques. In its own proper place I shall relate how, though he had these statues excellently cast, he obtained a result quite contrary to his imagination.

I had now done forever with that disreputable Caterina, and the unfortunate young man, her husband, had decamped from Paris. Wanting then to finish off my Fontainebleau, which was already cast in bronze, as well as to execute the two Victories which were going to fill the angles above the lunette of the door, I engaged a poor girl of the age of about fifteen. She was beautifully made and of a brunette complexion. Being somewhat savage in her ways and spare of speech, quick in movement, with a look of sullenness about her eyes, I nicknamed her Scorzone;[6] her real name was Jeanne. With her for model, I gave perfect finish to the bronze Fontainebleau, and also to the two Victories.

Now this girl was a clean maid, and I got her with child. She gave birth to a daughter on the 7th of June, at thirteen hours of the day, in 1544, when I had exactly reached the age of forty-four. I named the infant Costanza; and M. Guido Guidi, the King's physician, and my most intimate friend, as I have previously related, held her at the font. He was the only godfather; for it is customary in France to have but one godfather and two godmothers. One of the latter was Madame Maddalena, wife to M. Luigi Alamanni, a gentleman of Florence and an accomplished poet. The other was the wife of M. Ricciardo del Bene, our Florentine burgher, and a great merchant in Paris; she was herself a French lady of distinguished family. This was the first child I ever had, so far as I remember. I settled money enough upon the girl for dowry to satisfy an aunt of hers, under whose tutelage I placed her, and from that time forwards I had nothing more to do with her.


By labouring incessantly I had now got my various works well forward; the Jupiter was nearly finished, and the vase also; the door began to reveal its beauties. At that time the King came to Paris; and though I gave the right date of the year 1 544 for my daughter's birth, we were still in 1543; but an opportunity of mentioning my daughter having arisen, I availed myself of it, so as notto interrupt the narrative of more important things. Well, the King, as I have said, came to Paris, and paid me a visit soon after his arrival. The magnificent show of works brought well-nigh to completion was enough to satisfy anybody's eyes; and indeed it gave that glorious monarch no less contentment than the artist who had worked so hard upon them desired. While inspecting these things, it came into his head that the Cardinal of Ferrara had fulfilled none of his promises to me, either as regarded a pension or anything else. Whispering with his Admiral, he said that the Cardinal of Ferrara had behaved very badly in the matter; and that he intended to make it up to me himself, because he saw I was a man of few words, who in the twinkling of an eye might decamp without complaining or asking leave.

On returning home, his Majesty, after dinner, told the Cardinal to give orders to his treasurer of the Exchequer that he should pay me at an early date seven thousand crowns of gold, in three or four instalments, according to his own convenience, provided only that he executed the commission faithfully. At the same time he repeated words to this effect: "I gave Benvenuto into your charge, and you have forgotten all about him." The Cardinal said that he would punctually perform his Majesty's commands; but his own bad nature made him wait till the King's fit of generosity was over. Meanwhile wars and rumours of wars were on the increase; it was the moment when the Emperor with a huge army was marching upon Paris.[7] Seeing the realm of France to be in great need of money, the Cardinal one day began to talk of me, and said: "Sacred Majesty, acting for the best, I have not had that money given to Benvenuto. First, it is solely wanted now for public uses. Secondly, so great a donation would have exposed you to the risk of losing Benvenuto altogether; for if he found himself a rich man, he might have invested his money in Italy, and the moment some caprice took hold of him, he would have decamped without hesitation. I therefore consider that your Majesty's best course will be to present him with something in your kingdom, if you want to keep him in your service for any length of time." The King, feeing really in want of money, approved of these arguments; nevertheless, like the noble soul he was, and truly worthy of his royal station, he judged rightly that the Cardinal had acted thus in order to curry favour rather than from any clear prevision of distressed finances in so vast a realm.


