The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini
Benvenuto Cellini

Part 1 out of 9

This etext was produced by Norman Wolcott.

Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini

[Redactor’s Note: This version of the Autobiography, one of the most
famous of all time, was translated by John Addington Symonds
(1840-1893). Cellini lived from 1500-1571. This version is in ISO Latin1
with 8 bit accents, and is also supplied in a single file HTML version.]


The Autobiography of
Benvenuto Cellini

Translated By
John Addington Symonds

With Introduction and Notes
Volume 31


Introductory Sonnet

THIS tale of my sore-troubled life I write,
To thank the God of nature, who conveyed
My soul to me, and with such care hath stayed
That divers noble deeds I’ve brought to light.
‘Twas He subdued my cruel fortune’s spite:
Life glory virtue measureless hath made
Such grace worth beauty be through me displayed
That few can rival, none surpass me quite.
Only it grieves me when I understand
What precious time in vanity I’ve spent-
The wind it beareth man’s frail thoughts away.
Yet, since remorse avails not, I’m content,
As erst I came, WELCOME to go one day,
Here in the Flower of this fair Tuscan land.

Introductory Note

AMONG the vast number of men who have thought fit to write down the
history of their own lives, three or four have achieved masterpieces
which stand out preeminently: Saint Augustine in his “Confessions,”
Samuel Pepys in his “Diary,” Rousseau in his “Confessions.” It is among
these extraordinary documents, and unsurpassed by any of them, that the
autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini takes its place.

The “Life” of himself which Cellini wrote was due to other motives than
those which produced its chief competitors for first place in its class.
St. Augustine’s aim was religious and didactic, Pepys noted down in his
diary the daily events of his life for his sole satisfaction and with no
intention that any one should read the cipher in which they were
recorded. But Cellini wrote that the world might know, after he was
dead, what a fellow he had been; what great things he had attempted, and
against what odds he had carried them through. “All men,” he held,
“whatever be their condition, who have done anything of merit, or which
verily has a semblance of merit, if so be they are men of truth and good
repute, should write the tale of their life with their own hand.” That
he had done many things of merit, he had no manner of doubt. His repute
was great in his day, and perhaps good in the sense in which he meant
goodness; as to whether he was a man of truth, there is still dispute
among scholars. Of some misrepresentations, some suppressions of
damaging facts, there seems to be evidence only too good-a man with
Cellini’s passion for proving himself in the right could hardly have
avoided being guilty of such-; but of the general trustworthiness of his
record, of the kind of man he was and the kind of life he led, there is
no reasonable doubt.

The period covered by the autobiography is from Cellini’s birth in 1500
to 1562; the scene is mainly in Italy and France. Of the great events of
the time, the time of the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation, of
the strife of Pope and Emperor and King, we get only glimpses. The
leaders in these events appear in the foreground of the picture only
when they come into personal relations with the hero; and then not
mainly as statesmen or warriors, but as connoisseurs and patrons of art.
Such an event as the Sack of Rome is described because Benvenuto himself
fought in it.

Much more complete is the view he gives of the artistic life of the
time. It was the age of Michelangelo, and in the throng of great artists
which then filled the Italian cities, Cellini was no inconsiderable
figure. Michelangelo himself he knew and adored. Nowhere can we gain a
better idea than in this book of the passionate enthusiasm for the
creation of beauty which has bestowed upon the Italy of the Renaissance
its greatest glory.

Very vivid, too, is the impression we receive of the social life of the
sixteenth century; of its violence and licentiousness, of its zeal for
fine craftsmanship, of its abounding vitality, its versatility and its
idealism. For Cellini himself is an epitome of that century. This man
who tells here the story of his life was a murderer and a braggart,
insolent, sensual, inordinately proud and passionate; but he was also a
worker in gold and silver, rejoicing in delicate chasing and subtle
modelling of precious surfaces; a sculptor and a musician; and, as all
who read his book must testify, a great master of narrative. Keen as was
Benvenuto’s interest in himself, and much as he loved to dwell on the
splendor of his exploits and achievements, he had little idea that
centuries after his death he would live again, less by his “Perseus” and
his goldsmith’s work than by the book which he dictated casually to a
lad of fourteen, while he went about his work.

The autobiography was composed between 1558 and 1566, but it brings the
record down only to 1562. The remainder of Cellini’s life seems to have
been somewhat more peaceful. In 1565 he married Piera de Salvadore
Parigi, a servant who had nursed him when he was sick; and in the care
of his children, as earlier of his sister and nieces, he showed more
tenderness than might have been expected from a man of his boisterous
nature. He died at Florence, May 13, 1571, and was buried in The Church
of the Annunziata in that city.


Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini


ALL men of whatsoever quality they be, who have done anything of
excellence, or which may properly resemble excellence, ought, if they
are persons of truth and honesty, to describe their life with their own
hand; but they ought not to attempt so fine an enterprise till they have
passed the age of forty. This duty occurs to my own mind now that I am
travelling beyond the term of fifty-eight years, and am in Florence, the
city of my birth. Many untoward things can I remember, such as happen to
all who live upon our earth; and from those adversities I am now more
free than at any previous period of my career-nay, it seems to me that I
enjoy greater content of soul and health of body than ever I did in
bygone years. I can also bring to mind some pleasant goods and some
inestimable evils, which, when I turn my thoughts backward, strike
terror in me, and astonishment that I should have reached this age of
fifty-eight, wherein, thanks be to God, I am still travelling
prosperously forward.


IT is true that men who have laboured with some show of excellence, have
already given knowledge of themselves to the world; and this alone ought
to suffice them; I mean the fact that they have proved their manhood and
achieved renown. Yet one must needs live like others; and so in a work
like this there will always be found occasion for natural bragging,
which is of divers kinds, and the first is that a man should let others
know he draws his lineage from persons of worth and most ancient origin.

I am called Benvenuto Cellini, son of Maestro Giovanni, son of Andrea,
son of Cristofano Cellini; my mother was Madonna Elisabetta, daughter to
Stefano Granacci; both parents citizens of Florence. It is found written
in chronicles made by our ancestors of Florence, men of old time and of
credibility, even as Giovanni Villani writes, that the city of Florence
was evidently built in imitation of the fair city of Rome; and certain
remnants of the Colosseum and the Baths can yet be traced. These things
are near Santa Croce. The Capitol was where is now the Old Market. The
Rotonda is entire, which was made for the temple of Mars, and is now
dedicated to our Saint John. That thus is was, can very well be seen,
and cannot be denied, but the said buildings are much smaller than those
of Rome. He who caused them to built, they say, was Julius Cæsar, in
concert with some noble Romans, who, when Fiesole had been stormed and
taken, raised a city in this place, and each of them took in hand to
erect one of these notable edifices.

Julius Cæsar had among his captains a man of highest rank and valour,
who was called Fiorino of Cellino, which is a village about two miles
distant from Monte Fiascone. Now this Fiorino took up his quarters under
the hill of Fiesole, on the ground where Florence now stands, in order
to be near the river Arno, and for the convenience of the troops. All
those soldiers and others who had to do with the said captain, used then
to say: “Let us go to Fiorenze;” as well because the said captain was
called Fiorino, as also because the place he had chosen for his quarters
was by nature very rich in flowers. Upon the foundation of the city,
therefore, since this name struck Julius Cæsar as being fair and apt,
and given by circumstance, and seeing furthermore that flowers
themselves bring good augury, he appointed the name of Florence for the
town. He wished besides to pay his valiant captain this compliment; and
he loved him all the more for having drawn him from a very humble place,
and for the reason that so excellent a man was a creature of his own.
The name that learned inventors and investigators of such etymologies
adduce, as that Florence is flowing at the Arno, cannot hold; seeing
that Rome is flowing at the Tiber, Ferrara is flowing at the Po, Lyons
is flowing at the Saone, Paris is flowing at the Seine, and yet the
names of all these towns are different, and have come to them by other
ways. [1]

Thus then we find; and thus we believe that we are descended from a man
of worth. Furthermore, we find that there are Cellinis of our stock in
Ravenna, that most ancient town of Italy, where too are plenty of gentle
folk. In Pisa also there are some, and I have discovered them in many
parts of Christendom; and in this state also the breed exists, men
devoted to the profession of arms; for not many years ago a young man,
called Luca Cellini, a beardless youth, fought with a soldier of
experience and a most valorous man, named Francesco da Vicorati, who had
frequently fought before in single combat. This Luca, by his own valour,
with sword in hand, overcame and slew him, with such bravery and
stoutness that he moved the folk to wonder, who were expecting quite the
contrary issue; so that I glory in tracing my descent from men of valour.

As for the trifling honours which I have gained for my house, under the
well-known conditions of our present ways of living, and by means of my
art, albeit the same are matters of no great moment, I will relate these
in their proper time and place, taking much more pride in having been
born humble and having laid some honourable foundation for my family,
than if I had been born of great lineage and had stained or overclouded
that by my base qualities. So then I will make a beginning by saying how
it pleased God I should be born.

Note 1. He is alluding to the name 'Fluenzia,' which some antiquaries of
his day thought to have been the earliest name of the city, derived from
its being near 'Arno Fluente.' I have translated the word 'fluente' in
the text literally, though of course it signifies “situated on a flowing
river.” I need not call attention to the apocryphal nature of Cellini’s
own derivation from the name of his supposed ancestor.


MY ancestors dwelt in Val d’ Ambra, where they owned large estates, and
lived like little lords, in retirement, however, on account of the then
contending factions. They were all men devoted to arms and of notable
bravery. In that time one of their sons, the younger, who was called
Cristofano, roused a great feud with certain of their friends and
neighbours. Now the heads of the families on both sides took part in it,
and the fire kindled seemed to them so threatening that their houses
were like to perish utterly; the elders upon this consideration, in
concert with my own ancestors, removed Cristofano; and the other youth
with whom the quarrel began was also sent away. They sent their young
man to Siena. Our folk sent Cristofano to Florence; and there they
bought for him a little house in Via Chiara, close to the convent of S.
Orsola, and they also purchased for him some very good property near the
Ponte a Rifredi. The said Cristofano took wife in Florence, and had sons
and daughters; and when all the daughters had been portioned off, the
sons, after their father’s death, divided what remained. The house in
Via Chiara with some other trifles fell to the share of one of the said
sons, who had the name of Andrea. He also took wife, and had four male
children. The first was called Girolamo, the second Bartolommeo, the
third Giovanni, who was afterwards my father, and the fourth Francesco.
This Andrea Cellini was very well versed in architecture, as it was then
practised, and lived by it as his trade. Giovanni, who was my father,
paid more attention to it than any of the other brothers. And since
Vitruvius says, amongst other things, that one who wishes to practise
that art well must have something of music and good drawing, Giovanni,
when he had mastered drawing, began to turn his mind to music, and
together with the theory learned to play most excellently on the viol
and the flute; and being a person of studious habits, he left his home
but seldom.

They had for neighbour in the next house a man called Stefano Granacci,
who had several daughters, all of them of remarkable beauty. As it
pleased God, Giovanni noticed one of these girls who was named
Elisabetta; and she found such favour with him that he asked her in
marriage. The fathers of both of them being well acquainted through
their close neighbourhood, it was easy to make this match up; and each
thought that he had very well arranged his affairs. First of all the two
good old men agreed upon the marriage; then they began to discuss the
dowry, which led to a certain amount of friendly difference; for Andrea
said to Stefano: “My son Giovanni is the stoutest youth of Florence, and
of all Italy to boot, and if I had wanted earlier to have him married, I
could have procured one of the largest dowries which folk of our rank
get in Florence:” whereupon Stefano answered: “You have a thousand
reasons on your side; but here am I with five daughters and as many
sons, and when my reckoning is made, this is as much as I can possibly
afford.” Giovanni, who had been listening awhile unseen by them,
suddenly broke in and said: “O my father, I have sought and loved that
girl and not their money. Ill luck to those who seek to fill their
pockets by the dowry of their wife! As you have boasted that I am a
fellow of such parts, do you not think that I shall be able to provide
for my wife and satisfy her needs, even if I receive something short of
the portion you would like to get? Now I must make you understand that
the woman is mine, and you may take the dowry for yourself.” At this
Andrea Cellini, who was a man of rather awkward temper, grew a trifle
angry; but after a few days Giovanni took his wife, and never asked for
other portion with her.

