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Perseus with Head of the slain Medusa 

By Benvenuto Cellini 

From the bronze statue in the Natiotid Muieum, Florence 



The Autobiography of 
Benvenuto Cellini 


W/VA Introduction and 'Notes 
Yolume 31 

P. F. Collier & Son Corporation 


Copyright, 1910 
By p. F. Collier & Son 

manufactured in u. s. a. 


This tale of my sore-troubled life I write, 



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. 


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 preeminent: 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 him- 
self 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. Michel- 
angelo 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 

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. 


ALL men of whatsoever quality they be, who have done any- 
JL\ thing of excellence, or which may properly resemble excel- 
X JL lence, 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 excel- 
lence, 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 Elisa- 
betta, daughter to Stefano Granacci; both parents citizens of Flor- 
ence. 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 it 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 be built, they say, was Julius Czsar, 
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 o£ these notable edifices. 

Julius Cjesar 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 con- 
venience 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 Caesar as being fair and apt, and given by circum- 
stance, 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 etymolo- 
gies 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.' 

* 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. 1 
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. 


Thus then we find; and thus we beUeve that we are descended 
from a man of worth. Furthermore, we find that there are CeUinis 
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, over- 
came 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 


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 Cristo- 
fano; 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 pur- 


chased 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 draw- 
ing, 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.' 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.^ 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 — Ben- 
venuto;" ' and so they resolved, and this narrie was given me at Holy 
Baptism, and by it I still am living with the grace of God. 

' Cosa is Florentine for Niccolosa. 

2 The hour is reckoned, according to the old Italian fashion, from sunset of one day 
to sunset of the next — twenty-four hours. 
^ 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.' 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. Becom- 
ing 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 word is bocche, so I have translated it by mouths. But Cellini clearly meant 
the gaping claws of the scorpion. 


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. 

My father began teaching me to play upon the flute and sing by 
note; but 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 mak- 
ing 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 Piero 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.' 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 

' 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. 


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 lifers. 
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;^ 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. 


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.' 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 pleas- 

*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. 

' 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' Rtnaissance in Italy, 
yol. i. p. 297. 


ure 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.^ 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 Com- 
mune.' 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 

^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 

^ The Medicean arms were "or, six pellets gules, three, two, and one." The Floren- 
tine Commune bore, "argent a cross gules." 


Jacopo Salviati, upon that man's election as Gonfalonier." 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. 


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;" be- 
cause 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.' 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- 

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

' 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. 


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, how- 
ever, 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. 


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.' 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 adver- 
sary'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." Mean- 

' Cellini refers to the famous Giovanni delle Bande Nere, who was killed in an en- 
gagement 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. 


while, 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 our 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.^ 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. 


The Cardinal de' Medici, who afterwards became Pope Clement 
VII., had us recalled to Florence at the entreaty of my father.' A 
certain pupil of my father's, moved by his own bad nature, sug- 
gested 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 

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

' 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 be- 
come Pope Clement VII., to suffer the sack of Rome in 1527, and to make the con- 
cordat 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 


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. How- 
ever I made still greater in my trade of goldsmith; for the Cardinal 
having givea 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 
goldsmith's 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 Gio- 
vanni, 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, with- 
out 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 stupend- 
ous 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 some- 
times 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 con- 
temptuously 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 char- 
acter 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. 

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 with- 
out 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 

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.' 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 

' 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. 


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 honesdy." 


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 com- 
ing 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;' 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 

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


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 dis- 
appointed, 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 for- 
wards, and not to sacrifice so fine an accomplishment. 


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;' 
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 for 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 

' 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. 


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 vehe- 
ment 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.'' 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,' he never rose half-way to the same pitch of power; his 
genius never afterwards attained to the force of those first studies. 


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 

^ The cartoons to which Cellini here alludes were made by Michel Angelo and Lio- 
nardo 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. 

'The Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. 


from the chapel of Masaccio.' 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." ^ 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.' 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 II Tasso, a wood-carver, 

' 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 sur- 
viving from the period preceding Raphael. 

^ 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. 

' Fra Filippo Lippi was a Carmelite monk, whose frescoes at Prato and Spoleto 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. 


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.* 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 

^ 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. 


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 II 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." 


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 sar- 
cophagus 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.' 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.^ 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 

' 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, 

'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. 


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. 


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 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 o£ hypocritical kindness. This coming to their ears, 
they threatened to make me sorely repent o£ such words; but I, 
who knew not what the colour of fear was, paid them little or no 


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 per- 
haps been put up to it by them, lay in wait till a beast of burden 
went by.' 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 con- 
fessor, 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;^ but also because my adversaries had been to the 
houses of those magistrates, and had talked with all of them in 

' The Italian is appostb 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. 

^ 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. 


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 
wford box, before Prinzivalle della Stufa,' 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 him- 
self 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 sup- 
ports 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." 


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 Giro- 
lamo; and these men would have had me sent to prison and punished 
without too close a reckoning.^ 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.^ 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 

'This man was an ardent supporter of the Medici, and in 1510 organized a con- 
spiracy in their favour against the Gonfalonier Soderini. 

' 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 them- 
selves 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. 

^ A convent of closely immured nuns. 


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, de- 
siring that he should go bail for me.' 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 some- 

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


time mercifully intervene, He so ordered that neither they nor I did 
any harm to one another. I only lost my cap, on which my adver- 
saries 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. 


I went ofl 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 
litde 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 :' "Get up from there, and begone 
at once, for to-morrow we shall send your son into the country with 
the lances." ^ My poor father had still the spirit to answer : "What 
God shall have ordained, that will you do, and not a jot or tittle 
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 

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

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


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 pro- 
tection;" 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 shall 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.' 
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 II Grassuccio, own brother to Messer Bene- 
detto da Monte Varchi.* 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 re- 
turned 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 that 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." 


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 

' Un convrrso, an attendant on the monks. 

* 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. 


entrusted all his commissions to a young man named Lucagnolo from 
lesi, 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.' Having put myself to work there, I began to make 
some candelabra for the Bishop of Salamanca, a Spaniard.* 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 II 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 consid- 
erable sums of money.' 

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.* 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, 

' Cellini calls this grosseria. 

*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. 

' This painter, Gio. Francesco Penni, surnamed II 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. 

* 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 bis 
Galatea and the whole fable of Cupid and Psyche. 


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 draw- 
ing; 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 Raflaello. 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. 


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 fin- 
ished 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 neces- 
sity. 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 lady- 


ship. Then, smiUng 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 com- 
panied by virtues, and not vices." They both expressed their admira- 
tion, 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 

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 indus- 
try, 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} 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 

' 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. 


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.^ 
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 sud- 
denly 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 lesi. 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.' 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. 


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 Raflaello da Ur- 

bino, 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 

' The packet was funnel-shaped, and Cellini poured the coins out from the broad 

' The two slang phrases translated above are bordellerie and cogUonerie. 


Francesco, the painter I have mentioned, gave us the design.' 
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 cer- 
tain 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, espe- 
cially 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 


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 four- 
teen 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 

'That is, II Fattore. See above, p. 34. 


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 pas- 
sionate 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 prob- 
ably have turned their heads still more.' 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 vine- 
yard, and, so far as I could judge, it struck me that PauHno'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 musi- 
cian 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.'' 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 Holi- 
ness 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 bands- 
men. Giangiacomo replied: "Most blessed Father, I cannot pretend 

* GU Arebbe fatti piu uscire de' gangheri; would have taken them still more off the 

^ The Ferragosto or Feria Atigusti was a festival upon the first of August. 


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 handker- 
chief, and said:' "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 be- 
tween 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. 


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 indus- 
try 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 

' The Camera Apostolica was the Roman Exchequer. 


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 la- 
boured diligently night and day, until, when I had brought my work 
to a point when it could be exhibited, I submitted it to the inspec- 
tion 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 be- 
longed to him, spoke as follows: "Messer Lucagnolo, Benvenuto 
bids me say that he has sent to show you his promises and your lum- 
ber, 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 vir- 
tuous and marvellous lad caused me the greatest joy; and then the 
vase was carried to Salamanca, who ordered it to be valued. Lucag- 
nolo 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 ijtiouth 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 Mon- 
signor'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.' 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 it 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 

' The Italians reckoned time from sundown til! 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 system. 


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;'' 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 ras- 
cally 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 p'^id 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 
^ Lit., "the largest piece left of me should be my ears." 


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 


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.' 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 Sala- 
manca'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 .^ 

Madonna Porzia now advised me to open a shop of my own. This 
I did; and I never stopped working for that excellent and gende 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 

* 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. 

^ Marco Cornaro was a brother of Caterina, the Queen of Cyprus. He obtained the 
hat in 1492. Niccolo Ridolfi was a nephew of Leo X. Giovanni Salviati, the son of 
Jacopo mentioned above, p. 14, was also a nephew of Leo X., who gave him the hat 
in 1517. 


valuers of the trade set a far higher price on it than he had thought 
of. I therefore kept the medal, and got nothing fo"- my pains. The 
same sort of adventures happened in this case as in that of Sala- 
manca's vase. But I shall pass such matters briefly by, lest they hinder 
me from telling things of greater importance. 


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.' 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.^ 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 

' 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. 

^ This Rienzo, Renzo, or Lorenzo da Ceri, was a captain of adventurers or Con- 
dottiere, who hired his mercenary forces to paymasters. He defended Crema for the 
Venetians in 15 14, and conquered Urbino for the Pope in 151 5. Afterwards he fought 
for the French in the Italian wars. We shall hear more of him again during the sack 
of Rome. 


me, which I accepted very gladly, saying that I expected to com- 
plete 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.^ I will not add fur- 
ther 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.^ 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 

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


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, unre- 
pelled 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.° 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.^ I did not know him, but was well acquainted with 
his incomparable masterpieces. Nothing in any part of the world 
or by any 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 tem- 
perament 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 

^ 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 

* For him, consult Cellini's Oreficeria. 


I strove with all my power to become equally versed in all o£ 
them: and in the proper place I shall demonstrate that I attained 
my object. 


At that time, while I was still a young man of about twenty-three, 
there raged a plague of such extraordinary violence that many thou- 
sands 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 com- 
merce 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 amuse- 
ments, 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* of those Lom- 
bard 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 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 workman- 
ship, that our great Michel Agnolo protested he had never seen any- 
thing 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. 


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 sur- 
geon of the highest renown, who was called Maestro Giacomo da 

* Stavano alle velette. Perhaps lay in wait for. 


Carpi.' 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 

^ 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, lie bequeathed to the Duke there. 


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.^ Thereupon I laughed, and as I said nothing, Messer Al- 
berto 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 speak- 
ing was, in their opinion of marvellous excellence' and genuine an- 
tiquity; 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. 


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 Bo- 
lognese prostitute named Faustina. She was a very irne 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 the world; and though she de- 
clared she was madly in love with me, I remained steadfast in my 
loyalty. But after they had gone to bed, I stole away the little serving- 
girl, who was quite a fresh maid, and woe to her if her mistress had 
known of it! The result was that I enjoyed a very pleasant night, 

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


far more to my satisfaction than if I had passed it with Faustina. I 
rose upon the hour of breaking fast, and felt tired, for I had travelled 
many miles that night, and was wanting to take food, when a crush- 
ing headache seized me; several boils appeared on my left arm, 
together with a carbuncle which showed itself just beyond the palm 
of the left hand where it joins the wrist. Everybody in the house 
was in a panic; my friend, the cow and the calf, all fled. Left alone 
there with my poor little prentice, who refused to abandon me, I felt 
stifled at the heart, and made up my mind for certain I was a dead 

Just then the father of the lad went by, who was physician to the 
Cardinal lacoacci,' and lived as member of that prelate's household.' 
The boy called out: "Come, father, and see Benvenuto; he is in bed 
with some trifling indisposition." Without thinking what my com- 
plaint might be, the doctor came up at once, and when he had felt 
my pulse, he saw and felt what was very contrary to his own wishes. 
Turning round to his son, he said: "O traitor of a child, you've 
ruined me; how can I venture now into the Cardinal's presence.''" 
His son made answer: "Why, father, this man my master is worth 
far more than all the cardinals in Rome." Then the doctor turned 
to me and said: "Since I am here, I will consent to treat you. But 
of one thing only I warn you, that if you have enjoyed a woman, 
you are doomed." To this I replied: "I did so this very night." He 
answered: "With whom, and to what extent?"' I said: "Last night, 
and with a girl in her earliest maturity." Upon this, perceiving that 
he had spoken foolishly, he made haste to add: "Well, considering 
the sores are so new, and have not yet begun to stink, and that the 
remedies will be taken in time, you need not be too much afraid, 
for I have good hopes of curing you." When he had prescribed for 
me and gone away, a very dear friend of mine, called Giovanni 
Rigogli, came in, who fell to commiserating my great suffering and 
also my desertion by my comrade, and said; "Be of good cheer, my 
Benvenuto, for I will never leave your side until I see you restored 
to health." I told him not to come too close, since it was all over 
with me. Only I besought him to be so kind as to take a considerable 

'Probably Domenico lacobacci, who obtained the hat in 1517. 
' A sua provisione stava, i. e., he was in the Cardinal's regular pay. 
' Quanta. Perhaps we ought to read quando — when? 


quantity of crowns, which were lying in a little box near my bed, 
and when God had thought fit to remove me from this world, to 
send them to my poor father, writing pleasantly to him, in the way 
I too had done, so far as that appalling season of the plague per- 
mitted/ My beloved friend declared that he had no intention what- 
soever of leaving me, and that come what might, in life or death, he 
knew very well what was his duty toward a friend. And so we went 
on by the help of God: and the admirable remedies which I had 
used began to work a great improvement, and I soon came well out 
of that dreadful sickness. 