As I have just said, his Majesty affected to concur with the Cardinal, but his own private mind was otherwise made up. Accordingly, upon the day after his arrival, without solicitation upon my part, he came of his own accord to my house. I went to meet him, and conducted him through several rooms where divers works of art were on view. Beginning with the less important, I pointed out a quantity of things in bronze; and it was long since he had seen so many at once. Then I took him to see the Jupiter in silver, now nearly completed, with all its splendid decorations. It so happened that a grievous disappointment which he had suffered a few years earlier, made him think this piece more admirable than it might perhaps have appeared to any other man. The occasion to which I refer was this: After the capture of Tunis, the Emperor passed through Paris with the consent of his brother-in-law, King Francis,[8] who wanted to present him with something worthy of so great a potentate. Having this in view, he ordered a Hercules to be executed in silver, exactly of the same size as my Jupiter. The King declared this Hercules to be the ugliest work of art that he had ever seen, and spoke his opinion plainly to the craftsmen of Paris. They vaunted themselves to be the ablest craftsmen in the world for works of this kind, and informed the King that nothing more perfect could possibly have been produced in silver, insisting at the same time upon being paid two thousand ducats for their filthy piece of work. This made the King, when he beheld mine, affirm that the finish of its workmanship exceeded his highest expectations. Accordingly he made an equitable judgment, and had my statue valued also at two thousand ducats, saying: "I gave those other men no salary; Cellini, who gets about a thousand crowns a year from me, can surely let me have this masterpiece for two thousand crowns of gold, since he has his salary into the bargain." Then I exhibited other things in gold and silver, and a variety of models for new undertakings. At the last, just when he was taking leave, I pointed out upon the lawn of the castle that great giant, which roused him to higher astonishment than any of the other things he had inspected. Turning to his Admiral, who was called Monsignor Aniballe,[9] he said: "Since the Cardinal has made him no provision, we must do so, and all the more because the man himself is so slow at asking favours—to cut it short, I mean to have him well provided for; yes, these men who ask for nothing feel that their masterpieces call aloud for recompense; therefore see that he gets the first abbey that falls vacant worth two thousand crowns a year. If this cannot be had in one benefice, let him have two or three to that amount, for in his case it will come to the same thing." As I was standing by, I could hear what the King said, and thanked his Majesty at once for the donation, as though I were already in possession. I told him that as soon as his orders were carried into effect, I would work for his Majesty without other salary or recompense of any kind until old age deprived me of the power to labour, when I hoped to rest my tired body in peace, maintaining myself with honour on that income, and always bearing in mind that I had served so great a monarch as his Majesty. At the end of this speech the King turned toward me with a lively gesture and a joyous countenance, saying, "So let it then be done." After that he departed, highly satisfied with what he had seen there.


Madame d'Etampes, when she heard how well my affairs were going, redoubled her spite against me, saying in her own heart: "It is I who rule the world to-day, and a little fellow like that snaps his fingers at me!" She put every iron into the fire which she could think of, in order to stir up mischief against me. Now a certain man fell in her way, who enjoyed great fame as a distiller; he supplied her with perfumed waters, which were excellent for the complexion, and hitherto unknown in France. This fellow she introduced to the King, who was much delighted by the processes for distilling which he exhibited. While engaged in these experiments, the man begged his Majesty to give him a tennis-court I had in my castle, together with some little apartments which he said I did not use. The good King, guessing who was at the bottom of the business, made no answer; but Madame d'Etampes used those wiles with which women know so well to work on men, and very easily succeeded in her enterprise; for having taken the King at a moment of amorous weakness, to which he was much subject, she wheedled him into conceding what she wanted.

The distiller came, accompanied by Treasurer Grolier, a very great nobleman of France, who spoke Italian excellently, and when he entered my castle, began to jest with me in that language.[10] Watching his opportunity,[11] he said: "In the King's name I put this man here into possession of that tennis-court, together with the lodgings that pertain to it." To this I answered: "The sacred King is lord of all things here: so then you might have effected an entrance with more freedom: coming thus with notaries and people of the court looks more like a fraud than the mandate of a powerful monarch. I assure you that, before I carry my complaints before the King, I shall defend my right in the way his Majesty gave me orders two days since to do. I shall fling the man whom you have put upon me out of windows if I do not see a warrant under the King's own hand and seal." After this speech the treasurer went off threatening and grumbling, and I remained doing the same, without, however, beginning the attack at once. Then I went to the notaries who had put the fellow in possession. I was well acquainted with them; and they gave me to understand that this was a formal proceeding, done indeed at the King's orders, but which had not any great significance; if I had offered some trifling opposition the fellow would not have installed himself as he had done. The formalities were a<5ts and customs of the court, which did not concern obedience to the King; consequently, if I succeeded in ousting him, I should have acted rightly, and should not incur any risk.