They enjoyed their youth and wedded love through eighteen years, always
greatly desiring to be blessed with children. At the end of this time
Giovanni’s wife miscarried of two boys through the unskilfulness of the
doctors. Later on she was again with child, and gave birth to a girl,
whom they called Cosa, after the mother of my father. [1] At the end of
two years she was once more with child; and inasmuch as those longings
to which pregnant women are subject, and to which they pay much
attention, were now exactly the same as those of her former pregnancy,
they made their minds up that she would give birth to a female as
before, and agreed to call the child Reparata, after the mother of my
mother. It happened that she was delivered on a night of All Saints,
following the feast-day, at half-past four precisely, in the year 1500.
[2] The midwife, who knew that they were expecting a girl, after she had
washed the baby and wrapped it in the fairest white linen, came softly
to my father Giovanni and said: “I am bringing you a fine present, such
as you did not anticipate.” My father, who was a true philosopher, was
walking up and down, and answered: “What God gives me is always dear to
me;” and when he opened the swaddling clothes, he saw with his own eyes
the unexpected male child. Joining together the palms of his old hands,
he raised them with his eyes to God, and said “Lord, I thank Thee with
my whole heart; this gift is very dear to me; let him be Welcome.” All
the persons who were there asked him joyfully what name the child should
bear. Giovanni would make no other answer than “Let him be
Welcome-Benvenuto;” [3] and so they resolved, and this name was given me
at Holy Baptism, and by it I still am living with the grace of God.

Note 1. Cosa is Florentine for Niccolòsa.

Note 2. The hour is reckoned, according to the old Italian fashion, from
sunset of one day to sunset of the next-twenty-four hours.

Note 3. Benvenuto means Welcome.


ANDREA CELLINI was yet alive when I was about three years old, and he
had passed his hundredth. One day they had been altering a certain
conduit pertaining to a cistern, and there issued from it a great
scorpion unperceived by them, which crept down from the cistern to the
ground, and slank away beneath a bench. I saw it, and ran up to it, and
laid my hands upon it. It was so big that when I had it in my little
hands, it put out its tail on one side, and on the other thrust forth
both its mouths. [1] They relate that I ran in high joy to my
grandfather, crying out: “Look, grandpapa, at my pretty little crab.”
When he recognised that the creature was a scorpion, he was on the point
of falling dead for the great fear he had and anxiety about me. He
coaxed and entreated me to give it him; but the more he begged, the
tighter I clasped it, crying and saying I would not give it to any one.
My father, who was also in the house, ran up when he heard my screams,
and in his stupefaction could not think how to prevent the venomous
animal from killing me. Just then his eyes chanced to fall upon a pair
of scissors; and so, while soothing and caressing me, he cut its tail
and mouths off. Afterwards, when the great peril had been thus averted,
he took the occurrence for a good augury.

When I was about five years old my father happened to be in a
basement-chamber of our house, where they had been washing, and where a
good fire of oak-logs was still burning; he had a viol in his hand, and
was playing and singing alone beside the fire. The weather was very
cold. Happening to look into the fire, he spied in the middle of those
most burning flames a little creature like a lizard, which was sporting
in the core of the intensest coals. Becoming instantly aware of what the
thing was, he had my sister and me called, and pointing it out to us
children, gave me a great box on the ears, which caused me to howl and
weep with all my might. Then he pacified me good-humouredly, and spoke
as follows: “My dear little boy, I am not striking you for any wrong
that you have done, but only to make you remember that that lizard which
you see in the fire is a salamander, a creature which has never been
seen before by any one of whom we have credible information.” So saying,
he kissed me and gave me some pieces of money.

Note 1. The word is 'bocche,' so I have translated it by 'mouths.' But
Cellini clearly meant the gaping claws of the scorpion.


MY father began teaching me to play upon the flute and sing by note; by
notwithstanding I was of that tender age when little children are wont
to take pastime in whistles and such toys, I had an inexpressible
dislike for it, and played and sang only to obey him. My father in those
times fashioned wonderful organs with pipes of wood, spinets the fairest
and most excellent which then could be seen, viols and lutes and harps
of the most beautiful and perfect construction. He was an engineer, and
had marvellous skill in making instruments for lowering bridges and for
working mills, and other machines of that sort. In ivory he was the
first who wrought really well. But after he had fallen in love with the
woman who was destined to become my mother-perhaps what brought them
together was that little flute, to which indeed he paid more attention
than was proper-he was entreated by the fifers of the Signory to play in
their company. Accordingly he did so for some time to amuse himself,
until by constant importunity they induced him to become a member of
their band. Lorenzo de’ Medici and Pietro his son, who had a great
liking for him, perceived later on that he was devoting himself wholly
to the fife, and was neglecting his fine engineering talent and his
beautiful art. [1] So they had him removed from that post. My father
took this very ill, and it seemed to him that they had done him a great
despite. Yet he immediately resumed his art, and fashioned a mirror,
about a cubit in diameter, out of bone and ivory, with figures and
foliage of great finish and grand design. The mirror was in the form of
a wheel. In the middle was the looking-glass; around it were seven
circular pieces, on which were the Seven Virtues, carved and joined of
ivory and black bone. The whole mirror, together with the Virtues, was
placed in equilibrium, so that when the wheel turned, all the Virtues
moved, and they had weights at their feet which kept them upright.
Possessing some acquaintance with the Latin tongue, he put a legend in
Latin round his looking-glass, to this effect-”Whithersoever the wheel
of Fortune turns, Virtue stands firm upon her feet:”

Rota sum: semper, quoquo me verto, stat Virtus.

A little while after this he obtained his place again among the fifers.
Although some of these things happened before I was born, my familiarity
with them has moved me to set them down here. In those days the
musicians of the Signory were all of them members of the most honourable
trades, and some of them belonged to the greater guilds of silk and
wool; [2] and that was the reason why my father did not disdain to
follow this profession, and his chief desire with regard to me was
always that I should become a great performer on the flute. I for my
part felt never more discontented than when he chose to talk to me about
this scheme, and to tell me that, if I liked, he discerned in me such
aptitudes that I might become the best man in the world.

Note 1. The Medici here mentioned were Lorenzo the Magnificent, and his
son Pietro, who was expelled from Florence in the year 1494. He never
returned, but died in the river Garigliano in 1504.

Note 2. In the Middle Ages the burghers of Florence were divided into
industrial guilds called the Greater and the Lesser Arts. The former
took precedence of the latter, both in political importance and in
social esteem.


AS I have said, my father was the devoted servant and attached friend of
the house of Medici; and when Piero was banished, he entrusted him with
many affairs of the greatest possible importance. Afterwards, when the
magnificent Piero Soderini was elected, and my father continued in his
office of musician, Soderini, perceiving his wonderful talent, began to
employ him in many matters of great importance as an engineer. [1] So
long as Soderini remained in Florence, he showed the utmost good-will to
my father; and in those days, I being still of tender age, my father had
me carried, and made me perform upon the flute; I used to play treble in
concert with the musicians of the palace before the Signory, following
my notes: and a beadle used to carry me upon his shoulders. The
Gonfalonier, that is, Soderini, whom I have already mentioned, took much
pleasure in making me chatter, and gave me comfits, and was wont to say
to my father: “Maestro Giovanni, besides music, teach the boy those
other arts which do you so much honour.” To which my father answered: “I
do not wish him to practise any art but playing and composing; for in
this profession I hope to make him the greatest man of the world, if God
prolongs his life.” To these words one of the old counsellors made
answer: “Ah! Maestro Giovanni, do what the Gonfalonier tells you! for
why should he never become anything more than a good musician?”

Thus some time passed, until the Medici returned. [2] When they arrived,
the Cardinal, who afterwards became Pope Leo, received my father very
kindly. During their exile the scutcheons which were on the palace of
the Medici had had their balls erased, and a great red cross painted
over them, which was the bearing of the Commune. [3] Accordingly, as
soon as they returned, the red cross was scratched out, and on the
scutcheon the red balls and the golden field were painted in again, and
finished with great beauty. My father, who possessed a simple vein of
poetry, instilled in him by nature, together with a certain touch of
prophecy, which was doubtless a divine gift in him, wrote these four
verses under the said arms of the Medici, when they were uncovered to
the view:-

These arms, which have so long from sight been laid
Beneath the holy cross, that symbol meek,
Now lift their glorious glad face, and seek
With Peter’s sacred cloak to be arrayed.

This epigram was read by all Florence. A few days afterwards Pope Julius
II. died. The Cardinal de’ Medici went to Rome, and was elected Pope
against the expectation of everybody. He reigned as Leo X, that generous
and great soul. My father sent him his four prophetic verses. The Pope
sent to tell him to come to Rome; for this would be to his advantage.
But he had no will to go; and so, in lieu of reward, his place in the
palace was taken from him by Jacopo Salviati, upon that man’s election
as Gonfalonier. [4] This was the reason why I commenced goldsmith; after
which I spent part of my time in learning that art, and part in playing,
much against my will.

Note 1. Piero Soderini was elected Gonfalonier of the Florentine
Republic for life in the year 1502. After nine years of government, he
was banished, and when he died, Machiavelli wrote the famous sneering
epitaph upon him. See J. A. Symonds’ 'Renaissance in Italy,' vol. i. p.

Note 2. This was in 1512, when Lorenzo’s two sons, Giuliano and Giovanni
(afterwards Pope Leo X), came back through the aid of a Spanish army,
after the great battle at Ravenna.

Note 3. The Medicean arms were “or, six pellets gules, three, two, and
one.” The Florentine Commune bore, “argent a cross gules.”

Note 4. Cellini makes a mistake here. Salviati married a daughter of
Lorenzo de’ Medici, and obtained great influence in Florence; but we
have no record of his appointment to the office of Gonfalonier.


WHEN my father spoke to me in the way I have above described, I
entreated him to let me draw a certain fixed number of hours in the day;
all the rest of my time I would give to music, only with the view of
satisfying his desire. Upon this he said to me: “So then, you take no
pleasure in playing?” To which I answered, “No;” because that art seemed
too base in comparison with what I had in my own mind. My good father,
driven to despair by this fixed idea of mine, placed me in the workshop
of Cavaliere Bandinello’s father, who was called Michel Agnolo, a
goldsmith from Pinzi di Monte, and a master excellent in that craft. [1]
He had no distinction of birth whatever, but was the son of a
charcoal-seller. This is no blame to Bandinello, who has founded the
honour of the family-if only he had done so honestly! However that may
be, I have no cause now to talk about him. After I had stayed there some
days, my father took me away from Michel Agnolo, finding himself unable
to live without having me always under his eyes. Accordingly, much to my
discontent, I remained at music till I reached the age of fifteen. If I
were to describe all the wonderful things that happened to me up to that
time, and all the great dangers to my own life which I ran, I should
astound my readers; but, in order to avoid prolixity, and having very
much to relate, I will omit these incidents.

When I reached the age of fifteen, I put myself, against my father’s
will, to the goldsmith’s trade with a man called Antonio, son of Sandro,
known commonly as Marcone the goldsmith. He was a most excellent
craftsman and a very good fellow to boot, high-spirited and frank in all
his ways. My father would not let him give me wages like the other
apprentices; for having taken up the study of this art to please myself,
he wished me to indulge my whim for drawing to the full. I did so
willingly enough; and that honest master of mine took marvellous delight
in my performances. He had an only son, a bastard, to whom he often gave
his orders, in order to spare me. My liking for the art was so great,
or, I may truly say, my natural bias, both one and the other, that in a
few months I caught up the good, nay, the best young craftsmen in our
business, and began to reap the fruits of my labours. I did not,
however, neglect to gratify my good father from time to time by playing
on the flute or cornet. Each time he heard me, I used to make his tears
fall accompanied with deep-drawn sighs of satisfaction. My filial piety
often made me give him that contentment, and induce me to pretend that I
enjoyed the music too.

Note 1. Baccio Bandinello, the sculptor, and a great rival of Cellini’s,
as will appear in the ensuing pages, was born in 1487, and received the
honour of knighthood from Clement VII and Charles V. Posterity has
confirmed Cellini’s opinion of Bandinello as an artist; for his works
are coarse, pretentious, and incapable of giving pleasure to any person
of refined intelligence.