The sore was still open, with a plug of lint inside it and a plaster 
above, when I went out riding on a little wild pony. He was covered 
with hair four fingers long, and was exactly as big as a well-grown 
bear; indeed he looked just like a bear. I rode out on him to visit the 
painter Rosso, who was then living in the country, toward Civita 
Vecchia, at a place of Count Anguillara's called Cervetera. I found 
my friend, and he was very glad to see me; whereupon I said: "I am 
come to do to you that which you did to me so many months ago." 
He burst out laughing, embraced and kissed me, and begged me 
for the Count's sake to keep quiet. I stayed in that place about a 
month, with much content and gladness, enjoying good wines and 
excellent food, and treated with the greatest kindness by the Count; 
every day I used to ride out alone along the seashore, where I dis- 
mounted, and filled my pockets with all sorts of pebbles, snail shells, 
and sea shells of great rarity and beauty. 

On the last day (for after this I went there no more) I was attacked 
by a band of men, who had disguised themselves, and disembarked 
from a Moorish privateer. When they thought that they had run me 
into a certain passage, where it seemed impossible that I should 
escape from their hands, I suddenly mounted my pony, resolved to 
be roasted or boiled alive at that pass perilous, seeing I had little 
hope to evade one or the other of these fates ;^ but, as God willed, 

^ Come ancora io avevo fatto secondo I'usanza che promettava quell' arrabbiata 
stagione. I am not sure that I have given the right sense in the text above. Leclanch^ 
interprets the words thus : "that I too had fared according to the wont of that appalling 
season," i. e., had died of the plague. But I think tlie version in my sense is more 
true both to Italian and to Cellini's special style. 

^ 2. e., to escape either being drowned or shot. 


my pony, who was the same I have described above, took an incred- 
ibly wide jump, and brought me off in safety, for which I heartily 
thanked God. I told the story to the Count; he ran to arms; but we 
saw the galleys setting out to sea. The next day following I went 
back sound and with good cheer to Rome. 


The plague had by this time almost died out, so that the survivors, 
when they met together alive, rejoiced with much delight in one 
another's company. This led to the formation of a club of painters, 
sculptors, and goldsmiths, the best that were in Rome; and the 
founder of it was a sculptor with the name of Michel Agnolo.' He 
was a Sienese and a man of great ability, who could hold his own 
against any other workman in that art; but, above all, he was the 
most amusing comrade and the heartiest good fellow in the universe. 
Of all the members of the club, he was the eldest, and yet the 
youngest from the strength and vigour of his body. We often came 
together; at the very least twice a week. I must not omit to mention 
that our society counted Giulio Romano, the painter, and Gian Fran- 
cesco, both of them celebrated pupils of the mighty Raffaello da 

After many and many merry meetings, it seemed good to our 
worthy president that for the following Sunday we should repair to 
supper in his house, and that each one of us should be obliged to 
bring with him his crow (such was the nickname Michel Agnolo 
gave to women in the club), and that whoso did not bring one 
should be sconced by paying a supper to the whole company. Those 
of us who had no familiarity with women of the town, were forced 
to purvey themselves at no small trouble and expense, in order to 
appear without disgrace at that distinguished feast of artists. I had 
reckoned upon being well provided with a young woman of con- 
siderable beauty, called Pantasilea, who was very much in love with 
me; but I was obliged to give her up to one of my dearest friends, 
called II Bachiacca, who on his side had been, and still was, over 

' This sculptor came to Rome with his compatriot Baldassare Peruzzi, and was era- 
ployed upon the monument of Pope Adrian VI., which he executed with some help 
from Tribolo. 


head and ears in love with her.^ This exchange excited a certain 
amount of lover's anger, because the lady, seeing I had abandoned 
her at Bachiacca's first entreaty, imagined that I held in slight esteem 
the great affection which she bore me. In course o£ time a very 
serious incident grew out of this misunderstanding, through her 
desire to take revenge for the affront I had put upon her; whereof 
I shall speak hereafter in the proper place. 

Well, then, the hour was drawing nigh when we had to present 
ourselves before that company of men of genius, each with his own 
crow; and I was still unprovided; and yet I thought it would be 
stupid to fail of such a madcap bagatelle;' but what particularly 
weighed upon my mind was that I did not choose to lend the light 
of my countenance in that illustrious sphere to some miserable 
plume-plucked scarecrow. All these considerations made me devise 
a pleasant trick, for the increase of merriment and the diffusion of 
mirth in our society. 

Having taken this resolve, I sent for a stripling of sixteen years, 
who lived in the next house to mine; he was the son of a Spanish 
coppersmith. This young man gave his time to Latin studies, and 
was very diligent in their pursuit. He bore the name of Diego, had 
a handsome figure, and a complexion of marvellous brilliancy; the 
outlines of his head and face were far more beautiful than those of 
the antique Antinous: I had often copied them, gaining thereby 
much honour from the works in which I used them. The youth had 
no acquaintances, and was therefore quite unknown; dressed very 
ill and negligently; all his affections being set upon those wonderful 
studies of his. After bringing him to my house, I begged him to let 
me array him in the woman's clothes which I had caused to be laid 
out. He readily complied, and put them on at once, while I added 
new beauties to the beauty of his face by the elaborate and studied 
way in which I dressed his hair. In his ears I placed two little rings, 
set with two large and fair pearls; the rings were broken; they only 
clipped his ears, which looked as though they had been pierced. 

^ There were two artists at this epoch surnamed Bachiacca, the twin sons of Uber- 
tino Verdi, called respectively Francesco and Antonio. Francesco was an excellent 
painter of miniature oil-pictures; Antonio the first embroiderer of his age. The one 
alluded to here is probably Francesco. 

' Mancare di una sipazza com. The pazza cosa may be the supper-party or the 


Afterwards I wreathed his throat with chains of gold and rich jewels, 
and ornamented his fair hands with rings. Then I took him in a 
pleasant manner by one ear, and drew him before a great looking- 
glass. The lad, when he beheld himself, cried out with a burst of 
enthusiasm: "Heavens! is that Diego.?" I said: "That is Diego, from 
whom until this day I never asked for any kind of favour; but 
now I only beseech Diego to do me pleasure in one harmless 
thing; and it is this — I want him to come in those very clothes to 
supper with the company of artists whereof he has often heard me 
speak." The young man, who was honest, virtuous, and wise, 
checked his enthusiasm, bent his eyes to the ground, and stood for a 
short while in silence. Then with a sudden move he lifted up his 
face and said: "With Benvenuto I will go; now let us start." 

I wrapped his head in a large kind of napkin, which is called in 
Rome a summer-cloth; and when we reached the place of meeting, 
the company had already assembled, and everybody came forward 
to greet me. Michel Agnolo had placed himself between Giulio and 
Giovan Francesco. I lifted the veil from the head of my beauty; and 
then Michel Agnolo, who, as I have already said, was the most 
humorous and amusing fellow in the world, laid his two hands, the 
one on GiuHo's and the other on Gian Francesco's shoulders, and 
pulling them with all his force, made them bow down, while he, on 
his knees upon the floor, cried out for mercy, and called to all 
the folk in words like these: "Behold ye of what sort are the 
angels of paradise! for though they are called angels, here shall 
ye see that they are not all of the male gender." Then with a 
loud voice he added : 

"Angel beauteous, angel best, 
Save me thou, make thou me blest." 

Upon this my charming creature laughed, and lifted the right hand 
and gave him a papal benediction, with many pleasant words to 
boot. So Michel Agnolo stood up, and said it was the custom to 
kiss the feet of the Pope and the cheeks of angels; and having done 
the latter to Diego, the boy blushed deeply, which immensely en- 
hanced his beauty. 
When this reception was over, we found the whole room full of 


sonnets, which every man of us had made and sent to Michel Agnolo. 
My lad began to read them, and read them all aloud so gracefully, 
that his infinite charms were heightened beyond the powers of lan- 
guage to describe. Then followed conversation and witty sayings, 
on which I will not enlarge, for that is not my business; only one 
clever word must be mentioned, for it was spoken by that admirable 
painter Giulio, who, looking round with meaning* in his eyes on 
the bystanders, and fixing them particularly upon the women, turned 
to Michel Agnolo and said: "My dear Michel Agnolo, your nick- 
name of crow very well suits those ladies to-day, though I vow they 
are somewhat less fair than crows by the side of one of the most 
lovely peacocks which fancy could have painted." 

When the banquet was served and ready, and we were going to 
sit down to table, Giulio asked leave to be allowed to place us. This 
being granted, he took the women by the hand, and arranged them 
all upon the inner side, with my fair in the centre; then he placed all 
the men on the outside and me in the middle, saying there was no 
honour too great for my deserts. As a background to the women, 
there was spread an espalier of natural jasmines in full beauty,' which 
set off their charms, and especially Diego's, to such great advantage, 
that words would fail to describe the effect. Then we all of us fell 
to enjoying the abundance of our host's well-furnished table. The 
supper was followed by a short concert of delightful music, voices 
joining in harmony with instruments; and forasmuch as they were 
singing and playing from the book, my beauty begged to be allowed 
to sing his part. He performed the music better than almost all the 
rest, which so astonished the company that Giulio and Michel 
Agnolo dropped their earlier tone of banter, exchanging it for well- 
weighed terms of sober heartfelt admiration. 

After the music was over, a certain Aurelio Ascolano,' remarkable 
for his gift as an improvisatory poet, began to extol the women in 
choice phrases of exquisite compliment. While he was chanting, the 

* Virtuosamente. Cellini uses the word virtuoso in many senses, but always more 
with reference to intellectual than moral qualities. It denotes genius, artistic ability, 
masculine force, &c. 

^ Vn tcssuto di gehumini naturali e belUssimi. Tessuto is properly something woven, 
a fabric; and I am not sure whether Cellini docs not mean that the ladies had behind 
their backs a tapestry representing jasmines in a natural manner. 

^ Probably Eurialo d'Ascoli, a friend of Caro, Molza, Aretino. 


two girls who had my beauty between them never left off chattering. 
One of them related how she had gone wrong; the other asked mine 
how it had happened with her, and who were her friends, and how 
long she had been settled in Rome, and many other questions of the 
kind. It is true that, if I chose to describe such laughable episodes, 
I could relate several odd things which then occurred through Pan- 
tasilea's jealousy on my account; but since they form no part of my 
design, I pass them briefly over. At last the conversation of those 
loose women vexed my beauty, whom we had christened Pomona 
for the nonce; and Pomona, wanting to escape from their silly talk, 
turned restlessly upon her chair, first to one side and then to the 
other. The female brought by Giulio asked whether she felt indis- 
posed. Pomona answered, yes, she thought she was a month or so 
with a child; this gave them the opportunity of feeling her body and 
discovering the real sex of the supposed woman. Thereupon they 
quickly withdrew their hands and rose from table, uttering such 
gibing words as are commonly addressed to young men of eminent 
beauty. The whole room rang with laughter and astonishment, in 
the midst of which Michel Agnolo, assuming a fierce aspect, called 
out for leave to inflict on me the penance he thought fit. When this 
was granted, he lifted me aloft amid the clamour of the company, 
crying: "Long live the gentleman! long live the gentleman!" and 
added that this was the punishment I deserved for having played so 
fine a trick. Thus ended that most agreeable supper-party, and each 
of us returned to his own dwelling at the close of day. 


It would take too long to describe in detail all the many and 
divers pieces of work which I executed for a great variety of men. 
At present I need only say that I devoted myself with sustained dili- 
gence and industry to acquiring mastery in the several branches of 
art which I enumerated a short while back. And so I went on 
labouring incessantly at all of them; but since no opportunity has 
presented itself as yet for describing my most notable performances, 
I shall wait to report them in their proper place before very long. 
The Sienese sculptor, Michel Agnolo, of whom I have recently been 
speaking, was at that time making the monument of the late Pope 


Adrian. Giulio Romano went to paint for the Marquis of Mantua. 
The other members of the club betook themselves in different direc- 
tions, each to his own business; so that our company of artists was 
well-nigh altogether broken up. 

About this time there fell into my hands some little Turkish 
poniards; the handle as well as the blade of these daggers was made 
of iron, and so too was the sheath. They were engraved by means 
of iron implements with foliage in the most exquisite Turkish style, 
very neatly filled in with gold. The sight of them stirred in me a 
great desire to try my own skill in that branch, so different from 
the others which I practised; and finding that I succeeded to my 
satisfaction, I executed several pieces. Mine were far more beautiful 
and more durable than the Turkish, and this for divers reasons. One 
was that I cut my grooves much deeper and with wider trenches 
in the steel; for this is not usual in Turkish work. Another was that 
the Turkish arabesques are only composed of arum leaves with a few 
small sunflowers;' and though these have a certain grace, they do 
not yield so lasting a pleasure as the patterns which we use. It is 
true that in Italy we have several different ways of designing foliage; 
the Lombards, for example, construct very beautiful patterns by 
copying the leaves of briony and ivy in exquisite curves, which are 
extremely agreeable to the eye; the Tuscans and the Romans make 
a better choice, because they imitate the leaves of the acanthus, com- 
monly called bear's-foot, with its stalks and flowers, curling in divers 
wavy lines; and into these arabesques one may excellently well insert 
the figures of little birds and different animals, by which the good 
taste of the artist is displayed. Some hints for creatures of this sort 
can be observed in nature among the wild flowers, as, for instance, 
in snap-dragons and some few other plants, which must be com- 
bined and developed with the help of fanciful imaginings by clever 
draughtsmen. Such arabesques are called grotesques by the ignorant. 
They have obtained this name of grotesques among the moderns 
through being found in certain subterranean caverns in Rome by 
students of antiquity; which caverns were formerly chambers, hot- 
baths, cabinets for study, halls, and apartments of like nature. The 
curious discovering them in such places (since the level of the ground 
' Gkhero, arum maculatum, and cUzia, the sunflower. 


has gradually been raised while they have remained below, and since 
in Rome these vaulted rooms are commonly called grottoes), it has 
followed that the word grotesque is applied to the patterns I have 
mentioned. But this is not the right term for them, inasmuch as the 
ancients, who delighted in composing monsters out of goats, cows, 
and horses, called these chimerical hybrids by the name of monsters; 
and the modern artificers of whom I speak, fashioned from the 
foliage which they copied monsters of like nature; for these the 
proper name is therefore monsters, and not grotesques. Well, then, 
I designed patterns of this kind, and filled them in with gold, as I 
have mentioned; and they were far more pleasing to the eye than 
the Turkish. 