This hint was enough for me, and next morning I had recourse to arms; and though the job cost me some trouble, I enjoyed it. Each day that followed, I made an attack with stones, pikes and arquebuses, firing, however, without ball; nevertheless, I inspired such terror that no one dared to help my antagonist. Accordingly, when I noticed one day that his defence was feeble, I entered the house by force, and expelled the fellow, turning all his goods and chattels into the street. Then I betook me to the King, and told him that I had done precisely as his Majesty had ordered, by defending my self against every one who sought to hinder me in his service. The King laughed at the matter, and made me out new letters-patent to secure me from further molestation.[12]


In the meantime I brought my silver Jupiter to completion, together with its gilded pedestal, which I placed upon a wooden plinth that only showed a very little; upon the plinth I introduced four little round balls of hard wood, more than half hidden in their sockets, like the nut of a crossbow. They were so nicely arranged that a child could push the statue forwards and backwards, or turn it round with ease. Having arranged it thus to my mind, I went with it to Fontainebleau, where the King was then residing.

At that time, Bologna, of whom I have already said so much, had brought from Rome his statues, and had cast them very carefully in bronze. I knew nothing about this, partly because he kept his doings very dark, and also because Fontainebleau is forty miles distant from Paris. On asking the King where he wanted me to set up my Jupiter, Madame d'Etampes, who happened to be present, told him there was no place more appropriate than his own handsome gallery. This was, as we should say in Tuscany, a loggia, or, more exactly, a large lobby it ought indeed to be called a lobby, because what we mean by loggia is open at one side. The hall was considerably longer than 100 paces, decorated, and very rich with pictures from the hand of that admirable Rosso, our Florentine master. Among the pictures were arranged a great variety of sculptured works, partly in the round, and partly in bas-relief. The breadth was about twelve paces. Now Bologna had brought all his antiques into this gallery, wrought with great beauty in bronze, and had placed them in a handsome row upon their pedestals; and they were, as I have said, the choicest of the Roman antiquities. Into this same gallery I took my Jupiter; and when I saw that grand parade, so artfully planned, I said to myself:

"This is like running the gauntlet;[13] now may God assist me." I placed the statue, and having arranged it as well as I was able, waited for the coming of the King. The Jupiter was raising his thunderbolt with the right hand in the act to hurl it; his left hand held the globe of the world. Among the flames of the thunderbolt I had very cleverly introduced a torch of white wax. Now Madame d'Etampes detained the King till nightfall, wishing to do one of two mischiefs, either to prevent his coming, or else to spoil the effect of my work by its being shown off after dark; but as God has promised to those who trust in Him, it turned out exactly opposite to her calculations; for when night came, I set fire to the torch, which, standing higher than the head of Jupiter, shed light from above and showed the statue far better than by daytime.

At length the King arrived; he was attended by his Madame d'Etampes, his son the Dauphin and the Dauphiness, together with the King of Navarre his brother-in-law, Madame Marguerite his daughter,[14] and several other great lords,whohad been instructed by Madame d'Etampes to speak against me. When the King appeared, I made my prentice Ascanio push the Jupiter toward his Majesty. As it moved smoothly forwards, my cunning in its turn was amply rewarded, for this gentle motion made the figure seem alive; the antiques were left in the background, and my work was the first to take the eye with pleasure. The King exclaimed at once: "This is by far the finest thing that has ever been seen; and I, although I am an amateur and judge of art, could never have conceived the hundredth part of its beauty. "The lords whose cue it was to speak against me, now seemed as though they could not praise my masterpiece enough. Madame d'Etampes said boldly: "One would think you had no eyes! Don't you see all those fine bronzes from the antique behind there? In those consists the real distinction of this art, and not in that modern trumpery." Then the King advanced, and the others with him. After casting a glance at the bronzes, which were not shown to advantage from the light being below them, he exclaimed: "Whoever wanted to injure this man has done him a great service; for the comparison of these admirable statues demonstrates the immeasurable superiority of his work in beauty and in art. Benvenuto deserves to be made much of, for his performances do not merely rival, but surpass the antique." In reply to this, Madame d'Etampes observed that my Jupiter would not make anything like so fine a show by daylight; besides, one had to consider that I had put a veil upon my statue to conceal its faults. I had indeed flung a gauze veil with elegance and delicacy over a portion of my statue, with the view of augmenting its majesty. This, when she had finished speaking, I lifted from beneath, uncovering the handsome genital members of the god; then tore the veil to pieces with vexation. She imagined I had disclosed those parts of the statue to insult her. The King noticed how angry she was, while I was trying to force some words out in my fury; so he wisely spoke, in his own language, precisely as follows: "Benvenuto, I forbid you to speak; hold your tongue, and you shall have a thousand times more wealth than you desire." Not being allowed to speak, I writhed my body in a rage; this made
CEL V02 D243 francesco de medici.jpg
francesco de' medici
( bronzino )

her grumble with redoubled spite; and the King departed sooner than he would otherwise have done, calling aloud, however, to encourage me: "I have brought from Italy the greatest man who ever lived, endowed with all the talents."