AT that time I had a brother, younger by two years, a youth of extreme
boldness and fierce temper. He afterwards became one of the great
soldiers in the school of that marvellous general Giovannino de’ Medici,
father of Duke Cosimo. [1] The boy was about fourteen, and I two years
older. One Sunday evening, just before nightfall, he happened to find
himself between the gate San Gallo and the Porta a Pinti; in this
quarter he came to duel with a young fellow of twenty or thereabouts.
They both had swords; and my brother dealt so valiantly that, after
having badly wounded him, he was upon the point of following up his
advantage. There was a great crowd of people present, among whom were
many of the adversary’s kinsfolk. Seeing that the thing was going ill
for their own man, they put hand to their slings, a stone from one of
which hit my poor brother in the head. He fell to the ground at once in
a dead faint. It so chanced that I had been upon the spot alone, and
without arms; and I had done my best to get my brother out of the fray
by calling to him: “Make off; you have done enough.” Meanwhile, as luck
would have it, he fell, as I have said, half dead to earth. I ran up at
once, seized his sword, and stood in front of him, bearing the brunt of
several rapiers and a shower of stones. I never left his side until some
brave soldiers came from the gate San Gallo and rescued me from the
raging crowd; they marvelled much, the while, to find such valour in so
young a boy.

Then I carried my brother home for dead, and it was only with great
difficulty that he came to himself again. When he was cured, the Eight,
who had already condemned out adversaries and banished them for a term
of years, sent us also into exile for six months at a distance of ten
miles from Florence. [2] I said to my brother: “Come along with me;” and
so we took leave of our poor father; and instead of giving us money, for
he had none, he bestowed on us his blessing. I went to Siena, wishing to
look up a certain worthy man called Maestro Francesco Castoro. On
another occasion, when I had run away from my father, I went to this
good man, and stayed some time with him, working at the goldsmith’s
trade until my father sent for me back. Francesco, when I reached him,
recognised me at once, and gave me work to do While thus occupied, he
placed a house at my disposal for the whole time of my sojourn in Siena.
Into this I moved, together with my brother, and applied myself to
labour for the space of several months. My brother had acquired the
rudiments of Latin, but was still so young that he could not yet relish
the taste of virtuous employment, but passed his time in dissipation,

Note 1. Cellini refers to the famous Giovanni delle Bande Nere, who was
killed in an engagement in Lombardy in November 1526, by the Imperialist
troops marching to the sack of Rome. His son Cosimo, after the murder of
Duke Alessandro, established the second Medicean dynasty in Florence.

Note 2. The Eight, or Gli Otto, were a magistracy in Florence with
cognizance of matters affecting the internal peace of the city.


THE CARDINAL DE’ MEDICI, who afterwards became Pope Clement VII., had us
recalled to Florence at the entreaty of my father. [1] A certain pupil
of my father’s, moved by his own bad nature, suggested to the Cardinal
that he ought to send me to Bologna, in order to learn to play well from
a great master there. The name of this master was Antonio, and he was in
truth a worthy man in the musician’s art. The Cardinal said to my father
that, if he sent me there he would give me letters of recommendation and
support. My father, dying with joy at such an opportunity, sent me off;
and I being eager to see the world, went with good grace.

When I reached Bologna, I put myself under a certain Maestro Ercole del
Piffero, and began to earn something by my trade. In the meantime I used
to go every day to take my music lesson, and in a few weeks made
considerable progress in that accursed art. However I made still greater
in my trade of goldsmith; for the Cardinal having given me no
assistance, I went to live with a Bolognese illuminator who was called
Scipione Cavalletti (his house was in the street of our Lady del
Baraccan); and while there I devoted myself to drawing and working for
one Graziadio, a Jew, with whom I earned considerably.

At the end of six months I returned to Florence, where that fellow
Pierino, who had been my father’s pupil, was greatly mortified by my
return. To please my father, I went to his house and played the cornet
and the flute with one of his brothers, who was named Girolamo, several
years younger than the said Piero, a very worthy young man, and quite
the contrary of his brother. On one of those days my father came to
Piero’s house to hear us play, and in ecstasy at my performance
exclaimed: “I shall yet make you a marvellous musician against the will
of all or any one who may desire to prevent me.” To this Piero answered,
and spoke the truth: “Your Benvenuto will get much more honour and
profit if he devotes himself to the goldsmiths trade than to this
piping.” These words made my father angry, seeing that I too had the
same opinion as Piero, that he flew into a rage and cried out at him:
“Well did I know that it was you, you who put obstacles in the way of my
cherished wish; you are the man who had me ousted from my place at the
palace, paying me back with that black ingratitude which is the usual
recompense of great benefits. I got you promoted, and you have got me
cashiered; I taught you to play with all the little art you have, and
you are preventing my son from obeying me; but bear in mind these words
of prophecy: not years or months, I say, but only a few weeks will pass
before this dirty ingratitude of yours shall plunge you into ruin.” To
these words answered Pierino and said: “Maestro Giovanni, the majority
of men, when they grow old, go mad at the same time; and this has
happened to you. I am not astonished at it, because most liberally have
you squandered all your property, without reflecting that your children
had need of it. I mind to do just the opposite, and to leave my children
so much that they shall be able to succour yours.” To this my father
answered: “No bad tree ever bore good fruit; quite the contrary; and I
tell you further that you are bad, and that your children will be mad
and paupers, and will cringe for alms to my virtuous and wealthy sons.”
Thereupon we left the house, muttering words of anger on both sides. I
had taken my father’s part; and when we stepped into the street
together, I told him I was quite ready to take vengeance for the insults
heaped on him by that scoundrel, provided he permit me to give myself up
to the art of design. He answered: “My dear son, I too in my time was a
good draughtsman; but for recreation, after such stupendous labours, and
for the love of me who am your father, who begat you and brought you up
and implanted so many honourable talents in you, for the sake of
recreation, I say, will not you promise sometimes to take in hand your
flute and that seductive cornet, and to play upon them to your heart’s
content, inviting the delight of music?” I promised I would do so, and
very willingly for his love’s sake. Then my good father said that such
excellent parts as I possessed would be the greatest vengeance I could
take for the insults of his enemies.

Not a whole month had been completed after this scene before the man
Pierino happened to be building a vault in a house of his, which he had
in the Via dello Studio; and being one day in a ground-floor room above
the vault which he was making, together with much company around him, he
fell to talking about his old master, my father. While repeating the
words which he had said to him concerning his ruin, no sooner had they
escaped his lips than the floor where he was standing (either because
the vault had been badly built, or rather through the sheer mightiness
of God, who does not always pay on Saturday) suddenly gave way. Some of
the stones and bricks of the vault, which fell with him, broke both his
legs. The friends who were with him, remaining on the border of the
broken vault took no harm, but were astounded and full of wonder,
especially because of the prophecy which he had just contemptuously
repeated to them. When my father heard of this, he took his sword, and
went to see the man. There, in the presence of his father, who was
called Niccolaio da Volterra, a trumpeter of the Signory, he said, “O
Piero, my dear pupil, I am sorely grieved at your mischance; but if you
remember it was only a short time ago that I warned you of it; and as
much as I then said will come to happen between your children and mine.”
Shortly afterwards, the ungrateful Piero died of that illness. He left a
wife of bad character and one son, who after the lapse of some years
came to me to beg for alms in Rome. I gave him something, as well
because it is my nature to be charitable, as also because I recalled
with tears the happy state which Pierino held when my father spake those
words of prophecy, namely, that Pierino’s children should live to crave
succour from his own virtuous sons. Of this perhaps enough is now said;
but let none ever laugh at the prognostications of any worthy man whom
he has wrongfully insulted; because it is not he who speaks, nay, but
the very voice of God through him.

Note 1. This Cardinal and Pope was Giulio, a natural son of Giuliano,
Lorenzo de’ Medici’s brother, who had been killed in the Pazzi
conspiracy, year 1478. Giulio lived to become Pope Clement VII., to
suffer the sack of Rome in 1527, and to make the concordat with Charles
V. at Bologna in 1529-30, which settled for three centuries the destiny
of Italy. We shall hear much more of him from Cellini in the course of
this narrative.


ALL this while I worked as a goldsmith, and was able to assist my good
father. His other son, my brother Cecchino, had, as I said before, been
instructed in the rudiments of Latin letters. It was our father’s wish
to make me, the elder, a great musician and composer, and him, the
younger, a great and learned jurist. He could not, however, put force
upon the inclinations of our nature, which directed me to the arts of
design, and my brother, who had a fine and graceful person, to the
profession of arms. Cecchino, being still quite a lad, was returning
from his first lesson in the school of the stupendous Giovannino de’
Medici. On the day when he reached home, I happened to be absent; and
he, being in want of proper clothes, sought out our sisters, who,
unknown to my father, gave him a cloak and doublet of mine, both new and
of good quality. I ought to say that, beside the aid I gave my father
and my excellent and honest sisters, I had bought those handsome clothes
out of my own savings. When I found I had been cheated, and my clothes
taken from me, and my brother from whom I should have recovered them was
gone, I asked my father why he suffered so great a wrong to be done me,
seeing that I was always ready to assist him. He replied that I was his
good son, but that the other, whom he thought to have lost, had been
found again; also that it was a duty, nay, a precept from God Himself,
that he who hath should give to him who hath not; and that for his sake
I ought to bear this injustice, for God would increase me in all good
things. I, like a youth without experience, retorted on my poor
afflicted parent; and taking the miserable remnants of my clothes and
money, went toward a gate of the city. As I did not know which gate
would start me on the road to Rome, I arrived at Lucca, and from Lucca
reached Pisa.

When I came to Pisa (I was about sixteen years of age at the time), I
stopped near the middle bridge, by what is called the Fish-stone, at the
shop of a goldsmith, and began attentively to watch what the master was
about. [1] He asked me who I was, and what was my profession. I told him
that I worked a little in the same trade as his own. This worthy man
bade me come into his shop, and at once gave me work to do, and spoke as
follows: “Your good appearance makes me believe you are a decent honest
youth.” Then he told me out gold, silver, and gems; and when the first
day’s work was finished, he took me in the evening to his house, where
he dwelt respectably with his handsome wife and children. Thinking of
the grief which my good father might be feeling for me, I wrote him that
I was sojourning with a very excellent and honest man, called Maestro
Ulivieri della Chiostra, and was working with him at many good things of
beauty and importance. I bade him be of good cheer, for that I was bent
on learning, and hoped by my acquirements to bring him back both profit
and honour before long. My good father answered the letter at once in
words like these: “My son, the love I bear you is so great, that if it
were not for the honour of our family, which above all things I regard,
I should immediately have set off for you; for indeed it seems like
being without the light of my eyes, when I do not see you daily, as I
used to do. I will make it my business to complete the training of my
household up to virtuous honesty; do you make it yours to acquire
excellence in your art; and I only wish you to remember these four
simple words, obey them, and never let them escape your memory:

In whatever house you be,
Steal not, and live honestly.”

Note 1. The Fish-stone, or Pietra del Pesce, was the market on the quay
where the fish brought from the sea up the Arno to Pisa used to be sold.


THIS letter fell into the hands of my master Ulivieri, and he read it
unknown to me. Afterwards he avowed that he had read it, and added: “So
then, my Benvenuto, your good looks did not deceive me, as a letter from
your father which has come into my hands gives me assurance, which
proves him to be a man of notable honesty and worth. Consider yourself
then to be at home here, and as though in your own father’s house.”

While I stayed at Pisa, I went to see the Campo Santo, and there I found
many beautiful fragments of antiquity, that is to say, marble
sarcophagi. In other parts of Pisa also I saw many antique objects,
which I diligently studied whenever I had days or hours free from the
labour of the workshop. My master, who took pleasure in coming to visit
me in the little room which he had allotted me, observing that I spent
all my time in studious occupations, began to love me like a father. I
made great progress in the one year that I stayed there, and completed
several fine and valuable things in gold and silver, which inspired me
with a resolute ambition to advance in my art.

My father, in the meanwhile, kept writing piteous entreaties that I
should return to him; and in every letter bade me not to lose the music
he had taught me with such trouble. On this, I suddenly gave up all wish
to go back to him; so much did I hate that accursed music; and I felt as
though of a truth I were in paradise the whole year I stayed at Pisa,
where I never played the flute.

At the end of the year my master Ulivieri had occasion to go to
Florence, in order to sell certain gold and silver sweepings which he
had; [1] and inasmuch as the bad air of Pisa had given me a touch of
fever, I went with the fever hanging still about me, in my master’s
company, back to Florence. There my father received him most
affectionately, and lovingly prayed him, unknown by me, not to insist on
taking me again to Pisa. I was ill about two months, during which time
my father had me most kindly treated and cured, always repeating that it
seemed to him a thousand years till I got well again, in order that he
might hear me play a little. But when he talked to me of music, with his
fingers on my pulse, seeing he had some acquaintance with medicine and
Latin learning, he felt it change so much if he approached that topic,
that he was often dismayed and left my side in tears. When I perceived
how greatly he was disappointed, I bade one of my sisters bring me a
flute; for though the fever never left me, that instrument is so easy
that it did not hurt me to play upon it; and I used it with such
dexterity of hand and tongue that my father coming suddenly upon me,
blessed me a thousand times, exclaiming that while I was away from him I
had made great progress, as he thought; and he begged me to go forwards,
and not to sacrifice so fine an accomplishment.