It chanced at that time that I lighted upon some jars or little 
antique urns filled with ashes, and among the ashes were some iron 
rings inlaid with gold (for the ancients also used that art), and in 
each of the rings was set a tiny cameo of shell. On applying to men 
of learning, they told me that these rings were worn as amulets by 
folk desirous of abiding with mind unshaken in any extraordinary 
circumstance, whether of good or evil fortune. Hereupon, at the 
request of certain noblemen who were my friends, I undertook to 
fabricate some trifling rings of this kind; but I made them of refined 
steel; and after they had been well engraved and inlaid with gold, 
they produced a very beautiful effect; and sometimes a single ring 
brought me more than forty crowns, merely in payment for my 

It was the custom at that epoch to wear little golden medals, upon 
which every nobleman or man of quality had some device or fancy 
of his own engraved; and these were worn in the cap. Of such pieces 
I made very many, and found them extremely difficult to work. I 
have already mentioned the admirable craftsman Caradosso, who 
used to make such ornaments; and as there were more than one 
figure on each piece, he asked at least a hundred gold crowns for 
his fee. This being so — not, however, because his prices were so 
high, but because he worked so slowly — I began to be employed by 
certain noblemen, for whom, among other things, I made a medal in 
competition with that great artist, and it had four figures, upon 
which I had expended an infinity of labour. These men of quaUty, 


when they compared my piece with that of the famous Caradosso, 
declared that mine was by far the better executed and more beautiful, 
and bade me ask what I liked as the reward of my trouble; for since 
I had given them such perfect satisfaction, they wished to do the 
like by me. I replied that my greatest reward and what I most de- 
sired was to have rivalled the masterpieces of so eminent an artist; 
and that if their lordships thought I had, I acknowledged myself 
to be most amply rewarded. With this I took my leave, and they 
immediately sent me such a very liberal present, that I was well 
content; indeed there grew in me so great a spirit to do well, that 
to this event I attributed what will afterwards be related of my 


I shall be obliged to digress a little from the history of my art, 
unless I were to omit some annoying incidents which have happened 
in the course of my troubled career. One of these, which I am about 
to describe, brought me into the greatest risk of my life. I have 
already told the story of the artists' club, and of the farcical adven- 
tures which happened owing to the woman whom I mentioned, 
Pantasilea, the one who felt for me that false and fulsome love. She 
was furiously enraged because of the pleasant trick by which I 
brought Diego to our banquet, and she swore to be revenged on me. 
How she did so is mixed up with the history of a young man called 
Luigi Pulci, who had recently come to Rome. He was the son of one 
of the Pulcis, who had been beheaded for incest with his daughter; 
and the youth possessed extraordinary gifts for poetry together with 
sound Latin scholarship; he wrote well, was graceful in manners, 
and of surprising personal beauty; he had just left the service of some 
bishop, whose name I do not remember, and was thoroughly tainted 
with a very foul disease. While he was yet a lad and living in 
Florence, they used in certain places of the city to meet together 
during the nights of summer on the public streets; and he, ranking 
among the best of the improvisatori, sang there. His recitations were 
so admirable, that the divine Michel Agnolo Buonarroti, that prince 
of sculptors and of painters, went, wherever he heard that he would 
be, with the greatest eagerness and delight to Usten to him. There 


was a man called Piloto, a goldsmith, very able in his art, who, 
together with myself, joined Buonarroti upon these occasions.' Thus 
acquaintance sprang up between me and Luigi Pulci; and so, after 
the lapse of many years, he came, in the miserable plight which I have 
mentioned, to make himself known to me again in Rome, beseeching 
me for God's sake to help him. Moved to compassion by his great 
talents, by the love of my fatherland, and by my own natural tender- 
ness of heart, I took him into my house, and had him medically 
treated in such wise that, being but a youth, he soon regained his 
health. While he was still pursuing his cure, he never omitted his 
studies, and I provided him with books according to the means at 
my disposal. The result was that Luigi, recognising the great ben- 
efits he had received from me, oftentimes with words and tears re- 
turned me thanks, protesting that if God should ever put good for- 
tune in his way, he would recompense me for my kindness. To 
this I replied that I had not done for him as much as I desired, but 
only what I could, and that it was the duty of human beings to 
be mutually serviceable. Only I suggested that he should repay the 
service I had rendered him by doing likewise to some one who might 
have the same need of him as he had had of me. 

The young man in question began to frequent the Court of Rome, 
where he soon found a situation, and enrolled himself in the suite of 
a bishop, a man of eighty years, who bore the title of Gurgensis.^ 
This bishop had a nephew called Messer Giovanni : he was a noble- 
man of Venice; and the said Messer Giovanni made show of mar- 
vellous attachment to Luigi Pulci's talents; and under the pretence 
of these talents, he brought him as familiar to himself as his own 
flesh and blood. Luigi having talked of me, and of his great obli- 
gations to me, with Messer Giovanni, the latter expressed a wish to 
make my acquaintance. Thus then it came to pass, that when I had 
upon a certain evening invited that woman Pantasilea to supper, and 
had assembled a company of men of parts who were my friends, just 
at the moment of our sitting down to table, Messer Giovanni and 

' Piloto, of whom we shall hear more hereafter, was a prominent figure in the 
Florentine society of artists, and a celebrated practical joker. Vasari says that a young 
man of whom he had spoken ill murdered him. Lasca's Novelle, Le Cene, should be 
studied by those who seek an insight into this curious Bohemia of the sixteenth century. 

2 Gxrolamo Balbo, of the noble Venetian family, Bishop of Gurck, in Carinthia. 


Luigi Pulci arrived, and after some complimentary speeches, they 
both remained to sup with us. The shameless strumpet, casting her 
eyes upon the young man's beauty, began at once to lay her nets for 
him; perceiving which, when the supper had come to an agreeable 
end, I took Luigi aside, and conjured him, by the benefits he said 
he owed me, to have nothing whatever to do with her. To this he 
answered: "Good heavens, Benvenuto! do you then take me for a 
madman?" I rejoined: "Not for a madman, but for a young fellow;" 
and I swore to him by God: "I do not give that woman the least 
thought; but for your sake I should be sorry if through her you 
came to break your neck." Upon these words he vowed and prayed 
to God, that, if ever he but spoke with her, he might upon the mo- 
ment break his neck. I think the poor lad swore this oath to God 
with all his heart, for he did break his neck, as I shall presently relate. 
Messer Giovanni showed signs too evident of loving him in a dis- 
honourable way; for we began to notice that Luigi had new suits 
of silk and velvet every morning, and it was known that he aban- 
doned himself altogether to bad courses. He neglected his fine tal- 
ents, and pretended not to see or recognise me, because I had once 
rebuked him, and told him he was giving his soul to foul vices, 
which would make him break his neck, as he had vowed. 


Now Messer Giovanni bought his favourite a very fine black horse, 
for which he paid 150 crowns. The beast was admirably trained to 
hand, so that Luigi could go daily to caracole around the lodgings 
of that prostitute Pantasilea. Though I took notice of this, I paid 
it no attention, only remarking that all things acted as their nature 
prompted; and meanwhile I gave my whole mind to my studies. It 
came to pass one Sunday evening that we were invited to sup to- 
gether with the Sienese sculptor, Michel Agnolo, and the time of 
the year was summer. Bachiacca, of whom I have already spoken, 
was present at the party; and he had brought with him his old 
flame, Pantasilea. When we were at table, she sat between me and 
Bachiacca; but in the very middle of the banquet she rose, and 
excused herself upon the pretext of a natural need, saying she would 
speedily return. We, meanwhile, continued talking very agreeably 


and supping; but she remained an unaccountably long time absent. 
It chanced that, keeping my ears open, I thought I heard a sort of 
subdued tittering in the street below. I had a knife in hand, which 
I was using for my service at the table. The window was so close 
to where I sat, that, by merely rising, I could see Luigi in the street, 
together with Pantasilea; and I heard Luigi saying: "Oh, if that 
devil Benvenuto only saw us, shouldn't we just catch it!" She an- 
swered: "Have no fear; only listen to the noise they're making; we 
are the last thing they're thinking of." At these words, having made 
them both well out, I leaped from the window, and took Luigi by 
the cape; and certainly I should then have killed him with the knife 
I held, but that he was riding a white horse, to which he clapped 
spurs, leaving his cape in my grasp, in order to preserve his life. 
Pantasilea took to her heels in the direction of a neighbouring 
church. The company at supper rose immediately, and came down, 
entreating me in a body to refrain from putting myself and them to 
inconvenience for a strumpet. I told them that I should not have 
let myself be moved on her account, but that I was bent on punishing 
the infamous young man, who showed how little he regarded me. 
Accordingly I would not yield to the remonstrances of those in- 
genious and worthy men, but took my sword, and went alone toward 
Prati: — the house where we were supping, I should say, stood close 
to the Castello gate, which led to Prati.' Walking thus upon the 
road to Prati, I had not gone far before the sun sank, and I re-entered 
Rome itself at a slow pace. Night had fallen; darkness had come on; 
but the gates of Rome were not yet shut. 

Toward two hours after sunset, I walked along Pantasilea's lodg- 
ing, with the intention, if Luigi Pulci were there, of doing something 
to the discontent of both. When I heard and saw that no one but 
a poor servant-girl called Canida was in the house, I went to put 
away my cloak and the scabbard of my sword, and then returned 
to the house, which stood behind the Banchi on the river Tiber. Just 
opposite stretched a garden belonging to an innkeeper called Romolo. 

' The Porta Castello was the gate called after the Castle of S. Angelo. Prati, so far 
as I can make out, was an open space between the Borgo and the Bridge of S. Angelo. 
In order to get inside Rome itself, Cellini had to pass a second gate. His own lodging 
and Pantasilea's house were in the quarter of the Bianchi, where are now the Via 
Giulia and Via de' Banchi Vecchi. 


It was enclosed by a thick hedge of thorns, in which I hid myself, 
standing upright, and waiting till the woman came back with Luigi. 
After keeping watch awhile there, my friend Bachiacca crept up to 
me; whether led by his own suspicions or by the advice of others, 
I cannot say. In a low voice he called out to me: "Gossip" (for so we 
used to name ourselves for fun) ; and then he prayed me for God's 
love, using the words which follow, with tears in the tone of his 
voice: "Dear gossip, I entreat you not to injure that poor girl; she 
at least has erred in no wise in this matter — no, not at all." When I 
heard what he was saying, I replied: "If you don't take yourself off 
now, at this first word I utter, I will bring my sword here down upon 
your head." Overwhelmed with fright, my poor gossip was sud- 
denly taken ill with the colic, and withdrew to ease himself apart; 
indeed, he could not but obey the call. There was a glorious heaven 
of stars, which shed good light to see by. All of a sudden I was aware 
of the noise of many horses; they were coming toward me from the 
one side and the other. It turned out to be Luigi and Pantasilea, 
attended by a certain Messer Benvegnato of Perugia, who was cham- 
berlain to Pope Clement, and followed by four doughty captains of 
Perugia, with some other valiant soldiers in the flower of youth; 
altogether reckoned, there were more than twelve swords. When 
I understood the matter, and saw not how to fly, I did my best to 
crouch into the hedge. But the thorns pricked and hurt me, goading 
me to madness like a bull; and I had half resolved to take a leap and 
hazard my escape. Just then Luigi, with his arm round Pantasilea's 
neck, was heard crying: "I must kiss you once again, if only to insult 
that traitor Benvenuto." At that moment, annoyed as I was by the 
prickles, and irritated by the young man's words, I sprang forth, 
lifted my sword on high, and shouted at the top of my voice: "You 
are all dead folk!" My blow descended on the shoulder of Luigi; 
but the satyrs who doted on him, had steeled his person round with 
coats of mail and such-like villainous defences; still the stroke fell 
with crushing force. Swerving aside, the sword hit Pantasilea full 
in nose and mouth. Both she and Luigi grovelled on the ground, 
while Bachiacca, with his breeches down to heels, screamed out and 
ran away. Then I turned upon the others boldly with my sword; 
and those valiant fellows, hearing a sudden commotion in the tav- 