I left the Jupiter there, meaning to depart the next morning. Before I took horse, one thousand crowns were paid me, partly for my salary, and partly on account of moneys I had disbursed. Having received this sum, I returned with a light heart and satisfied to Paris. No sooner had I reached home and dined with merry cheer, than I called for all my wardrobe, which included a great many suits of silk, choice furs, and also very fine cloth stuffs. From these I selected presents for my work-people, giving each something according to his desert, down to the servant-girls and stable-boys, in order to encourage them to aid me heartily.

Being then refreshed in strength and spirits, I attacked the great statue of Mars, which I had set up solidly upon a frame of well-connected woodwork.[15] Over this there lay a crust of plaster, about the eighth of a cubit in thickness, carefully modelled for the flesh of the Colossus. Lastly, I prepared a great number of moulds in separate pieces to compose the figure, intending to dovetail them together in accordance with the rules of art; and this task involved no difficulty. I will not here omit to relate something which may serve to give a notion of the size of this great work, and is at the same time highly comic. It must first be mentioned that I had forbidden all the men who lived at my cost to bring light women into my house or anywhere within the castle precincts. Upon this point of discipline I was extremely strict. Now my lad Ascanio loved a very handsome girl, who returned his passion. One day she gave her mother the slip, and came to see Ascanio at night. Finding that she would not take her leave, and being driven to his wits' ends to conceal her, like a person of resources, he hit at last upon the plan of installing her inside the statue. There, in the head itself, he made her up a place to sleep in; this lodging she occupied some time, and he used to bring her forth at whiles with secrecy by night. I meanwhile having brought this part of the Colossus almost to completion, left it alone, and indulged my vanity a bit by exposing it to sight; it could, indeed, be seen by more than half Paris. The neighbours, therefore, took to climbing their house-roofs, and crowds came on purpose to enjoy the spectacle. Now there was a legend in the city that my castle had from olden times been haunted by a spirit, though I never noticed anything to confirm this belief; and folk in Paris called it popularly by the name of Lemmonio Boreò.[16] The girl, while she sojourned in the statue's head, could not prevent some of her movements to and fro from being perceptible through its eye-holes; this made stupid people say that the ghost had got into the body of the figure, and was setting its eyes in motion, and its mouth, as though it were about to talk. Many of them went away in terror; others, more incredulous, came to observe the phenomenon, and when they were unable to deny the flashing of the statue's eyes, they too declared their credence in a spirit—not guessing that there was a spirit there, and sound young flesh to boot.


All this while I was engaged in putting my door together, with its several appurtenances. As it is no part of my purpose to include in this autobiography such things as annalists record, I have omitted the coming of the Emperor with his great host, and the King's mustering of his whole army.[17] At the time when these events took place, his Majesty sought my advice with regard to the instantaneous fortification of Paris. He came on purpose to my house, and took me all round the city; and when he found that I was prepared to fortify the town with expedition on a sound plan, he gave express orders that all my suggestions should be carried out. His Admiral was directed to command the citizens to obey me under pain of his displeasure.

Now the Admiral had been appointed through Madame d'Etampes' influence rather than from any proof of his ability, for he was a man of little talent. He bore the name of M. d'Annebault, which in our tongue is Monsignor d'Aniballe; but the French pronounced it so that they usually made it sound like Monsignore Asino Bue.[18] This animal then referred to Madame d'Etampes for advice upon the matter, and she ordered him to summon Girolamo Bellarmato without loss of time.[19] He was an engineer from Siena, at that time in Dieppe, which is rather more than a day's journey distant from the capital. He came at once, and set the work of fortification going on a very tedious method, which made me throw the job up. If the Emperor had pushed forward at this time, he might easily have taken Paris. People indeed said that, when a treaty of peace was afterwards concluded, Madame d'Etampes, who took more part in it than anybody else, betrayed the King.[20] I shall pass this matter over without further words, since it has nothing to do with the plan of my Memoirs. Meanwhile, I worked diligently at the door, and finished the vase, together with two others of middling size, which I made of my own silver. At the end of those great troubles, the King came to take his ease awhile in Paris.