Note 1. I have translated 'spazzature' by 'sweepings.' It means all
refuse of the precious metals left in goldsmith’s trays.


WHEN I had recovered my health, I returned to my old friend Marcone, the
worthy goldsmith, who put me in the way of earning money, with which I
helped my father and our household. About that time there came to
Florence a sculptor named Piero Torrigiani; [1] he arrived from England,
where he had resided many years; and being intimate with my master, he
daily visited his house; and when he saw my drawings and the things
which I was making, he said: “I have come to Florence to enlist as many
young men as I can; for I have undertaken to execute a great work of my
king, and want some of my own Florentines to help me. Now your method of
working and your designs are worthy rather of a sculptor than a
goldsmith; and since I have to turn out a great piece of bronze, I will
at the same time turn you into a rich and able artist.” This man had a
splendid person and a most arrogant spirit, with the air of a great
soldier more than a sculptor, especially in regard to his vehement
gestures and his resonant voice, together with a habit he had of
knitting his brows, enough to frighten any man of courage. He kept
talking every day about his gallant feats among those beasts of

In course of conversation he happened to mention Michel Agnolo
Buonarroti, led thereto by a drawing I had made from a cartoon of that
divinest painter. [2] This cartoon was the first masterpiece which
Michel Agnolo exhibited, in proof of his stupendous talents. He produced
it in competition with another painter, Lionardo da Vinci, who also made
a cartoon; and both were intended for the council-hall in the palace of
the Signory. They represented the taking of Pisa by the Florentines; and
our admirable Lionardo had chosen to depict a battle of horses, with the
capture of some standards, in as divine a style as could possibly be
imagined. Michel Agnolo in his cartoon portrayed a number of
foot-soldiers, who, the season being summer, had gone to bathe in Arno.
He drew them at the very moment the alarm is sounded, and the men all
naked run to arms; so splendid in their action that nothing survives of
ancient or of modern art which touches the same lofty point of
excellence; and as I have already said, the design of the great Lionardo
was itself most admirably beautiful. These two cartoons stood, one in
the palace of the Medici, the other in the hall of the Pope. So long as
they remained intact, they were the school of the world. Though the
divine Michel Agnolo in later life finished that great chapel of Pope
Julius, [3] he never rose half-way to the same pitch of power; his
genius never afterwards attained to the force of those first studies.

Note 1. Torrigiani worked in fact for Henry VIII., and his monument to
Henry VII. still exists in the Lady Chapel of Westminster Abbey. From
England he went to Spain, where he modelled a statue of the Virgin for a
great nobleman. Not receiving the pay he expected, he broke his work to
pieces; for which act of sacrilege the Inquisition sent him to prison,
where he starved himself to death in 1522. Such at least is the legend
of his end.

Note 2. The cartoons to which Cellini here alludes were made by Michel
Angelo and Lionardo for the decoration of the Sala del Gran Consiglio in
the Palazzo Vecchio at Florence. Only the shadows of them remain to this
day; a part of Michel Angelo’s, engraved by Schiavonetti, and a
transcript by Rubens from Lionardo’s, called the Battle of the Standard.

Note 3. The Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.


NOW let us return to Piero Torrigiani, who, with my drawing in his hand,
spoke as follows: “This Buonarroti and I used, when we were boys, to go
into the Church of the Carmine, to learn drawing from the chapel of
Masaccio. [1] It was Buonarroti’s habit to banter all who were drawing
there; and one day, among others, when he was annoying me, I got more
angry than usual, and clenching my fist, gave him such a blow on the
nose, that I felt bone and cartilage go down like biscuit beneath my
knuckles; and this mark of mine he will carry with him to the grave.”
[2] These words begat in me such hatred of the man, since I was always
gazing at the masterpieces of the divine Michel Agnolo, that although I
felt a wish to go with him to England, I now could never bear the sight
of him.

All the while I was at Florence, I studied the noble manner of Michel
Agnolo, and from this I have never deviated. About that time I
contracted a close and familiar friendship with an amiable lad of my own
age, who was also in the goldsmith’s trade. He was called Francesco, son
of Filippo, and grandson of Fra Lippo Lippi, that most excellent
painter. [3] Through intercourse together, such love grew up between us
that, day or night, we never stayed apart. The house where he lived was
still full of the fine studies which his father had made, bound up in
several books of drawings by his hand, and taken from the best
antiquities of Rome. The sight of these things filled me with passionate
enthusiasm; and for two years or thereabouts we lived in intimacy. At
that time I fashioned a silver bas-relief of the size of a little
child’s hand. It was intended for the clasp to a man’s belt; for they
were then worn as large as that. I carved on it a knot of leaves in the
antique style, with figures of children and other masks of great beauty.
This piece I made in the workshop of one Francesco Salimbene; and on its
being exhibited to the trade, the goldsmiths praised me as the best
young craftsman of their art.

There was one Giovan Battista, surnamed Il Tasso, a wood-carver,
precisely of my own age, who one day said to me that if I was willing to
go to Rome, he should be glad to join me. [4] Now we had this
conversation together immediately after dinner; and I being angry with
my father for the same old reason of the music, said to Tasso: “You are
a fellow of words, not deeds.” He answered: “I too have come to anger
with my mother; and if I had cash enough to take me to Rome, I would not
turn back to lock the door of that wretched little workshop I call
mine.” To these words I replied that if that was all that kept him in
Florence I had money enough in my pockets to bring us both to Rome.
Talking thus and walking onwards, we found ourselves at the gate San
Piero Gattolini without noticing that we had got there; whereupon I
said: “Friend Tasso, this is God’s doing that we have reached this gate
without either you or me noticing that we were there; and now that I am
here, it seems to me that I have finished half the journey.” And so,
being of one accord, we pursued our way together, saying, “Oh, what will
our old folks say this evening?” We then made an agreement not to think
more about them till we reached Rome. So we tied our aprons behind our
backs, and trudged almost in silence to Siena. When we arrived at Siena,
Tasso said (for he had hurt his feet) that he would not go farther, and
asked me to lend him money to get back. I made answer: “I should not
have enough left to go forward; you ought indeed to have thought of this
on leaving Florence; and if it is because of your feet that you shirk
the journey, we will find a return horse for Rome, which will deprive
you of the excuse.” Accordingly I hired a horse; and seeing that he did
not answer, I took my way toward the gate of Rome. When he knew that I
was firmly resolved to go, muttering between his teeth, and limping as
well as he could, he came on behind me very slowly and at a great
distance. On reaching the gate, I felt pity for my comrade, and waited
for him, and took him on the crupper, saying: “What would our friends
speak of us to-morrow, if, having left for Rome, we had not pluck to get
beyond Siena?” Then the good Tasso said I spoke the truth; and as he was
a pleasant fellow, he began to laugh and sing; and in this way, always
singing and laughing, we travelled the whole way to Rome. I had just
nineteen years then, and so had the century.

When we reached Rome, I put myself under a master who was known as Il
Firenzuola. His name was Giovanni, and he came from Firenzuola in
Lombardy, a most able craftsman in large vases and big plate of that
kind. I showed him part of the model for the clasp which I had made in
Florence at Salimbene’s. It pleased him exceedingly; and turning to one
of his journeymen, a Florentine called Giannotto Giannotti, who had been
several years with him, he spoke as follows: “This fellow is one of the
Florentines who know something, and you are one of those who know
nothing.” Then I recognised the man, and turned to speak with him; for
before he went to Rome, we often went to draw together, and had been
very intimate comrades. He was so put out by the words his master flung
at him, that he said he did not recognise me or know who I was;
whereupon I got angry, and cried out: “O Giannotto, you who were once my
friend-for have we not been together in such and such places, and drawn,
and ate, and drunk, and slept in company at your house in the country? I
don’t want you to bear witness on my behalf to this worthy man, your
master, because I hope my hands are such that without aid from you they
will declare what sort of a fellow I am.”

Note 1. The Chapel of the Carmine, painted in fresco by Masaccio and
some other artist, possibly Filippino Lippi, is still the most important
monument of Florentine art surviving from the period preceding Raphael.

Note 2. The profile portraits of Michel Angelo Buonarroti confirm this
story. They show the bridge of his nose bent in an angle, as though it
had been broken.

Note 3. Fra Filippo Lippi was a Carmelite monk, whose frescoes at Prato
and Spoleta and oil-paintings in Florence and elsewhere are among the
most genial works of the pre-Raphaelite Renaissance. Vasari narrates his
love-adventures with Lucrezia Buti, and Robert Browning has drawn a
clever portrait of him in his “Men and Women.” His son, Filippo or
Filippino, was also an able painter, some of whose best work survives in
the Strozzi Chapel of S. Maria Novella at Florence, and in the Church of
S. Maria Sopra Minerva at Rome.

Note 4. Tasso was an able artist, mentioned both by Vasari and Pietro
Aretino. He stood high in the favour of Duke Cosimo de’ Medici, who took
his opinion on the work of other craftsmen.


WHEN I had thus spoken, Firenzuola, who was a man of hot spirit and
brave, turned to Giannotto, and said to him: “You vile rascal, aren’t
you ashamed to treat a man who has been so intimate a comrade with you
in this way?” And with the same movement of quick feeling, he faced
round and said to me: “Welcome to my workshop; and do as you have
promised; let your hands declare what man you are.”

He gave me a very fine piece of silver plate to work on for a cardinal.
It was a little oblong box, copied from the porphyry sarcophagus before
the door of the Rotonda. Beside what I copied, I enriched it with so
many elegant masks of my invention, that my master went about showing it
through the art, and boasting that so good a piece of work had been
turned out from his shop. [1] It was about half a cubit in size, and was
so constructed as to serve for a salt-cellar at table. This was the
first earning that I touched at Rome, and part of it I sent to assist my
good father; the rest I kept for my own use, living upon it while I went
about studying the antiquities of Rome, until my money failed, and I had
to return to the shop for work. Battista del Tasso, my comrade, did not
stay long in Rome, but went back to Florence.

After undertaking some new commissions, I took it into my head, as soon
as I had finished them, to change my master; I had indeed been worried
into doing so by a certain Milanese, called Pagolo Arsago. [2] My first
master, Firenzuola, had a great quarrel about this with Arsago, and
abused him in my presence; whereupon I took up speech in defence of my
new master. I said that I was born free, and free I meant to live, and
that there was no reason to complain of him, far less of me, since some
few crowns of wages were still due to me; also that I chose to go, like
a free journeyman, where it pleased me, knowing I did wrong to no man.
My new master then put in with his excuses, saying that he had not asked
me to come, and that I should gratify him by returning with Firenzuola.
To this I replied that I was not aware of wronging the latter in any
way, and as I had completed his commissions, I chose to be my own master
and not the man of others, and that he who wanted me must beg me of
myself. Firenzuola cried: “I don’t intend to beg you of yourself; I have
done with you; don’t show yourself again upon my premises.” I reminded
him of the money he owed me. He laughed me in the face; on which I said
that if I knew how to use my tools in handicraft as well as he had seen,
I could be quite as clever with my sword in claiming the just payment of
my labour. While we were exchanging these words, an old man happened to
come up, called Maestro Antonio, of San Marino. He was the chief among
the Roman goldsmiths, and had been Firenzuola’s master. Hearing what I
had to say, which I took good care that he should understand, he
immediately espoused my cause, and bade Firenzuola pay me. The dispute
waxed warm, because Firenzuola was an admirable swordsman, far better
than he was a goldsmith. Yet reason made itself heard; and I backed my
cause with the same spirit, till I got myself paid. In course of time
Firenzuola and I became friends, and at his request I stood godfather to
one of his children.

Note 1. Cellini’s use of the word 'arte' for the 'art' or 'trade' of
goldsmiths corresponds to “the art” as used by English writers early in
this century. See Haydon’s Autobiography, 'passim.'

Note 2. The Italian is 'sobbillato,' which might be also translated
'inveigled' or 'instigated.' But Varchi, the contemporary of Cellini,
gives this verb the force of using pressure and boring on until somebody
is driven to do something.