ern, thought there was an army coming of a hundred men; and 
though they drew their swords with spirit, yet two horses which 
had taken fright in the tumuh cast them into such disorder that a 
couple of the best riders were thrown, and the remainder took to 
flight. I, seeing that the affair was turning out well for me, ran as 
quickly as I could, and came off with honour from the engagement, 
not wishing to tempt fortune more than was my duty. During this 
hurly-burly, some of the soldiers and captains wounded themselves 
with their own arms; and Messer Benvegnato, the Pope's chamber- 
lain, was kicked and trampled by his mule. One of the servants also, 
who had drawn his sword, fell down together with his master, and 
wounded him badly in the hand. Maddened by the pain, he swore 
louder than all the rest in his Perugian jargon, crying out: "By the 
body of God, I will take care that Benvegnato teaches Benvenuto 
how to live." He afterwards commissioned one of the captains who 
were with him (braver perhaps than the others, but with less aplomb, 
as being but a youth) to seek me out. The fellow came to visit me 
in the place of my retirement; that was the palace of a great Nea- 
politan nobleman, who had become acquainted with me in my art, 
and had besides taken a fancy to me because of my physical and 
mental aptitude for fighting, to which my lord himself was per- 
sonally well inclined. So, then, finding myself made much of, and 
being precisely in my element, I gave such answer to the captain 
as I think must have made him earnestly repent of having come to 
look me up. After a few days, when the wounds of Luigi, and the 
strumpet, and the rest were healing, this great Neapolitan nobleman 
received overtures from Messer Benvegnato; for the prelate's anger 
had cooled, and he proposed to ratify a peace between me and Luigi 
and the soldiers, who had personally no quarrel with me, and only 
wished to make my acquaintance. Accordingly my friend the noble- 
man replied that he would bring me where they chose to appoint, 
and that he was very willing to effect a reconciliation. He stipulated 
that no words should be bandied about on either side, seeing that 
would be little to their credit; it was enough to go through the form 
of drinking together and exchanging kisses; he for his part under- 
took to do the talking, and promised to settle the matter to their 
honour. This arrangement was carried out. On Thursday evening 


my protector took me to the house o£ Messer Benvegnato, where 
all the soldiers who had been present at that discomfiture were 
assembled, and already seated at table. My nobleman was attended 
by thirty brave fellows, all well armed; a circumstance which Messer 
Benvegnato had not anticipated. When we came into the hall, he 
walking first, I following, he spake to this effect: "God save you, 
gentlemen; we have come to see you, I and Benvenuto, whom I love 
like my own brother; and we are ready to do whatever you propose." 
Messer Benvegnato, seeing the hall filled with such a crowd of men, 
called out: "It is only peace, and nothing else, we ask of you." Ac- 
cordingly he promised that the governor of Rome and his catchpoles 
should give me no trouble. Then we made peace, and I returned to 
my shop, where I could not stay an hour without that Neapolitan 
nobleman either coming to see me or sending for me. 

Meanwhile Luigi Pulci, having recovered from his wound, rode 
every day upon the black horse which was so well trained to heel 
and bridle. One day, among others, after it had rained a little, and 
he was making his horse curvet just before Pantasilea's door, he 
slipped and fell, with the horse upon him. His right leg was broken 
short off in the thigh; and after a few days he died there in Pan- 
tasilea's lodgings, discharging thus the vow he registered so heartily 
to Heaven. Even so may it be seen that God keeps account of the 
good and the bad, and gives to each one what he merits. 


The whole world was now in warfare.' Pope Clement had sent to 
get some troops from Giovanni de' Medici, and when they came, 
they made such disturbances in Rome, that it was ill living in open 
shops." On this account I retired to a good snug house behind the 
Banchi, where I worked for all the friends I had acquired. Since I 
produced few things of much importance at that period, I need not 
waste time in talking about them. I took much pleasure in music 
and amusements of the kind. On the death of Giovanni de' Medici 

'War had broken out in 152 1 between Charles V. and Francis I., which disturbed 
all Europe and involved the States of Italy in serious complications. At the moment 
when this chapter opens, the Imperialist army under the Constable of Bourbon was 
marching upon Rome in 1527. 

^ These troops entered Rome in October 1526. They were disbanded in March, 1527. 


in Lombardy, the Pope, at the advice of Messer Jacopo Salviati, dis- 
missed the five bands he had engaged; and when the Constable of 
Bourbon knew there were no troops in Rome, he pushed his army 
with the utmost energy up to the city. The whole of Rome upon 
this flew to arms. I happened to be intimate with Alessandro, the 
son of Piero del Bene, who, at the time when the Colonnesi entered 
Rome, had requested me to guard his palace.^ On this more serious 
occasion, therefore, he prayed me to enlist fifty comrades for the 
protection of the said house, appointing me their captain, as I had 
been when the Colonnesi came. So I collected fifty young men of 
the highest courage, and we took up our quarters in his palace, with 
good pay and excellent appointments. 

Bourbon's army had now arrived before the walls of Rome, and 
Alessandro begged me to go with him to reconnoitre. So we went 
with one of the stoutest fellows in our Company; and on the way a 
youth called Cecchino della Casa joined himself to us. On reaching 
the wails by the Campo Santo, we could see that famous army, 
which was making every effort to enter the town. Upon the ram- 
parts where we took our station several young men were lying killed 
by the besiegers; the battle raged there desperately, and there was 
the densest fog imaginable. I turned to Alessandro and said : "Let us 
go home as soon as we can, for there is nothing to be done here; you 
see the enemies are mounting, and our men are in flight." Ales- 
sandro, in a panic, cried: "Would God that we had never come 
here!" and turned in maddest haste to fly. I took him up somewhat 
sharply with these words: "Since you have brought me here, I must 
perform some action worthy of a man;" and directing my arquebuse 
where I saw the thickest and most serried troop of fighting men, I 
aimed exactly at one whom I remarked to be higher than the rest; 
the fog prevented me from being certain whether he was on horse- 
back or on foot. Then I turned to Alessandro and Cecchino, and 
bade them discharge their arquebuses, showing them how to avoid 
being hit by the besiegers. When we had fired two rounds apiece, I 
crept cautiously up to the wall, and observing among the enemy a 

' Cellini here refers to the attack made upon Rome by the great Ghibelline house of 
Colonna, led by their chief captain, Pompeo, in September 1526. They took possession 
of the city and drove Clement into the Castle of S. Angelo, where they forced him to 
agree to terms favouring the Imperial cause. It was customary for Roman gentlemen 
to hire bravi for the defence of their palaces when any extraordinary disturbance was 
expected, as, for example, upon the vacation of the Papal Chair. 


most extraordinary confusion, I discovered afterwards that one of 
our shots had killed the Constable of Bourbon; and from what I sub- 
sequently learned, he was the man whom I had first noticed above 
the heads of the rest.^ 

Quitting our position on the ramparts, we crossed the Campo 
Santo, and entered the city by St. Peter's; then coming out exactly 
at the church of Santo Agnolo, we got with the greatest difficulty 
to the great gate of the castle; for the generals Renzo di Ceri and 
Orazio Baglioni were wounding and slaughtering everybody who 
abandoned the defence of the walls.^ By the time we had reached 
the great gate, part of the foemen had already entered Rome, and 
we had them in our rear. The castellan had ordered the portcullis 
to be lowered, in order to do which they cleared a little space, and 
this enabled us four to get inside. On the instant that I entered, the 
captain Pallone de' Medici claimed me as being of the Papal house- 
hold, and forced me to abandon Alessandro, which I had to do, much 
against my will. I ascended to the keep, and at the same instant Pope 
Clement came in through the corridors into the castle; he had refused 
to leave the palace of St. Peter earlier, being unable to believe that 
his enemies would effect their entrance into Rome.° Having got 
into the castle in this way, I attached myself to certain pieces of artil- 
lery, which were under the command of a bombardier called Giu- 
liano Fiorentino. Leaning there against the battlements, the un- 
happy man could see his poor house being sacked, and his wife 
and children outraged; fearing to strike his own folk, he dared not 
discharge the cannon, and flinging the burning fuse upon the ground, 
he wept as though his heart would break, and tore his cheeks with 

*A11 historians of the sack of Rome agree in saying that Bourbon was shot dead 
while placing ladders against the outworks near the shop Cellini mentions. But the 
honour of firing the arquebuse which brought him down cannot be assigned to any 
one in particular. Very different stories were current on the subject. See Gregorovius, 
Stadt Rom., vol. viii. p. 522. 

* For Renzo di Ceri see above, p. 46. Orazio Baglioni, of the semi-princely Perugian 
family, was a distinguished Condottiere. He subsequently obtained the captaincy of 
the Bande Nere, and died fighting near Naples in 1528. Orazio murdered several of 
his cousins in order to acquire the lordship of Perugia. His brother Malatesta undertook 
to defend Florence in the siege of 1530, and sold the city by treason to Clement. 

* Giovio, in his Life of the Cardinal Prospero Colonna, relates how he accompanied 
Clement in his flight from the Vatican to the castle. While passing some open portions 
of the gallery, he threw his violet mantle and cap of a Monsignore over the white stole 
of the Pontiff, for fear he might be shot at by the soldiers in the streets below. 


both his hands J Some of the other bombardiers were behaving in Uke 
manner; seeing which, I took one o£ the matches, and got the assist- 
ance of a few men who were not overcome by their emotions. I 
aimed some swivels and falconets at points where I saw it would 
be useful, and killed with them a good number of the enemy. Had 
it not been for this, the troops who poured into Rome that morning, 
and were marching straight upon the castle, might possibly have 
entered it with ease, because the artillery was doing them no damage. 
I went on firing under the eyes of several cardinals and lords, who 
kept blessing me and giving me the heartiest encouragement. In 
my enthusiasm I strove to achieve the impossible; let it suffice that it 
was I who saved the castle that morning, and brought the other 
bombardiers back to their duty.' I worked hard the whole of that 
day; and when the evening came, while the army was marching 
into Rome through the Trastevere, Pope Clement appointed a great 
Roman nobleman named Antonio Santacroce to be captain of all the 
gunners. The first thing this man did was to come to me, and having 
greeted me with the utmost kindness, he stationed me with five fine 
pieces of artillery on the highest point of the castle, to which the 
name of the Angel specially belongs. This circular eminence goes 
round the castle, and surveys both Prati and the town of Rome. The 
captain put under my orders enough men to help in managing my 
guns, and having seen me paid in advance, he gave me rations of 
bread and a little wine, and begged me to go forward as I had, begun. 
I was perhaps more inclined by nature to the profession of arms 
than to the one I had adopted, and I took such pleasure in its duties 
that I discharged them better than those of my own art. Night 
came, the enemy had entered Rome, and we who were in the castle 
(especially myself, who have always taken pleasure in extraordinary 
sights) stayed gazing on the indescribable scene of tumult and con- 
flagration in the streets below. People who were anywhere else but 
where we were, could not have formed the least imagination of 
what it was. I will not, however, set myself to describe that tragedy, 

'The short autobiography of Raffaello da Montelupo, a man in many respects re- 
sembling Cellini, confirms this part of our author's narrative. It is one of the most 
interesting pieces of evidence regarding what went on inside the castle during the sack 
of Rome. Montelupo was also a gunner, and commanded two pieces. 

' This is an instance of Cellini's exaggeration. He did more than yeoman's service, 
no doubt. But we cannot believe that, without him, the castle would have been taken. 


but will content myself with continuing the history of my own life 
and the circumstances which properly belong to it. 


During the course of my artillery practice, which I never inter- 
mitted through the whole month passed by us beleaguered in the 
castle, I met with a great many very striking accidents, all of them 
worthy to be related. But since I do not care to be too prolix, or to 
exhibit myself outside the sphere of my profession, I will omit the 
larger part of them, only touching upon those I cannot well neglect, 
which shall be the fewest in number and the most remarkable. The 
first which comes to hand is this: Messer Antonio Santacroce had 
made me come down from the Angel, in order to fire on some 
houses in the neighbourhood, where certain of our besiegers had 
been seen to enter. While I was firing, a cannon shot reached me, 
which hit the angle of a battlement, and carried off enough of it to 
be the cause why I sustained no injury. The whole mass struck me 
in the chest and took my breath away. I lay stretched upon the 
ground like a dead man, and could hear what the bystanders were 
saying. Among them all, Messer Antonio Santacroce lamented 
greatly, exclaiming: "Alas, alas! we have lost the best defender that 
we had." Attracted by the uproar, one of my comrades ran up; he 
was called Gianfrancesco, and was a bandsman, but was far more 
naturally given to medicine than to music. On the spot he flew off, 
crying for a stoop of the very best Greek wine. Then he made a 
tile red-hot, and cast upon it a good handful of wormwood; after 
which he sprinkled the Greek wine; and when the wormwood was 
well soaked, he laid it on my breast, just where the bruise was 
visible to all. Such was the virtue of the wormwood that I immedi- 
ately regained my scattered faculties. I wanted to begin to speak; 
but could not; for some stupid soldiers had filled my mouth with 
earth, imagining that by so doing they were giving me the sacra- 
ment; and indeed they were more like to have excommunicated me, 
since I could with difficulty come to myself again, the earth doing 
me more mischief than the blow. However, I escaped that danger, 
and returned to the rage and fury of the guns, pursuing my work 
there with all the ability and eagerness that I could summon. 


Pope Clement, by this, had sent to demand assistance from the 
Duke o£ Urbino, who was with the troops o£ Venice; he commis- 
sioned the envoy to tell his Excellency that the Castle of S. Angelo 
would send up every evening three beacons from its summit accom- 
panied by three discharges of the cannon thrice repeated, and that so 
long as this signal was continued, he might take for granted that the 
castle had not yielded. I was charged with lighting the beacons and 
firing the guns for this purpose; and all this while I pointed my 
artillery by day upon the places where mischief could be done. The 
Pope, in consequence, began to regard me with still greater favour, 
because he saw that I discharged my functions as intelligently as the 
task demanded. Aid from the Duke of Urbino' never came; on 
which, as it is not my business, I will make no further comment. 


While I was at work upon that diabolical task of mine, there came 
from time to time to watch me some of the cardinals who were 
invested in the castle; and most frequently the Cardinal of Ravenna 
and the Cardinal de' Gaddi.^ I often told them not to show them- 
selves, since their nasty red caps gave a fair mark to our enemies. 
From neighbouring buildings, such as the Torre de' Bini, we ran 
great peril when they were there; and at last I had them locked off, 
and gained thereby their deep ill-will. I frequently received visits 
also from the general, Orazio Baglioni, who was very well affected 
toward me. One day while he was talking with me, he noticed 
something going forward in a drinking-place outside the Porta di 
Castello, which bore the name of Baccanello. This tavern had for 
sign a sun painted between two windows, of a bright red colour. 