That accursed woman seemed born to be the ruin of the world. I ought therefore to think myself of some account, seeing she held me for her mortal enemy. Happening to speak one day with the good King about my matters, she abused me to such an extent that he swore, in order to appease her, he would take no more heed of me thenceforward than if he had never set eyes upon my face. These words were immediately brought me by a page of Cardinal Ferrara, called Il Villa, who said he had heard the King utter them. I was infuriated to such a pitch that I dashed my tools across the room and all the things I was at work on, made my arrangements to quit France, and went upon the spot to find the King. When he had dined, I was shown into a room where I found his Majesty in the company of a very few persons. After I had paid him the respects due to kings, he bowed his head with a gracious smile. This revived hope in me; so I drew nearer to his Majesty, for they were showing him some things in my own line of art; and after we had talked awhile about such matters, he asked if I had anything worth seeing at my house, and next inquired when I should like him to come. I replied that I had some pieces ready to show his Majesty, if he pleased, at once. He told me to go home and he would come immediately.


I went accordingly, and waited for the good King's visit, who, it seems, had gone meanwhile to take leave of Madame d'Etampes. She asked whither he was bound, adding that she would accompany him; but when he informed her, she told him that she would not go, and begged him as a special favour not to go himself that day. She had to return to the charge more than twice before she shook the King's determination; however, he did not come to visit me that day. Next morning I went to his Majesty at the same hour; and no sooner had he caught sight of me, than he swore it was his intention to come to me upon the spot. Going then, according to his wont, to take leave of his dear Madame d'Etampes, this lady saw that all her influence had not been able to divert him from his purpose; so she began with that biting tongue of hers to say the worst of me that could be insinuated against a deadly enemy of this most worthy crown of France. The good King appeased her by replying that the sole object of his visit was to administer such a scolding as should make me tremble in my shoes. This he swore to do upon his honour. Then he came to my house, and I conducted him through certain rooms upon the basement, where I had put the whole of my great door together. Upon beholding it, the King was struck with stupefaction, and quite lost his cue for reprimanding me, as he had promised Madame d'Etampes. Still he did not choose to go away without finding some opportunity for scolding; so he began in this wise: "There is one most important matter, Benvenuto, which men of your sort, though full of talent, ought always to bear in mind; it is that you cannot bring your great gifts to light by your own strength alone; you show your greatness only through the opportunities we give you. Now you ought to be a little more submissive, not so arrogant and headstrong. I remember that I gave you express »orders to make me twelve silver statues; and this was all I wanted. You have chosen to execute a salt-cellar, and vases and busts and doors, and a heap of other things, which quite confound me, when I consider how you have neglected my wishes and worked for the fulfilment of your own. If you mean to go on in this way, I shall presently let you understand what is my own method of procedure when I choose to have things done in my own way. I tell you, therefore, plainly: do your utmost to obey my commands; for if you stick to your own fancies, you will run your head against a wall." While he was uttering these words, his lords in waiting hung upon the King's lips, seeing him shake his head, frown, and gesticulate, now with one hand and now with the other. The whole company of attendants, therefore, quaked with fear for me; but I stood firm, and let no breath of fear pass over me.