I WENT on working with Pagolo Arsago, and earned a good deal of money,
the greater part of which I always sent to my good father. At the end of
two years, upon my father’s entreaty, I returned to Florence, and put
myself once more under Francesco Salimbene, with whom I earned a great
deal, and took continual pains to improve in my art. I renewed my
intimacy with Francesco di Filippo; and though I was too much given to
pleasure, owing to that accursed music, I never neglected to devote some
hours of the day or night to study. At that time I fashioned a silver
heart’s-key ('chiavaquore'), as it was then so called. This was a girdle
three inches broad, which used to be made for brides, and was executed
in half relief with some small figures in the round. It was a commission
from a man called Raffaello Lapaccini. I was very badly paid; but the
honour which it brought me was worth far more than the gain I might have
justly made by it. Having at this time worked with many different
persons in Florence, I had come to know some worthy men among the
goldsmiths, as for instance, Marcone, my first master; but I also met
with others reputed honest, who did all they could to ruin me, and
robbed me grossly. When I perceived this, I left their company, and held
them for thieves and black-guards. One of the goldsmiths, called
Giovanbattista Sogliani, kindly accommodated me with part of his shop,
which stood at the side of the New Market near the Landi’s bank. There I
finished several pretty pieces, and made good gains, and was able to
give my family much help. This roused the jealousy of the bad men among
my former masters, who were called Salvadore and Michele Guasconti. In
the guild of the goldsmiths they had three big shops, and drove a
thriving trade. On becoming aware of their evil will against me, I
complained to certain worthy fellows, and remarked that they ought to
have been satisfied with the thieveries they practised on me under the
cloak of hypocritical kindness. This coming to their ears, they
threatened to make me sorely repent of such words; but I, who knew not
what the colour of fear was, paid them little or no heed.


IT chanced one day that I was leaning against a shop of one of these
men, who called out to me, and began partly reproaching, partly
bullying. I answered that had they done their duty by me, I should have
spoken of them what one speaks of good and worthy men; but as they had
done the contrary, they ought to complain of themselves and not of me.
While I was standing there and talking, one of them, named Gherardo
Guasconti, their cousin, having perhaps been put up to it by them, lay
in wait till a beast of burden went by. [1] It was a load of bricks.
When the load reached me, Gherardo pushed it so violently on my body
that I was very much hurt. Turning suddenly round and seeing him
laughing, I struck him such a blow on the temple that he fell down,
stunned, like one dead. Then I faced round to his cousins, and said:
“That’s the way to treat cowardly thieves of your sort;” and when they
wanted to make a move upon me, trusting to their numbers, I, whose blood
was now well up, laid hands to a little knife I had, and cried: “If one
of you comes out of the shop, let the other run for the confessor,
because the doctor will have nothing to do here.” These words so
frightened them that not one stirred to help their cousin. As soon as I
had gone, the fathers and sons ran to the Eight, and declared that I had
assaulted them in their shops with sword in hand, a thing which had
never yet been seen in Florence. The magistrates had me summoned. I
appeared before them; and they began to upbraid and cry out upon
me-partly, I think, because they saw me in my cloak, while the others
were dressed like citizens in mantle and hood; [2] but also because my
adversaries had been to the houses of those magistrates, and had talked
with all of them in private, while I, inexperienced in such matters, had
not spoken to any of them, trusting in the goodness of my cause. I said
that, having received such outrage and insult from Gherardo, and in my
fury having only given him a box on the ear, I did not think I deserved
such a vehement reprimand. I had hardly time to finish the word box,
before Prinzivalle della Stufa, [3] who was one of the Eight,
interrupted me by saying: “You gave him a blow, and not a box, on the
ear.” The bell was rung and we were all ordered out, when Prinzivalle
spoke thus in my defence to his brother judges: “Mark, sirs, the
simplicity of this poor young man, who has accused himself of having
given a box on the ear, under the impression that this is of less
importance than a blow; whereas a box on the ear in the New Market
carries a fine of twenty-five crowns, while a blow costs little or
nothing. He is a young man of admirable talents, and supports his poor
family by his labour in great abundance; I would to God that our city
had plenty of this sort, instead of the present dearth of them.”

Note 1. The Italian is 'appostò che passassi una soma.' The verb
'appostare' has the double meaning of lying in wait and arranging
something on purpose. Cellini’s words may mean, 'caused a beast of
burden to pass by.'

Note 2. Varchi says that a man who went about with only his cloak or
cape by daytime, if he were not a soldier, was reputed an ill-liver. The
Florentine citizens at this time still wore their ancient civil dress of
the long gown and hood called 'lucco.'

Note 3. This man was an ardent supporter of the Medici, and in 1510
organized a conspiracy in their favour against the Gonfalonier Soderini.


AMONG the magistrates were some Radical fellows with turned-up hoods,
who had been influenced by the entreaties and the calumnies of my
opponents, because they all belonged to the party of Fra Girolamo; and
these men would have had me sent to prison and punished without too
close a reckoning. [1] But the good Prinzivalle put a stop to that. So
they sentenced me to pay four measures of flour, which were to be given
as alms to the nunnery of the Murate. [2] I was called in again; and he
ordered me not to speak a word under pain of their displeasure, and to
perform the sentence they had passed. Then, after giving me another
sharp rebuke, they sent us to the chancellor; I muttering all the while,
“It was a slap and not a blow,” with which we left the Eight bursting
with laughter. The chancellor bound us over upon bail on both sides; but
only I was punished by having to pay the four measures of meal. Albeit
just then I felt as though I had been massacred, I sent for one of my
cousins, called Maestro Annibale, the surgeon, father of Messer
Librodoro Librodori, desiring that he should go bail for me. [3] He
refused to come, which made me so angry, that, fuming with fury and
swelling like an asp, I took a desperate resolve. At this point one may
observe how the stars do not so much sway as force our conduct. When I
reflected on the great obligations which this Annibale owed my family,
my rage grew to such a pitch that, turning wholly to evil, and being
also by nature somewhat choleric, I waited till the magistrates had gone
to dinner; and when I was alone, and observed that none of their
officers were watching me, in the fire of my anger, I left the palace,
ran to my shop, seized a dagger and rushed to the house of my enemies,
who were at home and shop together. I found them at table; and Gherardo,
who had been the cause of the quarrel, flung himself upon me. I stabbed
him in the breast, piercing doublet and jerkin through and through to
the shirt, without however grazing his flesh or doing him the least harm
in the world. When I felt my hand go in, and heard the clothes tear, I
thought that I had killed him; and seeing him fall terror-struck to
earth, I cried: “Traitors, this day is the day on which I mean to murder
you all.” Father, mother, and sisters, thinking the last day had come,
threw themselves upon their knees, screaming out for mercy with all
their might; but I perceiving that they offered no resistance, and that
he was stretched for dead upon the ground, thought it too base a thing
to touch them. I ran storming down the staircase; and when I reached the
street, I found all the rest of the household, more than twelve persons;
one of them had seized an iron shovel, another a thick iron pipe, one
had an anvil, some of them hammers, and some cudgels. When I got among
them, raging like a mad bull, I flung four or five to the earth, and
fell down with them myself, continually aiming my dagger now at one and
now at another. Those who remained upright plied both hands with all
their force, giving it me with hammers, cudgels, and anvil; but inasmuch
as God does sometime mercifully intervene, He so ordered that neither
they nor I did any harm to one another. I only lost my cap, on which my
adversaries seized, though they had run away from it before, and struck
at it with all their weapons. Afterwards, they searched among their dead
and wounded, and saw that not a single man was injured.

Note 1. Cellini calls these magistrates 'arronzinati cappuccetti,' a
term corresponding to our Roundheads. The democratic or anti-Medicean
party in Florence at that time, who adhered to the republican principles
of Fra Girolamo Savonarola, distinguished themselves by wearing the long
tails of their hoods twisted up and turned round their heads. Cellini
shows his Medicean sympathies by using this contemptuous term, and by
the honourable mention he makes of Prinzivalle della Stufa

Note 2. A convent of closely immured nuns.

Note 3. The word I have translated 'massacred' above is 'assassinato.'
It occurs frequently in Italian of this period, and indicates the
extremity of wrong and outrage.


I WENT off in the direction of Santa Maria Novella, and stumbling up
against Fra Alessio Strozzi, whom by the way I did not know, I entreated
this good friar for the love of God to save my life, since I had
committed a great fault. He told me to have no fear; for had I done
every sin in the world, I was yet in perfect safety in his little cell.

After about an hour, the Eight, in an extraordinary meeting, caused one
of the most dreadful bans which ever were heard of to be published
against me, announcing heavy penalties against who should harbour me or
know where I was, without regard to place or to the quality of my
protector. My poor afflicted father went to the Eight, threw himself
upon his knees, and prayed for mercy for his unfortunate young son.
Thereupon one of those Radical fellows, shaking the crest of his twisted
hood, stood up and addressed my father with these insulting words: [1]
“Get up from there, and begone at once, for to-morrow we shall send your
son into the country with the lances.” [2] My poor father had still the
spirit to answer: “What God shall have ordained, that will you do, and
not a jot or little more.” Whereto the same man replied that for certain
God had ordained as he had spoken. My father said: “The thought consoles
me that you do not know for certain;” and quitting their presence, he
came to visit me, together with a young man of my own age, called Pierro
di Giovanni Landi-we loved one another as though we had been brothers.

Under his mantle the lad carried a first-rate sword and a splendid coat
of mail; and when they found me, my brave father told me what had
happened, and what the magistrates had said to him. Then he kissed me on
the forehead and both eyes, and gave me his hearty blessing, saying:
“May the power of goodness of God be your protection;” and reaching me
the sword and armour, he helped me with his own hands to put them on.
Afterwards he added: “Oh, my good son, with these arms in thy hand thou
shalt either live or die.” Pier Landi, who was present, kept shedding
tears; and when he had given me ten golden crowns, I bade him remove a
few hairs from my chin, which were the first down of my manhood. Frate
Alessio disguised me like a friar and gave me a lay brother to go with
me. [3] Quitting the convent, and issuing from the city by the gate of
Prato, I went along the walls as far as the Piazza di San Gallo. Then I
ascended the slope of Montui, and in one of the first houses there I
found a man called Il Grassuccio, own brother to Messer Benedetto da
Monte Varchi. [4] I flung off my monk’s clothes, and became once more a
man. Then we mounted two horses, which were waiting there for us, and
went by night to Siena. Grassuccio returned to Florence, sought out my
father, and gave him the news of my safe escape. In the excess of his
joy, it seemed a thousand years to my father till he should meet the
member of the Eight who had insulted him; and when he came across the
man, he said: “See you, Antonio, that it was God who knew what had to
happen to my son, and not yourself?” To which the fellow answered: “Only
let him get another time into our clutches!” And my father: “I shall
spend my time in thanking God that He has rescued him from that fate.”

Note 1. 'Un di queli arrovellati scotendo la cresto dello arronzinato
cappuccio.' See above, p. 31. The democrats in Cellini’s days were
called at Florence 'Arrabbiati' or 'Arrovellati.' In the days of
Savonarola this nickname had been given to the ultra-Medicean party or

Note 2. 'Lanciotti.' There is some doubt about this word. But it clearly
means men armed with lances, at the disposal of the Signory.

Note 3. 'Un converso,' an attendant on the monks.

Note 4. Benedetto da Monte Varchi was the celebrated poet, scholar, and
historian of Florence, better known as Varchi. Another of his brothers
was a physician of high repute at Florence. They continued throughout
Cellini’s life to live on terms of intimacy with him.