^ Francesco Maria della Rovere, Duke of Urbino, commanded a considerable army as 
general of the Church, and was now acting for Venice. Why he effected no diversion 
while the Imperial troops were marching upon Rome, and why he delayed to relieve 
the city, was never properly explained. Folk attributed his impotent conduct partly to 
a natural sluggishness in warfare, and partly to his hatred for the house of Medici. Leo 
X. had deprived him of his dukedom, and given it to a Medicean prince. It is to this 
that Cellini probably refers in the cautious phrase which ends the chapter. 

* Benedetto Accolti of Arezzo, Archbishop of Ravenna in 1524, obtained the hat in 
1527, three days before the sack of Rome. He was a distinguished man of letters. 
Niccolo Gaddi was created Cardinal on the same day as Accolti. We shall hear more of 
him in Cellini's pages. 


The windows being closed, Signor Orazio concluded that a band of 
soldiers were carousing at table just between them and behind the 
sun. So he said to me: "Benvenuto, if you think that you could hit 
that wall an ell's breadth from the sun with your demi-cannon here, 
I believe you would be doing a good stroke of business, for there is 
a great commotion there, and men of much importance must prob- 
ably be inside the house." I answered that I felt quite capable of 
hitting the sun in its centre, but that a barrel full of stones, which 
was standing close to the muzzle of the gun, might be knocked 
down by the shock of the discharge and the blast of the artillery. 
He rejoined: "Don't waste time, Benvenuto. In the first place, it is 
not possible, where it is standing, that the cannon's blast should bring 
it down; and even if it were to fall, and the Pope himself was 
underneath, the mischief would not be so great as you imagine. 
Fire, then, only fire!" Taking no more thought about it, I struck 
the sun in the centre, exactly as I said I should. The cask was dis- 
lodged, as I predicted, and fell precisely between Cardinal Farnese 
and Messer Jacopo Salviati.^ It might very well have dashed out 
the brains of both of them, except that just at that very moment 
Farnese was reproaching Salviati with having caused the sack of 
Rome, and while they stood apart from one another to exchange 
opprobrious remarks, my gabion fell without destroying them. When 
he heard the uproar in the court below, good Signor Orazio dashed 
off in a hurry; and I, thrusting my neck forward where the cask 
had fallen, heard some people saying: "It would not be a bad job 
to kill that gunner!" Upon this I turned two falconets toward the 
staircase, with mind resolved to let blaze on the first man who 
attempted to come up. The household of Cardinal Farnese must 
have received orders to go and do me some injury; accordingly I 
prepared to receive them, with a lighted match in hand. Recog- 
nising some who were approaching, I called out : "You lazy lubbers, 
if you don't pack off from there, and if but a man's child among 
you dares to touch the staircase, I have got two cannon loaded, which 
will blow you into powder. Go and tell the Cardinal that I was 
acting at the order of superior ofBcers, and that what we have done 

' Alessandro Farnese, Dean of the Sacred College, and afterwards Pope Paul III. 
Of Giacopo Salviati we have already heard, p. 14. 


and are doing is in defence of them priests/ and not to hurt them." 
They made away; and then came Signer Orazio BagUoni, running. 
I bade him stand back, else I'd murder him; for I knew very well 
who he was. He drew back a little, not without a certain show of 
fear, and called out: "Benvenuto, I am your friend!" To this I 
answered: "Sir, come up, but come alone, and then come as you 
like." The general, who was a man of mighty pride, stood still a 
moment, and then said angrily: "I have a good mind not to come 
up again, and to do quite the opposite of that which I intended 
toward you." I replied that just as I was put there to defend my 
neighbours, I was equally well able to defend myself too. He said 
that he was coming alone; and when he arrived at the top of the 
stairs, his features were more discomposed that I thought reasonable. 
So I kept my hand upon my sword, and stood eyeing him askance. 
Upon this he began to laugh, and the colour coming back into his 
face, he said to me with the most pleasant manner: "Friend Ben- 
venuto, I bear you as great love as I have it in my heart to give; and 
in God's good time I will render you proof of this. Would to God 
that you had killed those two rascals; for one of them is the cause 
of all this trouble, and the day perchance will come when the other 
will be found the cause of something even worse." He then begged 
me, if I should be asked, not to say that he was with me when I 
fired the gun; and for the rest bade me be of good cheer. The com- 
motion which the affair made was enormous, and lasted a long 
while. However, I will not enlarge upon it further, only adding 
that I was within an inch of revenging my father on Messer Jacopo 
Salviati, who had grievously injured him, according to my father's 
complaints. As it was, unwittingly I gave the fellow a great fright. 
Of Farnese I shall say nothing here, because it will appear in its 
proper place how well it would have been if I had killed him. 


I pursued my business of artilleryman, and every day performed 

some extraordinary feat, whereby the credit and the favour I acquired 

with the Pope was something indescribable. There never passed a 

day but what I killed one or another of our enemies in the besieging 

* Loro preii. Perhaps their priests. 


army. On one occasion the Pope was walking round the circular 
keep/ when he observed a Spanish Colonel in the Prati; he recog- 
nised the man by certain indications, seeing that this officer had 
formerly been in his service; and while he fixed his eyes on him, he 
kept talking about him. I, above by the Angel, knew nothing of 
all this, but spied a fellow down there, busying himself about the 
trenches with a javelin in his hand; he was dressed entirely in rose- 
colour; and so, studying the worst that I could do against him, I 
selected a gerfalcon which I had at hand; it is a piece of ordnance 
larger and longer than a swivel, and about the size of a demi- 
culverin. This I emptied, and loaded it again with a good charge of 
fine powder mixed with the coarser sort; then I aimed it exactly 
at the man in red, elevating prodigiously, because a piece of that 
calibre could hardly be expected to carry true at such a distance. I 
fired, and hit my man exactly in the middle. He had trussed his 
sword in front,' for swagger, after a way those Spaniards have; and 
my ball, when it struck him, broke upon the blade, and one could 
see the fellow cut in two fair halves. The Pope, who was expecting 
nothing of this kind, derived great pleasure and amazement from 
the sight, both because it seemed to him impossible that one should 
aim and hit the mark at such a distance, and also because the man 
was cut in two, and he could not comprehend how this should 
happen. He sent for me, and asked about it. I explained all the 
devices I had used in firing; but told him that why the man was cut 
in halves, neither he nor I could know. Upon my bended knees I 
then besought him to give me the pardon of his blessing for that 
homicide; and for all the others I had committed in the castle in the 
service of the Church. Thereat the Pope, raising his hand, and 
making a large open sign of the cross upon my face, told me that 
he blessed me, and that he gave me pardon for all murders I had ever 
perpetrated, or should ever perpetrate, in the service of the Apostolic 
Church. When I left him, I went aloft, and never stayed from firing 
to the utmost of my power; and few were the shots of mine that 
missed their mark. My drawing, and my fine studies in my craft, 
and my charming art of music, all were swallowed up in the din of 

• The Mastio or main body of Hadrian's Mausoleum, which was converted into a 
fortress during the Middle Ages. 

^ S'aveva messo la spada dinanzi. Perhaps was bearing his sword in front of him. 


that artillery; and if I were to relate in detail all the splendid things 
I did in that infernal work of cruelty, I should make the world 
stand by and wonder. But, not to be too prolix, I will pass them over. 
Only I must tell a few of the most remarkable, which are, as it 
were, forced in upon me. 

To begin then: pondering day and night what I could render for 
my own part in defence of Holy Church, and having noticed that 
the enemy changed guard and marched past through the great gate 
of Santo Spirito, which was within a reasonable range, I thereupon 
directed my attention to that spot; but, having to shoot sideways, I 
could not do the damage that I wished, although I killed a fair per- 
centage every day. This induced our adversaries, when they saw 
their passage covered by my guns, to load the roof of a certain house 
one night with thirty gabions, which obstructed the view I formerly 
enjoyed. Taking better thought than I had done of the whole 
situation, I now turned all my five pieces of artillery directly on the 
gabions, and waited till the evening hour, when they changed guard. 
Our enemies, thinking they were safe, came on at greater ease and 
in a closer body than usual; whereupon I set fire to my blow-pipes.^ 
Not merely did I dash to pieces the gabions which stood in my 
way; but, what was better, by that one blast I slaughtered more 
than thirty men. In consequence of this manoeuvre, which I repeated 
twice, the soldiers were thrown into such disorder, that being, more- 
over, encumbered with the spoils of that great sack, and some of 
them desirous of enjoying the fruits of their labour, they oftentimes 
showed a mind to mutiny and take themselves away from Rome. 
However, after coming to terms with their valiant captain, Gian di 
Urbino,* they were ultimately compelled, at their excessive incon- 
venience, to take another road when they changed guard. It cost 
them three miles of march, whereas before they had but half a mile. 
Having achieved this feat, I was entreated with prodigious favours 
by all the men of quality who were invested in the castle. This inci- 
dent was so important that I thought it well to relate it, before 

' Soffioni, the cannon being like tubes to blow a fire up. 
*This captain was a Spaniard, who played a very considerable figure in the war, 
distinguishing himself at the capture of Genoa and the battle of Lodi in 1522, and 
afterwards acting as Lieutenant-General to the Prince of Orange. He held Naples 
against Orazio Baglioni in 1528, and died before Spello in 1529. 


finishing the history of things outside my art, the which is the real 
object of my writing: forsooth, if I wanted to ornament my biog- 
raphy with such matters, I should have far too much to tell. There 
is only one more circumstance which, now that the occasion offers, 
I propose to record. 


I shall skip over some intervening circumstances, and tell how 
Pope Clement, wishing to save the tiaras and the whole collection 
of the great jewels of the Apostolic Camera, had me called, and shut 
himself up together with me and the Cavalierino in a room alone.' 
This Cavalierino had been a groom in the stable of Filippo Strozzi; 
he was French, and a person of the lowest birth; but being a most 
faithful servant, the Pope had made him very rich, and confided in 
him like himself. So the Pope, the Cavaliere, and I, being shut up 
together, they laid before me the tiaras and jewels of the regalia; 
and his Holiness ordered me to take all the gems out of their gold 
settings. This I accordingly did; afterwards I wrapt them separately 
up in bits of paper and we sewed them into the linings of the Pope's 
and the Cavaliere's clothes. Then they gave me all the gold, which 
weighed about two hundred pounds, and bade me melt it down as 
secretly as I was able. I went up to the Angel, where I had my 
lodging, and could lock the door so as to be free from interruption. 
There I built a little draught-furnace of bricks, with a largish pot, 
shaped like an open dish, at the bottom of it; and throwing the gold 
upon the coals, it gradually sank through and dropped into the pan. 
While the furnace was working I never left off watching how to 
annoy our enemies; and as their trenches were less than a stone's- 
throw right below us, I was able to inflict considerable damage on 
them with some useless missiles,^ of which there were several piles, 
forming the old munition of the castle. I chose a swivel and a 
falconet, which were both a little damaged in the muzzle, and filled 
them with the projectiles I have mentioned. When I fired my guns, 
they hurtled down like mad, occasioning all sorts of unexpected 

' This personage cannot be identified. The Filippo Strozzi mentioned as having 
been his master was the great opponent of the Medicean despotism, who l<illed himself 
in prison after the defeat of Montemurlo in 1539. He married in early life a daughter 
of Piero de' Medici. ^ Passatojacci. 


mischief in the trenches. Accordingly I kept these pieces always 
going at the same time that the gold was being melted down; and a 
little before vespers I noticed some one coming along the margin of 
the trench on muleback. The mule was trotting very quickly, and 
the man was talking to the soldiers in the trenches. I took the pre- 
caution of discharging my artillery just before he came immediately 
opposite; and so, making a good calculation, I hit my mark. One 
of the fragments struck him in the face; the rest were scattered on 
the mule, which fell dead. A tremendous uproar rose up from the 
trench; I opened fire with my other piece, doing them great hurt. 
The man turned out to be the Prince of Orange, who was carried 
through the trenches to a certain tavern in the neighbourhood, 
whither in a short while all the chief folk of the army came together. 

When Pope Clement heard what I had done, he sent at once to 
call for me, and inquired into the circumstance. I related the whole, 
and added that the man must have been of the greatest consequence, 
because the inn to which they carried him had been immediately 
filled by all the chiefs of the army, so far at least as I could judge. 
The Pope, with a shrewd instinct, sent for Messer Antonio Santa- 
croce, the nobleman who, as I have said, was chief and commander 
of the gunners. He bade him order all us bombardiers to point our 
pieces, which were very numerous, in one mass upon the house, and 
to discharge them all together upon the signal of an arquebuse being 
fired. He judged that if we killed the generals, the army, which was 
already almost on the point of breaking up, would take flight. God 
perhaps had heard the prayers they kept continually making, and 
meant to rid them in this manner of those impious scoundrels. 

We put our cannon in order at the command of Santacroce, and 
waited for the signal. But when Cardinal Orsini' became aware of 
what was going forward, he began to expostulate with the Pope, 
protesting that the thing by no means ought to happen, seeing they 
were on the point of concluding an accomrnodation, and that if the 
generals were killed, the rabble of the troops without a leader would 
storm the castle and complete their utter ruin. Consequently they 
could by no means allow the Pope's plan to be carried out. The poor 

' Franciotto Orsini was educated in the household of his kinsman Lorenzo de' 
Medici. He followed the profession of arms, and married; but after losing his wife 
took orders, and received the hat in 15 17. 