When he had wound up this sermon, agreed upon beforehand with his darling Madame d'Etampes, I bent one leg upon the ground, and kissed his coat above the knee. Then I began my speech as follows: "Sacred Majesty, I admit that all that you have said is true. Only, in reply, I protest that my heart has ever been, by day and night, with all my vital forces, bent on serving you and executing your commands. If it appears to your Majesty that my actions contradict these words, let your Majesty be sure that Benvenuto was not at fault, but rather possibly my evil fate or adverse fortune, which has made me unworthy to serve the most admirable prince who ever blessed this earth. Therefore I crave your pardon. I was under the impression, however, that your Majesty had given me silver for one statue only; having no more at my disposal, I could not execute others; so, with the surplus which remained for use, I made this vase, to show your Majesty the grand style of the ancients. Perhaps you never had seen anything of the sort before. As for the salt-cellar, I thought, if my memory does not betray me, that your Majesty on one occasion ordered me to make it of your own accord. The conversation falling upon something of the kind which had been brought for your inspection, I showed you a model made by me in Italy; you, following the impulse of your own mind only, had a thousand golden ducats told out for me to execute the piece withal, thanking me in addition for my hint; and what is more, I seem to remember that you commended me highly when it was completed. As regards the door, it was my impression that, after we had chanced to speak about it at some time or other, your Majesty gave orders to your chief secretary, M. Villerois, from whom the order passed to M. de Marmagne and M. de la Fa, to this effect,that all these gentlemen should keep me going at the work, and see that I obtained the necessary funds. Without such commission I should certainly not have been able to advance so great an undertaking on my own resources. As for the bronze heads, the pedestal of Jupiter and other such-like things, I will begin by saying that I cast those heads upon my own account, in order to become acquainted with French clays, of which, as a foreigner, I had no previous knowledge whatsoever. Unless I had made the experiment, I could not have set about casting those large works. Now, touching the pedestals, I have to say that I made them because I judged them necessary to the statues. Consequently, in all that I have done, I meant to act for the best, and at no point to swerve from your Majesty's expressed wishes. It is indeed true that I set that huge Colossus up to satisfy my own desire, paying for it from my own purse, even to the point which it has reached, because I thought that, you being the great king you are, and I the trifling artist that I am, it was my duty to erect for your glory and my own a statue, the like of which the ancients never saw. Now, at the last, having been taught that God is not inclined to make me worthy of so glorious a service, I beseech your Majesty, instead of the noble recompense you had in mind to give me for my labours, bestow upon me only one small trifle of your favour, and therewith the leave to quit your kingdom. At this instant, if you condescend to my request, I shall return to Italy, always thanking God and your Majesty for the happy hours which I have passed in serving you."

  1. Aveva dato a guardia la lattuga ai paperi.
  2. Leone, son of Filippo Strozzi, Knight of Jerusalem and Prior of Capua, was, like his brother Piero, a distinguished French general.
  3. This figure was undoubtedly the Nymph of Fontainebleau.
  4. This salt-cellar is now at Vienna. It is beautifully represented by two photogravures in Plon's great book on Cellini.
  5. The Cleopatra is that recumbent statue of a sleeping Ariadne or Bacchante now in the Vatican. The Venus (neither the Medicean nor the Capitoline) represents the goddess issuing from the bath; it is noiv in the Museo Pio Clementina of the Vatican. The Commodus is a statue of Hercules, with the lions skin and an infant in his arms, also in the Vatican. The Zingara may be a statue of Diana forming part of the Borghese collection. The Apollo is the famous Belvedere Apollo of the Vatican.
  6. That is, in Italian, "the rough rind" a name given to rustics. Scorzone is also the name for a little black venomous serpent.
  7. In 1544. Charles V. advanced toward Champagne and threatened Paris, while the English 'were besieging Boulogne.
  8. In the year 1539 Charles V. obtained leave to traverse Trance with his army on the way to Flanders.
  9. Claude d'Annebault; captured at Pavia with Francois; Marshal in 1538,-Admiral of France in 1543.
  10. Jean Grolier, the famous French Macenas, collector of books, antiquities, &c.
  11. Vedendo il bello.
  12. This document exists, and is dated July 15, 1544. See Bianchi, p. 585.
  13. Questo si è come pass are infra le picche.
  14. Born 1523. Married Emmanuele Filiberto, Duke of Savoy, in 1559. Died 1574.
  15. This was what he called the Colossus above, p. 163. He meant it for the fountain of Fontainebleau. See p. 141.
  16. Properly, Le Moine Bourru, the ghost of a monk dressed in drugget (bure). Le Petit Nesle had a bad reputation on account of the murders said to have been committed there in the fourteenth century by Queen Jeanne, wife of Philip V.
  17. Toward the end of August 1544, the Imperial army advanced as far as Epernay, within twenty leagues of Paris.
  18. i.e., ass-ox, Ane-et-bo.
  19. Girolamo Bellarmati, a learned mathematician and military architect, banished from Siena for political reasons. He designed the harbour of Havre.
  20. There is indeed good reason to believe that the Kings mistress, in her jealousy of the Dauphin and Diane de Poitiers, played false, and enabled the Imperialists to advance beyond Epernay.