AT Siena I waited for the mail to Rome, which I afterwards joined; and
when we passed the Paglia, we met a courier carrying news of the new
Pope, Clement VII. Upon my arrival in Rome, I went to work in the shop
of the master-goldsmith Santi. He was dead; but a son of his carried on
the business. He did not work himself, but entrusted all his commissions
to a young man named Lucagnolo from Iesi, a country fellow, who while
yet a child had come into Santi’s service. This man was short but well
proportioned, and was a more skilful craftsman than any one whom I had
met with up to that time; remarkable for facility and excellent in
design. He executed large plate only: that is to say, vases of the
utmost beauty, basons, and such pieces. [1] Having put myself to work
there, I began to make some candelabra for the Bishop of Salamanca, a
Spaniard. [2] They were richly chased, so far as that sort of work
admits. A pupil of Raffaello da Urbino called Gian Francesco, and
commonly known as Il Fattore, was a painter of great ability; and being
on terms of friendship with the Bishop, he introduced me to his favour,
so that I obtained many commissions from that prelate, and earned
considerable sums of money. [3]

During that time I went to draw, sometimes in Michel Agnolo’s chapel,
and sometimes in the house of Agostino Chigi of Siena, which contained
many incomparable paintings by the hand of that great master Raffaello.
[4] This I did on feast-days, because the house was then inhabited by
Messer Gismondo, Agostino’s brother. They plumed themselves exceedingly
when they saw young men of my sort coming to study in their palaces.
Gismondo’s wife, noticing my frequent presence in that house-she was a
lady as courteous as could be, and of surpassing beauty-came up to me
one day, looked at my drawings, and asked me if I was a sculptor or a
painter; to whom I said I was a goldsmith. She remarked that I drew too
well for a goldsmith; and having made one of her waiting-maids bring a
lily of the finest diamonds set in gold, she showed it to me, and bade
me value it. I valued it at 800 crowns. Then she said that I had very
nearly hit the mark, and asked me whether I felt capable of setting the
stones really well. I said that I should much like to do so, and began
before her eyes to make a little sketch for it, working all the better
because of the pleasure I took in conversing with so lovely and
agreeable a gentlewoman. When the sketch was finished, another Roman
lady of great beauty joined us; she had been above, and now descending
to the ground-floor, asked Madonna Porzia what she was doing there. She
answered with a smile: “I am amusing myself by watching this worthy
young man at his drawing; he is as good as he is handsome.” I had by
this time acquired a trifle of assurance, mixed, however, with some
honest bashfulness; so I blushed and said: “Such as I am, lady, I shall
ever be most ready to serve you.” The gentlewoman, also slightly
blushing, said: “You know well that I want you to serve me;” and
reaching me the lily, told me to take it away; and gave me besides
twenty golden crowns which she had in her bag, and added: “Set me the
jewel after the fashion you have sketched, and keep for me the old gold
in which it is now set.” On this the Roman lady observed: “If I were in
that young man’s body, I should go off without asking leave.” Madonna
Porzia replied that virtues rarely are at home with vices, and that if I
did such a thing, I should strongly belie my good looks of an honest
man. Then turning round, she took the Roman lady’s hand, and with a
pleasant smile said: “Farewell, Benvenuto.” I stayed on a short while at
the drawing I was making, which was a copy of a Jove by Raffaello. When
I had finished it and left the house, I set myself to making a little
model of wax, in order to show how the jewel would look when it was
completed. This I took to Madonna Porzia, whom I found with the same
Roman lady. Both of them were highly satisfied with my work, and treated
me so kindly that, being somewhat emboldened, I promised the jewel
should be twice as good as the model. Accordingly I set hand to it, and
in twelve days I finished it in the form of a fleur-de-lys, as I have
said above, ornamenting it with little masks, children, and animals,
exquisitely enamelled, whereby the diamonds which formed the lily were
more than doubled in effect.

Note 1. Cellini calls this 'grosseria.'

Note 2. Don Francesco de Bobadilla. He came to Rome in 1517, was shut up
with Clement in the castle of S. Angelo in 1527, and died in 1529, after
his return to Spain.

Note 3. This painter, Gio. Francesco Penni, surnamed Il Fattore, aided
Raphael in his Roman frescoes and was much beloved by him. Together with
Giulio Romano he completed the imperfect Stanze of the Vatican.

Note 4. Cellini here alludes to the Sistine Chapel and to the Villa
Farnesina in Trastevere, built by the Sienese banker, Agostino Chigi. It
was here that Raphael painted his Galatea and the whole fable of Cupid
and Psyche.


WHILE I was working at this piece, Lucagnolo, of whose ability I have
before spoken, showed considerable discontent, telling me over and over
again that I might acquire far more profit and honour by helping him to
execute large plate, as I had done at first. I made him answer that,
whenever I chose, I should always be capable of working at great silver
pieces; but that things like that on which I was now engaged were not
commissioned every day; and beside their bringing no less honour than
large silver plate, there was also more profit to be made by them. He
laughed me in the face, and said: “Wait and see, Benvenuto; for by the
time that you have finished that work of yours, I will make haste to
have finished this vase, which I took in hand when you did the jewel;
and then experience shall teach you what profit I shall get from my
vase, and what you will get from your ornament.” I answered that I was
very glad indeed to enter into such a competition with so good a
craftsman as he was, because the end would show which of us was
mistaken. Accordingly both the one and the other of us, with a scornful
smile upon our lips, bent our heads in grim earnest to the work, which
both were now desirous of accomplishing; so that after about ten days,
each had finished his undertaking with great delicacy and artistic skill.

Lucagnolo’s was a huge silver piece, used at the table of Pope Clement,
into which he flung away bits of bone and the rind of divers fruits,
while eating; an object of ostentation rather than necessity. The vase
was adorned with two fine handles, together with many masks, both small
and great, and masses of lovely foliage, in as exquisite a style of
elegance as could be imagined; on seeing which I said it was the most
beautiful vase that ever I set eyes on. Thinking he had convinced me,
Lucagnolo replied: “Your work seems to me no less beautiful, but we
shall soon perceive the difference between the two.” So he took his vase
and carried it to the Pope, who was very well pleased with it, and
ordered at once that he should be paid at the ordinary rate of such
large plate. Meanwhile I carried mine to Madonna Porzia, who looked at
it with astonishment, and told me I had far surpassed my promise. Then
she bade me ask for my reward whatever I liked; for it seemed to her my
desert was so great that if I craved a castle she could hardly
recompense me; but since that was not in her hands to bestow, she added
laughing that I must beg what lay within her power. I answered that the
greatest reward I could desire for my labour was to have satisfied her
ladyship. Then, smiling in my turn, and bowing to her, I took my leave,
saying I wanted no reward but that. She turned to the Roman lady and
said: “You see that the qualities we discerned in him are companied by
virtues, and not vices.” They both expressed their admiration, and then
Madonna Porzia continued: “Friend Benvenuto, have you never heard it
said that when the poor give to the rich, the devil laughs?” I replied:
“Quite true! and yet, in the midst of all his troubles, I should like
this time to see him laugh;” and as I took my leave, she said that this
time she had no will to bestow on him that favour.

When I came back to the shop, Lucagnolo had the money for his vase in a
paper packet; and on my arrival he cried out: “Come and compare the
price of your jewel with the price of my plate.” I said that he must
leave things as they were till the next day, because I hoped that even
as my work in its kind was not less excellent than his, so I should be
able to show him quite an equal price for it.


ON the day following, Madonna Porzia sent a major-domo of hers to my
shop, who called me out, and putting into my hands a paper packet full
of money from his lady, told me that she did not choose the devil should
have his whole laugh out: by which she hinted that the money sent me was
not the entire payment merited by my industry, and other messages were
added worthy of so courteous a lady. Lucagnolo, who was burning to
compare his packet with mine, burst into the shop; then in the presence
of twelve journeymen and some neighbours, eager to behold the result of
this competition, he seized his packet, scornfully exclaiming “Ou! ou!”
three or four times, while he poured his money on the counter with a
great noise. They were twenty-five crowns in giulios; and he fancied
that mine would be four or five crowns 'di moneta.' [1] I for my part,
stunned and stifled by his cries, and by the looks and smiles of the
bystanders, first peeped into my packet; then, after seeing that it
contained nothing but gold, I retired to one end of the counter, and,
keeping my eyes lowered and making no noise at all, I lifted it with
both hands suddenly above my head, and emptied it like a mill hopper.
[2] My coin was twice as much as his; which caused the onlookers, who
had fixed their eyes on me with some derision, to turn round suddenly to
him and say: “Lucagnolo, Benvenuto’s pieces, being all of gold and twice
as many as yours, make a far finer effect.” I thought for certain that,
what with jealousy and what with shame, Lucagnolo would have fallen dead
upon the spot; and though he took the third part of my gain, since I was
a journeyman (for such is the custom of the trade, two-thirds fall to
the workman and one-third to the masters of the shop), yet inconsiderate
envy had more power in him than avarice: it ought indeed to have worked
quite the other way, he being a peasant’s son from Iesi. He cursed his
art and those who taught it him, vowing that thenceforth he would never
work at large plate, but give his whole attention to those brothel
gewgaws, since they were so well paid. Equally enraged on my side, I
answered, that every bird sang its own note; that he talked after the
fashion of the hovels he came from; but that I dared swear that I should
succeed with ease in making his lubberly lumber, while he would never be
successful in my brothel gewgaws. [3] Thus I flung off in a passion,
telling him that I would soon show him that I spoke truth. The
bystanders openly declared against him, holding him for a lout, as
indeed he was, and me for a man, as I had proved myself.

Note 1. 'Scudi di giuli' and 'scudi di moneta.' The 'giulio' was a
silver coin worth 56 Italian centimes. The 'scudi di moneta' was worth
10 'giulios.' Cellini was paid in golden crowns, which had a much higher
value. The 'scuda' and the 'ducato' at this epoch were reckoned at [7]
'lire,' the 'lira' at 20 'soldi.'

Note 2. The packet was funnel-shaped, and Cellini poured the coins out
from the broad end.

Note 3. The two slang phrases translated above are 'bordellerie' and


NEXT day, I went to thank Madonna Porzia, and told her that her ladyship
had done the opposite of what she said she would; for that while I
wanted to make the devil laugh, she had made him once more deny God. We
both laughed pleasantly at this, and she gave me other commissions for
fine and substantial work.

Meanwhile, I contrived, by means of a pupil of Raffaello da Urbino, to
get an order from the Bishop of Salamanca for one of those great
water-vessels called 'acquereccia,' which are used for ornaments to
place on sideboards. He wanted a pair made of equal size; and one of
them he entrusted to Lucagnolo, the other to me. Giovan Francesco, the
painter I have mentioned, gave us the design. [1] Accordingly I set hand
with marvellous good-will to this piece of plate, and was accommodated
with a part of his workshop by a Milanese named Maestro Giovan Piero
della Tacca. Having made my preparations, I calculated how much money I
should need for certain affairs of my own, and sent all the rest to
assist my poor father.

It so happened that just when this was being paid to him in Florence, he
stumbled upon one of those Radicals who were in the Eight at the time
when I got into that little trouble there. It was the very man who had
abused him so rudely, and who swore that I should certainly be sent into
the country with the lances. Now this fellow had some sons of very bad
morals and repute; wherefore my father said to him: “Misfortunes can
happen to anybody, especially to men of choleric humour when they are in
the right, even as it happened to my son; but let the rest of his life
bear witness how virtuously I have brought him up. Would God, for your
well-being, that your sons may act neither worse nor better toward you
than mine do to me. God rendered me able to bring them up as I have
done; and where my own power could not reach, ‘twas He who rescued them,
against your expectation, out of your violent hands.” On leaving the
man, he wrote me all this story, begging me for God’s sake to practise
music at times, in order that I might not lose the fine accomplishment
which he had taught me with such trouble. The letter so overflowed with
expressions of the tenderest fatherly affection, that I was moved to
tears of filial piety, resolving, before he died, to gratify him amply
with regard to music. Thus God grants us those lawful blessings which we
ask in prayer, nothing doubting.

Note 1. That is, Il Fattore. See above, p. 34.


WHILE I was pushing forward Salamanca’s vase, I had only one little boy
as help, whom I had taken at the entreaty of friends, and half against
my own will, to be my workman. He was about fourteen years of age, bore
the name of Paulino, and was son to a Roman burgess, who lived upon the
income of his property. Paulino was the best-mannered, the most honest,
and the most beautiful boy I ever saw in my whole life. His modest ways
and actions, together with his superlative beauty and his devotion to
myself, bred in me as great an affection for him as a man’s breast can
hold. This passionate love led me oftentimes to delight the lad with
music; for I observed that his marvellous features, which by complexion
wore a tone of modest melancholy, brightened up, and when I took my
cornet, broke into a smile so lovely and so sweet, that I do not marvel
at the silly stories which the Greeks have written about the deities of
heaven. Indeed, if my boy had lived in those times, he would probably
have turned their heads still more. [1] He had a sister, named Faustina,
more beautiful, I verily believe, than that Faustina about whom the old
books gossip so. Sometimes he took me to their vineyard, and, so far as
I could judge, it struck me that Paulino’s good father would have
welcomed me as a son-in-law. This affair led me to play more than I was
used to do.