Pope, in despair, seeing himself assassinated both inside the castle 
and without, said that he left them to arrange it. On this, our orders 
were countermanded; but I, who chafed against the leash,* when I 
knew that they were coming round to bid me stop from firing, let 
blaze one of my demi-cannons, and struck a pillar in the courtyard 
of the house, around which I saw a crowd of people clustering. This 
shot did such damage to the enemy that it was like to have made 
them evacuate the house. Cardinal Orsini was absolutely for having 
me hanged or put to death; but the Pope took up my cause with 
spirit. The high words that passed between them, though I well 
know what they were, I will not here relate, because I make no pro- 
fession of writing history. It is enough for me to occupy myself with 
my own affairs. 


After I had melted down the gold, I took it to the Pope, who 
thanked me cordially for what I had done, and ordered the Cava- 
lierino to give me twenty-five crowns, apologising to me for his 
inability to give me more. A few days afterwards the articles of 
peace were signed. I went with three hundred comrades in the train 
of Signor Orazio Baglioni toward Perugia; and there he wished to 
make me captain of the company, but I was unwilling at the 
moment, saying that I wanted first to go and see my father, and to 
redeem the ban which was still in force against me at Florence. 
Signor Orazio told me that he had been appointed general of the 
Florentines; and Sir Pier Maria del Lotto, the envoy from Florence, 
was with him, to whom he specially recommended me as his man.' 

In course of time I came to Florence in the company of several 
comrades. The plague was raging with indescribable fury. When I 
reached home, I found my good father, who thought either that I 
must have been killed in the sack of Rome, or else that I should 
come back to him a beggar. However, I entirely defeated both these 
expectations; for I was alive, with plenty of money, a fellow to wait 
on me, and a good horse. My joy on greeting the old man was so 
intense, that, while he embraced and kissed me, I thought that I 

^lo che non potevo stare die mosse. 

' Pier Maria di Lotto of S. Miniato was notary to the Florentine Signoria. He col- 
lected the remnants of the Bande Nere, and gave them over to Orazio Baglioni, who 
contrived to escape from S. Angelo in safety to Perugia. 


must die upon the spot. After I had narrated all the devilries of that 
dreadful sack, and had given him a good quantity of crowns which 
I had gained by my soldiering, and when we had exchanged our 
tokens of affection, he went off to the Eight to redeem my ban. It so 
happened that one of those magistrates who sentenced me, was now 
again a member of the board. It was the very man who had so incon- 
siderately told my father he meant to march me out into the country 
with the lances. My father took this opportunity of addressing him 
with some meaning words, in order to mark his revenge, relying on 
the favour which Orazio Baglioni showed me. 

Matters standing thus, I told my father how Signor Orazio had 
appointed me captain, and that I ought to begin to think of enlisting 
my company. At these words the poor old man was greatly dis- 
turbed, and begged me for God's sake not to turn my thoughts to 
such an enterprise, although he knew I should be fit for this or yet 
a greater business, adding that his other son, my brother, was already 
a most valiant soldier, and that I ought to pursue the noble art in 
which I had laboured so many years and with such diligence of 
study. Although I promised to obey him, he reflected, like a man of 
sense, that if Signor Orazio came to Florence, I could not withdraw 
myself from military service, partly because I had passed my word, 
as well as for other reasons. He therefore thought of a good expedi- 
ent for sending me away, and spoke to me as follows : "Oh, my dear 
son, the plague in this town is raging with immitigable violence, and 
I am always fancying you will come home infected with it. I 
remember, when I was a young man, that I went to Mantua, where 
I was very kindly received, and stayed there several years. I pray and 
command you, for the love of me, to pack off and go thither; and 
I would have you do this to-day rather than to-morrow." 


I had always taken pleasure in seeing the world; and having 
never been in Mantua, I went there very willingly. Of the money 
I had brought to Florence, I left the greater part with my good 
father, promising to help him wherever I might be, and confiding 
him to the care of my elder sister. Her name was Cosa; and since 
she never cared to marry, she was admitted as a nun in Santa Orsola; 


but she put off taking the veil, in order to keep house for our old 
father, and to look after my younger sister, who was married to one 
Bartolommeo, a surgeon. So then, leaving home with my father's 
blessing, I mounted my good horse, and rode off on it to Mantua. 

It would take too long to describe that little journey in detail. The 
whole world being darkened over with plague and war, I had the 
greatest difficulty in reaching Mantua. However, in the end, I got 
there, and looked about for work to do, which I obtained from a 
Maestro Niccolo of Milan, goldsmith to the Duke of Mantua. Hav- 
ing thus settled down to work, I went after two days to visit Messer 
Giulio Romano, that most excellent painter, of whom I have already 
spoken, and my very good friend. He received me with the tender- 
est caresses, and took it very ill that I had not dismounted at his 
house. He was living like a lord, and executing a great work for 
the Duke outside the city gates, in a place called Del Te. It was a 
vast and prodigious undertaking, as may still, I suppose, be seen by 
those who go there.' 

Messer Giulio lost no time in speaking of me to the Duke in terms 
of the warmest praise.^ That Prince commissioned me to make a 
model for a reliquary, to hold the blood of Christ, which they have 
there, and say was brought them by Longinus. Then he turned to 
Giulio, bidding him supply me with a design for it. To this Giulio 
replied: "My lord, Benvenuto is a man who does not need other 
people's sketches, as your Excellency will be very well able to judge 
when you shall see his model." I set hand to the work, and made 
a drawing for the reliquary, well adapted to contain the sacred phial. 
Then I made a little waxen model of the cover. This was a seated 
Christ, supporting his great cross aloft with the left hand, while he 
seemed to lean against it, and with the fingers of his right hand he 
appeared to be opening the wound in his side. When it was finished, 
it pleased the Duke so much that he heaped favours on me, and 
gave me to understand that he would keep me in his service with 
such appointments as should enable me to live in affluence. 

Meanwhile, I had paid my duty to the Cardinal his brother, who 

' This is the famous Palazzo del Te, outside the walls of Mantua. It still remains the 
chief monument of Giulio Romano's versatile genius. 

^ Federigo Gonzago was at this time Marquis of Mantua. Charles V. erected his 
fief into a duchy in 1530. 


begged the Duke to allow me to make the pontifical seal of his most 
reverend lordship.' This I began; but while I was working at it I 
caught a quartan fever. During each access of this fever I was 
thrown into delirium, when I cursed Mantua and its master and 
whoever stayed there at his own liking. These words were reported 
to the Duke by the Milanese goldsmith, who had not omitted to 
notice that the Duke wanted to employ me. When the Prince heard 
the ravings of my sickness, he flew into a passion against me; and 
I being out of temper with Mantua, our bad feeling was reciprocal. 
The seal was finished after four months, together with several other 
little pieces I made for the Duke under the name of the Cardinal. 
His Reverence paid me well, and bade me return to Rome, to that 
marvellous city where we had made acquaintance. 

I quitted Mantua with a good sum of crowns, and reached Gov- 
erno, where the most valiant general Giovanni had been killed.* 
Here I had a slight relapse of fever, which did not interrupt my 
journey, and coming now to an end, it never returned on me again. 
When I arrived at Florence, I hoped to find my dear father, and 
knocking at the door, a hump-backed woman in a fury showed her 
face at the window; she drove me ofl with a torrent of abuse, scream- 
ing that the sight of me was a consumption to her. To this mis- 
shapen hag I shouted: "Ho! tell me, cross-grained hunchback, is 
there no other face to see here but your ugly visage?" "No, and 
bad luck to you." Whereto I answered in a loud voice: "In less than 
two hours may it^ never vex us more!" Attracted by this dispute, a 
neighbour put her head out, from whom I learned that my father 
and all the people in the house had died of the plague. As I had 
partly guessed it might be so, my grief was not so great as it would 
otherwise have been. The woman afterwards told me that only my 
sister Liperata had escaped, and that she had taken refuge with a 
pious lady named Mona Andrea de' Bellacci." 

'Ercole Gonzaga, created Cardinal in 1527. After the death of his brother, Duke 
Federigo, he governed Mantua for sixteen years as regent for his nephews, and became 
famous as a patron of arts and letters. He died at Trento in 1563 while presiding over 
the Council there, in the pontificate of Pius IV. 

* Giovanni de' Medici, surnamed Delle Bande Nere. 

' /'. f., your ugly visage. 

^ Carpani states that between May and November 1527 about 40,000 persons died of 
plague in Florence. 


I took my way from thence to the inn, and met by accident a very 
dear friend of mine, Giovanni Rigogli. Dismounting at his house, 
we proceeded to the piazza, where I received inteUigence that my 
brother was alive, and went to find him at the house of a friend of 
his called Bertino Aldobrandini. On meeting, we made demonstra- 
tions of the most passionate affection; for he had heard that I was 
dead, and I had heard that he was dead; and so our joy at embracing 
one another was extravagant. Then he broke out into a loud fit of 
laughter, and said: "Come, brother, I will take you where I'm sure 
you'd never guess! You must know that I have given our sister 
Liperata away again in marriage, and she holds it for absolutely 
certain that you are dead." On our way we told each other all the 
wonderful adventures we had met with; and when we reached the 
house where our sister dwelt, the surprise of seeing me alive threw 
her into a fainting fit, and she fell senseless in my arms. Had not 
my brother been present, her speechlessness and sudden seizure must 
have made her husband imagine I was some one different from a 
brother — as indeed at first it did. Cecchino, however, explained mat- 
ters, and busied himself in helping the swooning woman, who soon 
come to. Then, after shedding some tears for father, sister, husband, 
and a little son whom she had lost, she began to get the supper 
ready; and during our merry meeting all that evening we talked no 
more about dead folk, but rather discoursed gaily about weddings. 
Thus, then, with gladness and great enjoyment we brought our 
supper-party to an end. 


On the entreaty of my brother and sister, I remained at Florence, 
though my own inclination led me to return to Rome. The dear 
friend, also, who had helped me in some of my earlier troubles, as I 
have narrated (I mean Piero, son of Giovanni Landi) — he too 
advised me to make some stay in Florence; for the Medici were in 
exile, that is to say, Signor Ippolito and Signor Alessandro, who were 
afterwards respectively Cardinal and Duke of Florence; and he 
judged it would be well for me to wait and see what happened.' 

1 1 may remind my readers that the three Medici of the ruling house were now ille- 
gitimate. Clement VII. was the bastard son of Giuliano, brother of Lorenzo the Mag- 


At that time there arrived in Florence a Sienese, called Girolamo 
Marretti, who had lived long in Turkey and was a man of lively intel- 
lect. He came to my shop, and commissioned me to make a golden 
medal to be worn in the hat. The subject was to be Hercules wrench- 
ing the lion's mouth. While I was working at this piece, Michel 
Agnolo Buonarroti came oftentimes to see it. I had spent infinite 
pains upon the design, so that the attitude of the figure and the fierce 
passion of the beast were executed in quite a different style from that 
of any craftsman who had hitherto attempted such groups. This, 
together with the fact that the special branch of art was totally 
unknown to Michel Agnolo, made the divine master give such praises 
to my work that I felt incredibly inspired for further effort. However, 
I found little else to do but jewel-setting; and though I gained more 
thus than in any other way, yet I was dissatisfied, for I would fain 
have been employed upon some higher task than that of setting 
precious stones. 

Just then 1 met with Federigo Ginori, a young man of a very 
lofty spirit. He had lived some years in Naples, and being endowed 
with great charms of person and presence, had been the lover of a 
Neapolitan princess. He wanted to have a medal made, with Atlas 
bearing the world upon his shoulders, and applied to Michel Agnolo 
for a design. Michel Agnolo made this answer: "Go and find out a 
young goldsmith named Benvenuto; he will serve you admirably, 
and certainly he does not stand in need of sketches by me. However, 
to prevent your thinking that I want to save myself the trouble of 
so slight a matter, I will gladly sketch you something; but mean- 
while speak to Benvenuto, and let him also make a model; he can 
then execute the better of the two designs." Federigo Ginori came 
to me, and told me what he wanted, adding thereto how Michel 
Agnolo had praised me, and how he had suggested I should make 
a waxen model while he undertook to supply a sketch. The words 
of that great man so heartened me, that I set myself to work at once 
with eagerness upon the model; and when I had finished it, a 

nificent. Ippolito, the Cardinal, was the bastard of Giuliano, Duke of Nemours, son 
of Lorenzo the Magnificent. Alessandro was the reputed bastard of Lorenzo, Duke of 
Urbino, grandson of Lorenzo the Magnificent. Alessandro became Duke of Florence, 
and after poisoning his cousin, Cardinal Ippolito, was murdered by a distant cousin, 
Lorenzino de' Medici. In this way the male line of Lorenzo the Magnificent was 


painter who was intimate with Michel Agnolo, called Giuliano 
Bugiardini, brought me the drawing of Atlas.^ On the same occasion 
I showed Giuliano my little model in wax, which was very different 
from Michel Agnolo's drawing; and Federigo, in concert with 
Bugiardini, agreed that I should work upon my model. So I took 
it in hand, and when Michel Agnolo saw it, he praised me to the 
skies. This was a figure, as I have said, chiselled on a plate of gold; 
Atlas had the heaven upon his back, made out of a crystal ball, 
engraved with the zodiac upon a field of lapis-lazuli. The whole 
composition produced an indescribably fine effect; and under it ran 
the legend Sumtna tulisse juvat!^ Federigo was so thoroughly well 
pleased that he paid me very liberally. Aluigi Alamanni was at that 
time in Florence. Federigo Ginori, who enjoyed his friendship, 
brought him often to my workshop, and through this introduction 
we became very intimate together.* 


Pope Clement had now declared war upon the city of Florence, 
which thereupon was put in a state of defence; and the militia being 
organised in each quarter of the town, I too received orders to serve 
in my turn. I provided myself with a rich outfit, and went about 
with the highest nobility of Florence, who showed a unanimous 
desire to fight for the defence of our liberties. Meanwhile the 
speeches which are usual upon such occasions were made in every 
quarter;^ the young men met together more than was their wont, 
and everywhere we had but one topic of conversation. 

It happened one day, about noon, that a crowd of tall men and 
lusty young fellows, the first in the city, were assembled in my work- 
shop, when a letter from Rome was put into my hands. It came 
from a man called Maestro Giacopino della Barca. His real name 
was Giacopo della Sciorina, but they called him della Barca in Rome, 

2 This painter was the pupil of Bertoldo, a man of simple maimers and of some 
excellence in his art. The gallery at Bologna has a fine specimen of his painting. 
Michel Agnolo delighted in his society. 

^ Cellini says Summam. 

* This was the agreeable didactic poet Luigi Alamanni, who had to fly from Florence 
after a conspiracy against Cardinal Giulio de' Medici in 1522. He could never recon- 
cile himself to the Medicean tyranny, and finally took refuge in France, where he was 
honoured by Franfois I. He died at Amboise in 1556. 

^ Fecesi quelle orazioni. It may mean "the prayers were offered up." 


because he kept a ferry boat upon the Tiber between Ponte Sisto and 
Ponte Santo Agnolo. He was a person of considerable talent, dis- 
tinguished by his pleasantries and striking conversation, and he had 
formerly been a designer of patterns for the cloth-weavers in Flor- 
ence. This man was intimate with the Pope, who took great pleas- 
ure in hearing him talk. Being one day engaged in conversation, 
they touched upon the sack and the defence of the castle. This 
brought me to the Pope's mind, and he spoke of me in the very 
highest terms, adding that if he knew where I was, he should be 
glad to get me back. Maestro Giacopo said I was in Florence; 
whereupon the Pope bade the man write and tell me to return to 
him. The letter I have mentioned was to the effect that I should 
do well if I resumed the service of Clement, and that this was sure 
to turn out to my advantage. 

The young men who were present were curious to know what the 
letter contained; wherefore I concealed it as well as I could. After- 
wards I wrote to Maestro Giacopo, begging him by no means, 
whether for good or evil, to write to me again. He however grew 
more obstinate in his officiousness, and wrote me another letter, so 
extravagantly worded, that if it had been seen, I should have got 
into serious trouble. The substance of it was that the Pope required 
me to come at once, wanting to employ me on work of the greatest 
consequence; also that if I wished to act aright, I ought to throw up 
everything, and not to stand against a Pope in the party of those 
hare-brained Radicals. This letter, when I read it, put me in such 
a fright, that I went to seek my dear friend Piero Landi. Directly 
he set eyes on me, he asked what accident had happened to upset 
me so. I told my friend that it was quitei impossible for me to 
explain what lay upon my mind, and what was causing me this 
trouble; only I entreated him to take the keys I gave him, and to 
return the gems and gold in my drawers to such and such persons, 
whose names he would find inscribed upon my memorandum-book; 
next, I begged him to pack up the furniture of my house, and keep 
account of it with his usual loving-kindness; and in a few days he 
should hear where I was. The prudent young man, guessing per- 
haps pretty nearly how the matter stood, replied: "My brother, go 
your ways quickly; then write to me, and have no further care about 


your things." I did as he advised. He was the most loyal friend, the 
wisest, the most worthy, the most discreet, the most affectionate that 
I have ever known. I left Florence and went to Rome, and from 
there I wrote to him. 


Upon my arrival in Rorhe,' I found several of my former friends, 
by whom I was very well received and kindly entertained. No time 
was lost before I set myself to work at things which brought me 
profit, but were not notable enough to be described. There was a 
fine old man, a goldsmith, called Raffaello del Moro, who had con- 
siderable reputation in the trade, and was to boot a very worthy 
fellow. He begged me to consent to enter his workshop, saying he 
had some commissions of importance to execute, on which high 
profits might be looked for; so I accepted his proposal with good- 

More than ten days had elapsed, and I had not presented myself 
to Maestro Giacopino della Barca. Meeting me one day by accident, 
he gave me a hearty welcome, and asked me how long I had been 
in Rome. When I told him I had been there about a fortnight, he 
took it very ill, and said that I showed little esteem for a Pope who 
had urgently compelled him to write three times for me. I, who 
had taken his persistence in the matter still more ill, made no reply, 
but swallowed down my irritation. The man, who suffered from a 
flux of words, began one of his long yarns, and went on talking, 
till at the last, when I saw him tired out, I merely said that he might 
bring me to the Pope when he saw fit. He answered that any time 
would do for him; and I, that I was always ready. So we took our 
way toward the palace. It was a Maundy Thursday; and when we 
reached the apartments of the Pope, he being known there and I 
expected, we were at once admitted. 

1 Cellini has been severely taxed for leaving Florence at this juncture and taking 
service under Pope Clement, the oppressor of her liberties. His own narrative admits 
some sense of shame. Yet we should remember that he never took any decided part 
in politics, and belonged to a family of Medicean sympathies. His father served Lo- 
renzo and Piero; his brother was a soldier of Giovanni delle Bande Nere and Duke 
Alessandro. Many most excellent Florentines were convinced that the Medicean gov- 
ernment was beneficial; and an artist had certainly more to expect from it than from 
the Republic. 


The Pope was in bed, suffering from a slight indisposition, and 
he had with him Messer Jacopo Salviati and the Archbishop of 
Capua.^ When the Pope set eyes on me, he was exceedingly glad. 
I kissed his feet, and then, as humbly as I could, drew near to him, 
and let him understand that I had things of consequence to utter. 
On this he waved his hand, and the two prelates retired to a distance 
from us. I began at once to speak: "Most blessed Father, from the 
time of the sack up to this hour, I have never been able to confess 
or to communicate, because they refuse me absolution. The case is 
this. When I melted down the gold and worked at the unsetting of 
those jewels, your Holiness ordered the Cavalierino to give me a 
modest reward for my labours, of which I received nothing, but on 
the contrary he rather paid me with abuse. When then I ascended 
to the chamber where I had melted down the gold, and washed the 
ashes, I found about a pound and a half of gold in tiny grains like 
millet-seeds; and inasmuch as I had not money enough to take me 
home respectably, I thought I would avail myself of this, and give it 
back again when opportunity should offer. Now I am here at the 
feet of your Holiness, who is the only true confessor. I entreat you 
to do me the favour of granting me indulgence, so that I may be 
able to confess and communicate, and by the grace of your Holiness 
regain the grace of my Lord God." Upon this the Pope, with a 
scarcely perceptible sigh, remembering perhaps his former trials, 
spoke as follows: "Benvenuto, I thoroughly believe what you tell 
me; it is in my power to absolve you of any unbecoming deed you 
may have done, and, what is more, I have the will. So, then, speak 
out with frankness and perfect confidence; for if you had taken the 
value of a whole tiara, I am quite ready to pardon you." Thereupon 
I answered: "I took nothing, most blessed Father, but what I have 
confessed; and this did not amount to the value of 140 ducats, for 
that was the sum I received from the Mint in Perugia, and with it 
I went home to comfort my poor old father." The Pope said : "Your 
father has been as virtuous, good, and worthy a man as was ever 
born, and you have not degenerated from him. I am very sorry that 
the money was so little; but such as you say it was, I make you a 

2 Nicolas Schomberg, a learned Dominican and disciple of Savonarola, made Arch- 
bishop of Capua in 1520. He was a faithful and able minister of Clement. Paul III. 
gave him the hat in 1535, and he died in 1537. 


present of it, and give you my full pardon. Assure your confessor 
of this, if there is nothing else upon your conscience which concerns 
me. Afterwards, when you have confessed and communicated, you 
shall present yourself to me again, and it will be to your advantage." 

When I parted from the Pope, Messer Giacopo and the Arch- 
bishop approached, and the Pope spoke to them in the highest terms 
imaginable about me; he said that he had confessed and absolved 
me; then he commissioned the Archbishop of Capua to send for me 
and ask if I had any other need beyond this matter, giving him full 
leave to absolve me amply, and bidding him, moreover, treat me 
with the utmost kindness. 

While I was walking away with Maestro Giacopino, he asked me 
very inquisitively what was the close and lengthy conversation I had 
had with his Holiness. After he had repeated the question more 
than twice, I said that I did not mean to tell him, because they were 
matters with which he had nothing to do, and therefore he need not 
go on asking me. Then I went to do what had been agreed on with 
the Pope; and after the two festivals were over, I again presented 
myself before his Holiness. He received me even better than before, 
and said: "If you had come a little earlier to Rome, I should have 
commissioned you to restore my two tiaras, which were pulled to 
pieces in the castle. These, however, with the exception of the 
gems, are objects of little artistic interest; so I will employ you on a 
piece of the very greatest consequence, where you will be able to 
exhibit all your talents. It is a button for my priest's cope, which 
has to be made round like a trencher, and as big as a little trencher, 
one-third of a cubit wide. Upon this I want you to represent a God 
the Father in half-relief, and in the middle to set that magnificent big 
diamond, which you remember, together with several other gems of 
the greatest value. Caradosso began to make me one, but did not 
finish it; I want yours to be finished quickly, so that I may enjoy 
the use of it a little while. Go, then, and make me a fine model." 
He had all the jewels shown me, and then I went off like a shot' to 
set myself to work. 

^ Affusolato. Lit., straight as a spindle. 



During the time when Florence was besieged, Federigo Ginori, 
for whom I made that medal of Atlas, died of consumption, and 
the medal came into the hands of Messer Luigi Alamanni, who, 
after a little while, took it to present in person to Francis, king of 
France, accompanied by some of his own finest compositions. The 
King was exceedingly delighted with the gift; whereupon Messer 
Luigi told his Majesty so much about my personal qualities, as well 
as my art, and spoke so favourably, that the King expressed a wish 
to know me. 

Meanwhile I pushed my model for the button forward with all the 
diligence I could, constructing it exactly of the size which the jewel 
itself was meant to have. In the trade of the goldsmiths it roused 
considerable jealousy among those who thought that they were 
capable of matching it. A certain Micheletto had just come to 
Rome;' he was very clever at engraving cornelians, and was, more- 
over, a most intelligent jeweller, an old man and of great celebrity. 
He had been employed upon the Pope's tiaras; and while I was 
working at my model, he wondered much that I had not applied to 
him, being as he was a man of intelligence and of large credit with 
the Pope. At last, when he saw that I was not coming to him, he 
came to me, and asked me what I was about. "What the Pope has 
ordered me," I answered. Then he said: "The Pope has commis- 
sioned me to superintend everything which is being made for his 
Holiness." I only replied that I would ask the Pope, and then should 
know what answer I ought to give him. He told me that I should 
repent, and departing in anger, had an interview with all the masters 
of the art; they deliberated on the matter, and charged Michele with 
the conduct of the whole affair. As was to be expected from a person 
of his talents, he ordered more than thirty drawings to be made, 
all differing in their details, for the piece the Pope had commis- 

Having already access to his Holiness's ear, he took into his 
counsel another jeweller, named Pompeo, a Milanese, who was in 
favour with the Pope, and related to Messer Traiano, the first 
' Vasari calls this eminent engraver of gems Michelino. 


chamberlain of the court ;^ these two together, then, began to insinu- 
ate that they had seen my model, and did not think me up to a work 
of such extraordinary import. The Pope replied that he would also 
have to see it, and that if he then found me unfit for the purpose, he 
should look around for one who was fit. Both of them put in that 
they had several excellent designs ready; to which the Pope made 
answer, that he was very pleased to hear it, but that he did not care 
to look at them till I had completed my model; afterwards, he would 
take them all into consideration at the same time. 

After a few days I finished my model, and took it to the Pope 
one morning, when Messer Traiano made me wait till he had sent 
for Micheletto and Pompeo, bidding them make haste and bring 
their drawings. On their arrival we were introduced, and Micheletto 
and Pompeo immediately unrolled their papers, which the Pope 
inspected. The draughtsmen who had been employed were not in 
the jeweller's trade, and therefore, knew nothing about giving their 
right place to precious stones; and the jewellers, on their side, had 
not shown them how; for I ought to say that a jeweller, when he 
has to work with figures, must of necessity understand design, else 
he cannot produce anything worth looking at: and so it turned out 
that all of them had stuck that famous diamond in the middle of 
the breast of God the Father. The Pope, who was an excellent con- 
noisseur, observing this mistake, approved of none of them; and 
when he had looked at about ten, he flung the rest down, and said 
to me, who was standing at a distance : "Now show me your model, 
Benvenuto, so that I may see if you have made the same mistake as 
those fellows." I came forward, and opened a little round box; 
whereupon one would have thought that a light from heaven had 
struck the Pope's eyes. He cried aloud : "If you had been in my own 
body, you could not have done it better, as this proves. Those men 
there have found the right way to bring shame upon themselves!" 
A crowd of great lords pressing round, the Pope pointed out the 
difference between my model and the drawings. When he had 
sufficiently commended it, the others standing terrified and stupid 
before him, he turned to me and said: "I am only afraid of one 
thing, and that is of the utmost consequence. Friend Benvenuto, 
* Messer Traiano Alicorno. 


wax is easy to work in; the real difficulty is to execute this in gold." 
To those words I answered without a moment's hesitation: "Most 
blessed Father, if I do not work it ten times better than the model, 
let it be agreed beforehand that you pay me nothing." When they 
heard this, the noblemen made a great stir, crying out that I was 
promising too much. Among them was an eminent philosopher, 
who spoke out in my favour: "From the fine physiognomy and 
bodily symmetry which I observed in this young man, I predict that 
he will accomplish what he says, and think that he will even go 
beyond it." The Pope put in: "And this is my opinion also." Then 
he called his chamberlain, Messer Traiano, and bade him bring five 
hundred golden ducats of the Camera. 