It happened at that time that one Giangiacomo of Cesena, a musician in
the Pope’s band, and a very excellent performer, sent word through
Lorenzo, the trumpeter of Lucca, who is now in our Duke’s service, to
inquire whether I was inclined to help them at the Pope’s Ferragosto,
playing soprano with my cornet in some motets of great beauty selected
by them for that occasion. [2] Although I had the greatest desire to
finish the vase I had begun, yet, since music has a wondrous charm of
its own, and also because I wished to please my old father, I consented
to join them. During eight days before the festival we practised two
hours a day together; then on the first of August we went to the
Belvedere, and while Pope Clement was at table, we played those
carefully studied motets so well that his Holiness protested he had
never heard music more sweetly executed or with better harmony of parts.
He sent for Giangiacomo, and asked him where and how he had procured so
excellent a cornet for soprano, and inquired particularly who I was.
Giangiacomo told him my name in full. Whereupon the Pope said: “So,
then, he is the son of Maestro Giovanni?” On being assured I was, the
Pope expressed his wish to have me in his service with the other
bandsmen. Giangiacomo replied: “Most blessed Father, I cannot pretend
for certain that you will get him, for his profession, to which he
devotes himself assiduously, is that of a goldsmith, and he works in it
miraculously well, and earns by it far more than he could do by
playing.” To this the Pope added: “I am the better inclined to him now
that I find him possessor of a talent more than I expected. See that he
obtains the same salary as the rest of you; and tell him from me to join
my service, and that I will find work enough by the day for him to do in
his other trade.” Then stretching out his hand, he gave him a hundred
golden crowns of the Camera in a handkerchief, and said: [3] “Divide
these so that he may take his share.”

When Giangiacomo left the Pope, he came to us, and related in detail all
that the Pope had said; and after dividing the money between the eight
of us, and giving me my share, he said to me: “Now I am going to have
you inscribed among our company.” I replied: “Let the day pass;
to-morrow I will give my answer.” When I left them, I went meditating
whether I ought to accept the invitation, inasmuch as I could not but
suffer if I abandoned the noble studies of my art. The following night
my father appeared to me in a dream, and begged me with tears of
tenderest affection, for God’s love and his, to enter upon this
engagement. Methought I answered that nothing would induce me to do so.
In an instant he assumed so horrible an aspect as to frighten me out of
my wits, and cried: “If you do not, you will have a father’s curse; but
if you do, may you be ever blessed by me!” When I woke, I ran, for very
fright, to have myself inscribed. Then I wrote to my old father, telling
him the news, which so affected him with extreme joy that a sudden fit
of illness took him, and well-nigh brought him to death’s door. In his
answer to my letter, he told me that he too had dreamed nearly the same
as I had.

Note 1. 'Gli Arebbe fatti più uscire de’ gangheri;' would have taken
them still more off the hinges.

Note 2. Lit., “the largest piece left of me should be my ears.”

Note 3. The Camera Apostolica was the Roman Exchequer.


KNOWING now that I had gratified my father’s honest wish, I began to
think that everything would prosper with me to a glorious and honourable
end. Accordingly, I set myself with indefatigable industry to the
completion of the vase I had begun for Salamanca. That prelate was a
very extraordinary man, extremely rich, but difficult to please. He sent
daily to learn what I was doing; and when his messenger did not find me
at home, he broke into fury, saying that he would take the work out of
my hands and give it to others to finish. This came of my slavery to
that accursed music. Still I laboured diligently night and day, until,
when I had brought my work to a point when it could be exhibited, I
submitted it to the inspection of the Bishop. This so increased his
desire to see it finished that I was sorry I had shown it. At the end of
three months I had it ready, with little animals and foliage and masks,
as beautiful as one could hope to see. No sooner was it done than I sent
it by the hand of my workman, Paulino, to show that able artist
Lucagnolo, of whom I have spoken above. Paulino, with the grace and
beauty which belonged to him, spoke as follows: “Messer Lucagnolo,
Benvenuto bids me say that he has sent to show you his promises and your
lumber, expecting in return to see from you his gewgaws.” This message
given, Lucagnolo took up the vase, and carefully examined it; then he
said to Paulino: “Fair boy, tell your master that he is a great and able
artist, and that I beg him to be willing to have me for a friend, and
not to engage in aught else.” The mission of that virtuous and
marvellous lad caused me the greatest joy; and then the vase was carried
to Salamanca, who ordered it to be valued. Lucagnolo took part in the
valuation, estimating and praising it far above my own opinion.
Salamanca, lifting up the vase, cried like a true Spaniard: “I swear by
God that I will take as long in paying him as he has lagged in making
it.” When I heard this, I was exceedingly put out, and fell to cursing
all Spain and every one who wished well to it.

Amongst other beautiful ornaments, this vase had a handle, made all of
one piece, with most delicate mechanism, which, when a spring was
touched, stood upright above the mouth of it. While the prelate was one
day ostentatiously exhibiting my vase to certain Spanish gentlemen of
his suite, it chanced that one of them, upon Monsignor’s quitting the
room, began roughly to work the handle, and as the gentle spring which
moved it could not bear his loutish violence, it broke in his hand.
Aware what mischief he had done, he begged the butler who had charge of
the Bishop’s plate to take it to the master who had made it, for him to
mend, and promised to pay what price he asked, provided it was set to
rights at once. So the vase came once more into my hands, and I promised
to put it forthwith in order, which indeed I did. It was brought to me
before dinner; and at twenty-two o’clock the man who brought it
returned, all in a sweat, for he had run the whole way, Monsignor having
again asked for it to show to certain other gentlemen. [1] The butler,
then, without giving me time to utter a word, cried: “Quick, quick,
bring the vase.” I, who wanted to act at leisure and not to give up to
him, said that I did not mean to be so quick. The serving-man got into
such a rage that he made as though he would put one hand to his sword,
while with the other he threatened to break the shop open. To this I put
a stop at once with my own weapon, using therewith spirited language,
and saying: “I am not going to give it to you! Go and tell Monsignor,
your master, that I want the money for my work before I let it leave
this shop.” When the fellow saw he could not obtain it by swaggering, he
fell to praying me, as one prays to the Cross, declaring that if I would
only give it up, he would take care I should be paid. These words did
not make me swerve from my purpose; but I kept on saying the same thing.
At last, despairing of success, he swore to come with Spaniards enough
to cut me in pieces. Then he took to his heels; while I, who inclined to
believe partly in their murderous attack, resolved that I would defend
myself with courage. So I got an admirable little gun ready, which I
used for shooting game, and muttered to myself: “He who robs me of my
property and labour may take my life too, and welcome.” While I was
carrying on this debate in my own mind, a crowd of Spaniards arrived,
led by their major-domo, who, with the headstrong rashness of his race,
bade them go in and take the vase and give me a good beating. Hearing
these words, I showed them the muzzle of my gun, and prepared to fire,
and cried in a loud voice: “Renegade Jews, traitors, is it thus that one
breaks into houses and shops in our city of Rome? Come as many of you
thieves as like, an inch nearer to this wicket, and I’ll blow all their
brains out with my gun.” Then I turned the muzzle toward their
major-domo, and making as though I would discharge it, called out: “And
you big thief, who are egging them on, I mean to kill you first.” He
clapped spurs to the jennet he was riding, and took flight headlong. The
commotion we were making stirred up all the neighbours, who came
crowding round, together with some Roman gentlemen who chanced to pass,
and cried: “Do but kill the renegades, and we will stand by you.” These
words had the effect of frightening the Spaniards in good earnest. They
withdrew, and were compelled by the circumstances to relate the whole
affair to Monsignor. Being a man of inordinate haughtiness, he rated the
members of his household, both because they had engaged in such an act
of violence, and also because, having begun, they had not gone through
with it. At this juncture the painter, who had been concerned in the
whole matter, came in, and the Bishop bade him go and tell me that if I
did not bring the vase at once, he would make mincemeat of me; [2] but
if I brought it, he would pay its price down. These threats were so far
from terrifying me, that I sent him word I was going immediately to lay
my case before the Pope.

In the meantime, his anger and my fear subsided; whereupon, being
guaranteed by some Roman noblemen of high degree that the prelate would
not harm me, and having assurance that I should be paid, I armed myself
with a large poniard and my good coat of mail, and betook myself to his
palace, where he had drawn up all his household. I entered, and Paulino
followed with the silver vase. It was just like passing through the
Zodiac, neither more nor less; for one of them had the face of the lion,
another of the scorpion, a third of the crab. However, we passed onward
to the presence of the rascally priest, who spouted out a torrent of
such language as only priests and Spaniards have at their command. In
return I never raised my eyes to look at him, nor answered word for
word. That seemed to augment the fury of his anger; and causing paper to
be put before me, he commanded me to write an acknowledgment to the
effect that I had been amply satisfied and paid in full. Then I raised
my head, and said I should be very glad to do so when I had received the
money. The Bishop’s rage continued to rise; threats and recriminations
were flung about; but at last the money was paid, and I wrote the
receipt. Then I departed, glad at heart and in high spirits.

Note 1. The Italians reckoned time from sundown till sundown, counting
twenty-four hours. Twenty-two o’clock was therefore two hours before
nightfall. One hour of the night was one hour after nightfall, and so
forth. By this system of reckoning, it is clear that the hours varied
with the season of the year; and unless we know the exact month in which
an event took place, we cannot translate any hour into terms of our own

Note 2. Lit., “the largest piece left of me should be my ears.”


WHEN Pope Clement heard the story-he had seen the vase before, but it
was not shown him as my work-he expressed much pleasure and spoke warmly
in my praise, publicly saying that he felt very favourably toward me.
This caused Monsignor Salamanca to repent that he had hectored over me;
and in order to make up our quarrel, he sent the same painter to inform
me that he meant to give me large commissions. I replied that I was
willing to undertake them, but that I should require to be paid in
advance. This speech too came to Pope Clement’s ears, and made him laugh
heartily. Cardinal Cibo was in the presence, and the Pope narrated to
him the whole history of my dispute with the Bishop. [1] Then he turned
to one of his people, and ordered him to go on supplying me with work
for the palace. Cardinal Cibo sent for me, and after some time spent in
agreeable conversation, gave me the order for a large vase, bigger than
Salamanca’s. I likewise obtained commissions from Cardinal Cornaro, and
many others of the Holy College, especially Ridolfi and Salviati; they
all kept me well employed, so that I earned plenty of money. 2

Madonna Porzia now advised me to open a shop of my own. This I did; and
I never stopped working for that excellent and gentle lady, who paid me
exceedingly well, and by whose means perhaps it was that I came to make
a figure in the world.

I contracted close friendship with Signor Gabbriello Ceserino, at that
time Gonfalonier of Rome, and executed many pieces for him. One, among
the rest, is worthy of mention. It was a large golden medal to wear in
the hat. I engraved upon it Leda with her swan; and being very well
pleased with the workmanship, he said he should like to have it valued,
in order that I might be properly paid. Now, since the medal was
executed with consummate skill, the valuers of the trade set a far
higher price on it than he had thought of. I therefore kept the medal,
and got nothing for my pains. The same sort of adventures happened in
this case as in that of Salamanca’s vase. But I shall pass such matters
briefly by, lest they hinder me from telling things of greater

Note 1. Innocenzio Cibo Malaspina, Archbishop of Genoa, and nephew of
Lorenzo de’ Medici. He was a prelate of vast wealth and a great patron
of arts and letters.

Note 2. Marco Cornaro was a brother of Caterina, the Queen of Cyprus. He
obtained the hat in 1492. Niccolò Ridolfi was a nephew of Leo X.
Giovanni Salviati, the son of Jacopo mentioned above, was also a nephew
of Leo X, who gave him the hat in 1517.


SINCE I am writing my life, I must from time to time diverge from my
profession in order to describe with brevity, if not in detail, some
incidents which have no bearing on my career as artist. On the morning
of Saint John’s Day I happened to be dining with several men of our
nation, painters, sculptors, goldsmiths, amongst the most notable of
whom was Rosso and Gainfrancesco, the pupil of Raffaello. [1] I had
invited them without restraint or ceremony to the place of our meeting,
and they were all laughing and joking, as is natural when a crowd of men
come together to make merry on so great a festival. It chanced that a
light-brained swaggering young fellow passed by; he was a soldier of
Rienzo da Ceri, who, when he heard the noise that we were making, gave
vent to a string of opprobrious sarcasms upon the folk of Florence. [2]
I, who was the host of those great artists and men of worth, taking the
insult to myself, slipped out quietly without being observed, and went
up to him. I ought to say that he had a punk of his there, and was going
on with his stupid ribaldries to amuse her. When I met him, I asked if
he was the rash fellow who was speaking evil of the Florentines. He
answered at once: “I am that man.” On this I raised my hand, struck him
in the face, and said: “And I am 'this' man.” Then we each of us drew
our swords with spirit; but the fray had hardly begun when a crowd of
persons intervened, who rather took my part than not, hearing and seeing
that I was in the right.

On the following day a challenge to fight with him was brought me, which
I accepted very gladly, saying that I expected to complete this job far
quicker than those of the other art I practised. So I went at once to
confer with a fine old man called Bevilacqua, who was reputed to have
been the first sword of Italy, because he had fought more than twenty
serious duels and had always come off with honour. This excellent man
was a great friend of mine; he knew me as an artist and had also been
concerned as intermediary in certain ugly quarrels between me and
others. Accordingly, when he had learned my business, he answered with a
smile: “My Benvenuto, if you had an affair with Mars, I am sure you
would come out with honour, because through all the years that I have
known you, I have never seen you wrongfully take up a quarrel.” So he
consented to be my second, and we repaired with sword in hand to the
appointed place, but no blood was shed, for my opponent made the matter
up, and I came with much credit out of the affair. [3] I will not add
further particulars; for though they would be very interesting in their
own way, I wish to keep both space and words for my art, which has been
my chief inducement to write as I am doing, and about which I shall have
only too much to say.

The spirit of honourable rivalry impelled me to attempt some other
masterpiece, which should equal, or even surpass, the productions of
that able craftsman, Lucagnolo, whom I have mentioned. Still I did not
on this account neglect my own fine art of jewellery; and so both the
one and the other wrought me much profit and more credit, and in both of
them I continued to produce things of marked originality. There was at
that time in Rome a very able artist of Perugia named Lautizio, who
worked only in one department, where he was sole and unrivalled
throughout the world. [4] You must know that at Rome every cardinal has
a seal, upon which his title is engraved, and these seals are made just
as large as a child’s hand of about twelve years of age; and, as I have
already said, the cardinal’s title is engraved upon the seal together
with a great many ornamental figures. A well-made article of the kind
fetches a hundred, or more than a hundred crowns. This excellent
workman, like Lucagnolo, roused in me some honest rivalry, although the
art he practised is far remote from the other branches of gold-smithery,
and consequently Lautizio was not skilled in making anything but seals.
I gave my mind to acquiring his craft also, although I found it very
difficult; and, unrepelled by the trouble which it gave me, I went on
zealously upon the path of profit and improvement.

There was in Rome another most excellent craftsman of ability, who was a
Milanese named Messer Caradosso. [5] He dealt in nothing but little
chiselled medals, made of plates of metal, and such-like things. I have
seen of his some paxes in half relief, and some Christs a palm in length
wrought of the thinnest golden plates, so exquisitely done that I
esteemed him the greatest master in that kind I had ever seen, and
envied him more than all the rest together. There were also other
masters who worked at medals carved in steel, which may be called the
models and true guides for those who aim at striking coins in the most
perfect style. All these divers arts I set myself with unflagging
industry to learn.

I must not omit the exquisite art of enamelling, in which I have never
known any one excel save a Florentine, our countryman, called Amerigo.
[6] I did not know him, but was well acquainted with his incomparable
masterpieces. Nothing in any part of the world or by craftsman that I
have seen, approached the divine beauty of their workmanship. To this
branch too I devoted myself with all my strength, although it is
extremely difficult, chiefly because of the fire, which, after long time
and trouble spent in other processes, has to be applied at last, and not
unfrequently brings the whole to ruin. In spite of its great
difficulties, it gave me so much pleasure that I looked upon them as
recreation; and this came from the special gift which the God of nature
bestowed on me, that is to say, a temperament so happy and of such
excellent parts that I was freely able to accomplish whatever it pleased
me to take in hand. The various departments of art which I have
described are very different one from the other, so that a man who
excels in one of them, if he undertakes the others, hardly ever achieves
the same success; whereas I strove with all my power to become equally
versed in all of them: and in the proper place I shall demonstrate that
I attained my object.

Note 1. St. John’s Day was the great Florentine Festival, on which all
the Guilds went in procession with pageants through the city. Of the
Florentine painter, II Rosso, or Maitre Roux, this is the first mention
by Cellini. He went to France in 1534, and died an obscure death there
in 1541.

Note 2. This Rienzo, Renzo, or Lorenzo da Ceri, was a captain of
adventurers or Condottiere, who hired his mercenary forces to
paymasters. He defended Crema for the Venetians in 1514, and conquered
Urbino for the Pope in 1515. Afterwards he fought for the French in the
Italian wars. We shall hear more of him again during the sack of Rome.

Note 3. The Italian, 'restando dal mio avversario,' seems to mean that
Cellini’s opponent proposed an accommodation, apologized, or stayed the
duel at a certain point.

Note 4. See Cellini’s Treatise 'Oreficeria,' cap. vi., for more
particulars about this artist.

Note 5. His real name was Ambrogio Foppa. The nickname Caradosso is said
to have stuck to him in consequence of a Spaniard calling him
Bear’s-face in his own tongue. He struck Leo X’s coins; and we possess
some excellent medallion portraits by his hand.

Note 6. For him, consult Cellini’s 'Oreficeria.'


AT that time, while I was still a young man of about twenty-three, there
raged a plague of such extraordinary violence that many thousands died
of it every day in Rome. Somewhat terrified at this calamity, I began to
take certain amusements, as my mind suggested, and for a reason which I
will presently relate. I had formed a habit of going on feast-days to
the ancient buildings, and copying parts of them in wax or with the
pencil; and since these buildings are all ruins, and the ruins house
innumerable pigeons, it came into my head to use my gun against these
birds. So then, avoiding all commerce with people, in my terror of the
plague, I used to put a fowling-piece on my boy Pagolino’s shoulder, and
he and I went out alone into the ruins; and oftentimes we came home
laden with a cargo of the fattest pigeons. I did not care to charge my
gun with more than a single ball; and thus it was by pure skill in the
art that I filled such heavy bags. I had a fowling-piece which I had
made myself; inside and out it was as bright as any mirror. I also used
to make a very fine sort of powder, in doing which I discovered secret
processes, beyond any which have yet been found; and on this point, in
order to be brief, I will give but one particular, which will astonish
good shots of every degree. This is, that when I charged my gun with
powder weighing one-fifth of the ball, it carried two hundred paces
point-blank. It is true that the great delight I took in this exercise
bid fair to withdraw me from my art and studies; yet in another way it
gave me more than it deprived me of, seeing that each time I went out
shooting I returned with greatly better health, because the open air was
a benefit to my constitution. My natural temperament was melancholy, and
while I was taking these amusements, my heart leapt up with joy, and I
found that I could work better and with far greater mastery than when I
spent my whole time in study and manual labour. In this way my gun, at
the end of the game, stood me more in profit than in loss.

It was also the cause of my making acquaintance with certain hunters
after curiosities, who followed in the track [1] of those Lombard
peasants who used to come to Rome to till the vineyards at the proper
season. While digging the ground, they frequently turned up antique
medals, agates, chrysoprases, cornelians, and cameos; also sometimes
jewels, as, for instance, emeralds, sapphires, diamonds, and rubies. The
peasants used to sell things of this sort to the traders for a mere
trifle; and I very often, when I met them, paid the latter several times
as many golden crowns as they had given giulios for some object.
Independently of the profit I made by this traffic, which was at least
tenfold, it brought me also into agreeable relations with nearly all the
cardinals of Rome. I will only touch upon a few of the most notable and
the rarest of these curiosities. There came into my hands, among many
other fragments, the head of a dolphin about as big as a good-sized
ballot-bean. Not only was the style of this head extremely beautiful,
but nature had here far surpassed art; for the stone was an emerald of
such good colour, that the man who bought it from me for tens of crowns
sold it again for hundreds after setting it as a finger-ring. I will
mention another kind of gem; this was a magnificent topaz; and here art
equalled nature; it was as large as a big hazel-nut, with the head of
Minerva in a style of inconceivable beauty. I remember yet another
precious stone, different from these; it was a cameo, engraved with
Hercules binding Cerberus of the triple throat; such was its beauty and
the skill of its workmanship, that our great Michel Agnolo protested he
had never seen anything so wonderful. Among many bronze medals, I
obtained one upon which was a head of Jupiter. It was the largest that
had ever been seen; the head of the most perfect execution; and it had
on the reverse side a very fine design of some little figures in the
same style. I might enlarge at great length on this curiosity; but I
will refrain for fear of being prolix.

Note 1. 'Stavano alle velette.' Perhaps 'lay in wait for.'


AS I have said above, the plague had broken out in Rome; but though I
must return a little way upon my steps, I shall not therefore abandon
the main path of my history. There arrived in Rome a surgeon of the
highest renown, who was called Maestro Giacomo da Carpi. [1] This able
man, in the course of his other practice, undertook the most desperate
cases of the so-called French disease. In Rome this kind of illness is
very partial to the priests, and especially to the richest of them.
When, therefore, Maestro Giacomo had made his talents known, he
professed to work miracles in the treatment of such cases by means of
certain fumigations; but he only undertook a cure after stipulating for
his fees, which he reckoned not by tens, but by hundreds of crowns. He
was a great connoisseur in the arts of design. Chancing to pass one day
before my shop, he saw a lot of drawings which I had laid upon the
counter, and among these were several designs for little vases in a
capricious style, which I had sketched for my amusement. These vases
were in quite a different fashion from any which had been seen up to
that date. He was anxious that I should finish one or two of them for
him in silver; and this I did with the fullest satisfaction, seeing they
exactly suited my own fancy. The clever surgeon paid me very well, and
yet the honour which the vases brought me was worth a hundred times as
much; for the best craftsmen in the goldsmith’s trade declared they had
never seen anything more beautiful or better executed.

No sooner had I finished them than he showed them to the Pope; and the
next day following he betook himself away from Rome. He was a man of
much learning, who used to discourse wonderfully about medicine. The
Pope would fain have had him in his service, but he replied that he
would not take service with anybody in the world, and that whoso had
need of him might come to seek him out. He was a person of great
sagacity, and did wisely to get out of Rome; for not many months
afterwards, all the patients he had treated grew so ill that they were a
hundred times worse off than before he came. He would certainly have
been murdered if he had stopped. He showed my little vases to several
persons of quality; amongst others, to the most excellent Duke of
Ferrara, and pretended that he had got them from a great lord in Rome,
by telling this nobleman that if he wanted to be cured, he must give him
those two vases; and that the lord had answered that they were antique,
and besought him to ask for anything else which it might be convenient
for him to give, provided only he would leave him those; but, according
to his own account, Maestro Giacomo made as though he would not
undertake the cure, and so he got them.

I was told this by Messer Alberto Bendedio in Ferrara, who with great
ostentation showed me some earthenware copies he possessed of them. [2]
Thereupon I laughed, and as I said nothing, Messer Alberto Bendedio, who
was a haughty man, flew into a rage and said: “You are laughing at them,
are you? And I tell you that during the last thousand years there has
not been born a man capable of so much as copying them.” I then, not
caring to deprive them of so eminent a reputation, kept silence, and
admired them with mute stupefaction. It was said to me in Rome by many
great lords, some of whom were my friends, that the work of which I have
been speaking was, in their opinion of marvellous excellence and genuine
antiquity; whereupon, emboldened by their praises, I revealed that I had
made them. As they would not believe it, and as I wished to prove that I
had spoken truth, I was obliged to bring evidence and to make new
drawings of the vases; for my word alone was not enough, inasmuch as
Maestro Giacomo had cunningly insisted upon carrying off the old
drawings with him. By this little job I earned a fair amount of money.

Note 1. Giacomo Berengario da Carpi was, in fact, a great physician,
surgeon, and student of anatomy. He is said to have been the first to
use mercury in the cure of syphilis, a disease which was devastating
Italy after the year 1495. He amassed a large fortune, which, when he
died at Ferrara about 1530, he bequeathed to the Duke there.

Note 2. See below, Book II. Chap. viii., for a full account of this
incident at Ferrara.


THE PLAGUE went dragging on for many months, but I had as yet managed to
keep it at bay; for though several of my comrades were dead, I survived
in health and freedom. Now it chanced one evening that an intimate
comrade of mine brought home to supper a Bolognese prostitute named
Faustina. She was a very fine woman, but about thirty years of age; and
she had with her a little serving-girl of thirteen or fourteen. Faustina
belonging to my friend, I would not have touched her for all the gold in


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