While we were waiting for the money, the Pope turned once more 
to gaze at leisure on the dexterous device I had employed for com- 
bining the diamond with the figure of God the Father. I had put 
the diamond exactly in the center of the piece; and above it God the 
Father was shown seated, leaning nobly in a sideways attitude,' 
which made a perfect composition, and did not interfere with the 
stone's effect. Lifting his right hand, he was in the act of giving 
the benediction. Below the diamond I had placed three children, 
who, with their arms upraised, were supporting the jewel. One of 
them, in the middle, was in full relief, the other two in half-relief. 
All around I set a crowd of cherubs, in divers attitudes, adapted to 
the other gems. A mantle undulated to the wind around the figure 
of the Father, from the folds of which cherubs peeped out; and 
there were other ornaments besides which made a very beautiful 
effect. The work was executed in white stucco on a black stone. 
When the money came, the Pope gave it to me with his own hand, 
and begged me in the most winning terms to let him have it finished 
in his own days, adding that this should be to my advantage. 


I took the money and the model home, and was in the utmost 
impatience to begin my work. After I had laboured diligently for 
eight days, the Pope sent word by one of his chamberlains, a very 
great gentleman of Bologna, that I was to come to him and bring 

'/n un certo bd modo svolio. That means: turned aside, not fronting the spectator. 


what I had got in hand. On the way, the chamberlain, who was the 
most gende-mannered person in the Roman court, told me that the 
Pope not only wanted to see what I was doing, but also intended to 
intrust me with another task of the highest consequence, which was, 
in fact, to furnish dies for the money of the Mint; and bade me arm 
myself beforehand with the answer I should give; in short, he 
wished me to be prepared, and therefore he had spoken. When we 
came into the presence, I lost no time in exhibiting the golden plate, 
upon which I had as yet carved nothing but my figure of God the 
Father; but this, though only in the rough, displayed a grander 
style than that of the waxen model. The Pope regarded it with stupe- 
faction, and exclaimed: "From this moment forward I will believe 
everything you say." Then loading me with marks of favour, he 
added: "It is my intention to give you another commission, which, 
if you feel competent to execute it, I shall have no less at heart than 
this, or more." He proceeded to tell me that he wished to make 
dies for the coinage of his realm, and asked me if I had ever tried 
my hand at such things, and if I had the courage to attempt them. 
I answered that of courage for the task I had no lack, and that I had 
seen how dies were made, but that I had not ever made any. There 
was in the presence a certain Messer Tommaso, of Prato, his HoH- 
ness's Datary;' and this man, being a friend of my enemies, put in: 
"Most blessed Father, the favours you are showering upon this young 
man (and he by nature so extremely overbold) are enough to make 
him promise you a new world. You have already given him one 
great task, and now, by adding a greater, you are like to make them 
clash together." The Pope, in a rage, turned round on him, and 
told him to mind his own business. Then he commanded me to 
make the model for a broad doubloon of gold, upon which he 
wanted a naked Christ with his hands tied, and the inscription 
Ecce Homo; the reverse was to have a Pope and Emperor in the 
act together of propping up a cross which seemed to fall, and this 
legend : Unus spiritus et una fides erat in eis. 

' His full name was Tommaso Cortese. The Papal Datario was the chief secretary 
of the office for requests, petitions and patents. His title was derived from its being 
his duty to affix the Datum Roma to documents. The fees of this office, which was 
also called Datario, brought in a large revenue to the Papacy. 


After the Pope had ordered this handsome coin, Bandinello the 
sculptor came up; he had not yet been made a knight; and, with his 
wonted presumption muffled up in ignorance, said: "For these gold- 
smiths one must make drawings for such fine things as that." I 
turned round upon him in a moment, and cried out that I did not 
want his drawings for my art, but that I hoped before very long to 
give his art some trouble by my drawings. The Pope expressed high 
satisfaction at these words, and turning to me said: "Go then, my 
Benvenuto, and devote yourself with spirit to my service, and do not 
lend an ear to the chattering of these silly fellows." 

So I went off, and very quickly made two dies of steel; then I 
stamped a coin in gold, and one Sunday after dinner took the coin 
and the dies to the Pope, who, when he saw the piece, was aston- 
ished and greatly gratified, not only because my work pleased him 
excessively, but also because of the rapidity with which I had per- 
formed it. For the further satisfaction and amazement of his holi- 
ness, I had brought with me all the old coins which in former times 
had been made by those able men who served Popes Giulio and 
Leo; and when I noticed that mine pleased him far better, I drew 
forth from my bosom a patent,^ in which I prayed for the post of 
stamp-master^ in the Mint. This place was worth six golden crowns 
a month, in addition to the dies, which were paid at the rate of a 
ducat for three by the Master of the Mint. The Pope took my 
patent and handed it to the Datary, telling him to lose no time in 
dispatching the business. The Datary began to put it in his pocket, 
saying: "Most blessed Father, your Holiness ought not to go so fast; 
these are matters which deserve some reflection." To this the Pope 
replied: "I have heard what you have got to say; give me here that 
patent." He took it, and signed it at once with his own hand; then, 
giving it back, added: "Now, you have no answer left; see that you 
dispatch it at once, for this is my pleasure; and Benvenuto's shoes 
are worth more than the eyes of all those other blockheads." So, 
having thanked his Holiness, I went back, rejoicing above measure, 
to my work. 

^Moto propio. Cellini confuses his petition with the instrument, which he had 
probably drawn up ready for signature. 

' Maestro delle stampe della zecca, i. e., the artist who made the dies. 



I was still working in the shop of RafJaello del Moro. This worthy 
man had a very beautiful young daughter, with regard to whom he 
had designs on me; and I, becoming partly aware of his intentions, 
was very willing; but, while indulging such desires, I made no show 
of them: on the contrary^ I was so discreet in my behaviour that I 
made him wonder. It so happened that the poor girl was attacked 
by a disorder in her right hand, which ate into the two bones be- 
longing to the little finger and the next.' Owing to her father's care- 
lessness, she had been treated by an ignorant quack-doctor, who 
predicted that the poor child would be crippled in the whole of her 
right arm, if even nothing worse should happen. When I noticed 
the dismay of her father, I begged him not to believe all that this 
ignorant doctor had said. He replied that he had no acquaintance 
with physicians or with surgeons, and entreated me, if I knew of one, 
to bring him to the house." I sent at once for a certain Maestro Gia- 
como of Perugia, a man of great skill in surgery, who examined the 
poor girl.' She was dreadfully frightened through having gained 
some inkUng of the quack's predictions; whereas, my intelligent doc- 
tor declared that she would suffer nothing of consequence, and would 
be very well able to use her right hand; also that though the two 
last fingers must remain somewhat weaker than the others, this 
would be of no inconvenience at all to her. So he began his treat- 
ment; and after a few days, when he was going to extract a portion 
of the diseased bones, her father called for me, and begged me to 
be present at the operation. Maestro Giacomo was using some 
coarse steel instruments; and when I observed that he was making 
little way and at the same time was inflicting severe pain on the 
patient, I begged him to stop and wait half a quarter of an hour 
for me. I ran into the shop, and made a little scalping-iron of steel, 
extremely thin and curved; it cut like a razor. On my return, the 
surgeon used it, and began to work with so gentle a hand that she 

* Ossicina che scguitano il dito, &c. Probably metacarpal bones. 

^ Che gnenf avviasse. 

^ Giacomo Rastelli was a native of Rimini, but was popularly known as of Perugia, 
since he had resided long in that city. He was a famous surgeon under several Popes 
until the year 1566, when he died at Rome, aged seventy-five. 


felt no pain, and in a short while the operation was over. In conse- 
quence of this service, and for other reasons, the worthy man con- 
ceived for me as much love, or more, as he had for two male chil- 
dren; and in the meanwhile he attended to the cure of his beautiful 
young daughter. 

I was on terms of the closest intimacy with one Messer Giovanni 
Gaddi, who was a clerk of the Camera, and a great connoisseur of 
the arts, although he had no practical acquaintance with any.* In 
his household were a certain Messer Giovanni, a Greek of eminent 
learning, Messer Lodovico of Fano, no less distinguished as a man 
of letters, Messer Antonio Allegretti, and Messer Annibale Caro," at 
that time in his early manhood. Messer Bastiano of Venice, a most 
excellent painter, and I were admitted to their society; and almost 
every day we met together in Messer Giovanni's company.* 

Being aware of this intimacy, the worthy goldsmith Raffaello said 
to Messer Giovanni: "Good sir, you know me; now I want to marry 
my daughter to Benvenuto, and can think of no better intermediary 
than your worship. So I am come to crave your assistance, and to beg 
you to name for her such dowry from my estate as you may think 
suitable." The light-headed man hardly let my good friend finish 
what he had to say, before he put in quite at random: "Talk no more 
about it, Raffaello; you are farther from your object than January 
from mulberries." The poor man, utterly discouraged, looked about 
at once for another husband for his girl; while she and the mother 
and all the family lived on in a bad humour with me. Since I did 
not know the real cause of this — I imagined they were paying me 
with bastard coin for the many kindnesses I had shown them — I 
conceived the thought of opening a workshop of my own in their 

* Giovanni Gaddi of the Florentine family was passionately attached to men of art 
and letters. Yet he seems to have been somewhat disagreeable in personal intercourse; 
for even Annibale Caro, who owed much to his patronage, and lived for many years in 
his house, never became attached to him. We shall see how he treated Cellini during 
a fever. 

' Some poems of Allegretti's survive. He was a man of mark in the literary society 
of the age. Giovanni Greco may have been a Giovanni Vergezio, who presented Duke 
Cosimo with some Greek characters of exquisite finish. Lodovico da Fano is men- 
tioned as an excellent Latin scholar. Annibale Caro was one of the most distinguished 
writers of Italian prose and verse in the later Renaissance. He spent the latter portion 
of his life in the service of the Farnesi. 

' Messer Bastiano is the celebrated painter Sebastian del Piombo, born 1485, died 


ndghbourhood. Messer Giovanni told me nothing till the girl was 
married, which happened in a few months. 

Meanwhile, I laboured assiduously at the work I was doing for 
the Pope, and also in the service of the Mint; for his Holiness had 
ordered another coin, of the value of two carlins, on which his own 
portrait was stamped, while the reverse bore a figure of Christ upon 
the waters, holding out his hand to S. Peter, with this inscription 
Quare dubitasti? My design won such applause that a certain sec- 
retary of the Pope, a man of the greatest talent, called II Sanga,' was 
moved to this remark: "Your Holiness can boast of having a cur- 
rency superior to any of the ancients in all their glory." The Pope 
replied: "Benvenuto, for his part, can boast of serving an emperor 
like me, who is able to discern his merit." I went on at my great 
piece in gold, showing it frequently to the Pope, who was very eager 
to see it, and each time expressed greater admiration. 


My brother, at this period, was also in Rome, serving Duke Ales- 
sandro, on whom the Pope had recently conferred the Duchy of 
Penna. This prince kept in his service a multitude of soldiers, worthy 
fellows, brought up to valour in the school of that famous general 
Giovanni de' Medici; and among these was my brother, whom the 
Duke esteemed as highly as the bravest of them. One day my brother 
went after dinner to the shop of a man called Baccino della Croce 
in the Banchi, which all those men-at-arms frequented. He had 
flung himself upon a settee, and was sleeping. Just then the guard 
of the Bargello passed by;' they were taking to prison a certain 
Captain Cisd, a Lombard, who had also been a member of Gio- 

"^ Battista Sanga, a Roman, secretary to Gianmatteo Giberti, the good Archbishop of 
Verona, and afterwards to Clement VII. He was a great Latinist, and one of those 
ecclesiastics who earnestly desired a reform of the Church. He died, poisoned, at an 
early age. 

I The Bargello was the chief constable or sheriff in Italian towns. I shall call him 
Bargello always in my translation, since any English equivalent would be misleading. 
He did the rough work of policing the city, and was consequently a mark for all the 
men of spirit who disliked being kept in order. Giovio, in his Life of Cardinal Pompeo 
Colonna, quite gravely relates how it was the highest ambition of young Romans of 
spirit to murder the Bargello. He mentions, in particular, a certain Pietro Margano, 
who had acquired great fame and popularity by killing the Bargello of his day, one 
Cencio, in the Campo di Fiore. This man became an outlaw, and was favourably 
received by Cardinal Colonna, then at war with Clement VII. 


vanni's troop, but was not in the service of the Duke. The captain, 
Cattivanza degli Strozzi, chanced to be in the same shop;^ and when 
Cisti caught sight of him, he whispered: "I was bringing you those 
crowns I owed; if you want them, come for them before they go with 
me to prison." Now Cattivanza had a way of putting his neighbours 
to the push, not caring to hazard his own person. So, finding there 
around him several young fellows of the highest daring, more eager 
than apt for so serious an enterprise, he bade them catch up Captain 
Cisti and get the money from him, and if the guard resisted, over- 
power the men, provided they had pluck enough to do so. 

The young men were but four, and all four of them without a 
beard. The first was called Bertino Aldobrandi, another Anguillotto 
of Lucca; I cannot recall the names of the rest. Bertino had been 
trained like a pupil by my brother; and my brother felt the most 
unbounded love for him. So then, off dashed the four brave lads, 
and came up with the guard of the Bargello — upwards of fifty con- 
stables, counting pikes, arquebuses, and two-handed-swords. After a 
few words they drew their weapons, and the four boys so harried 
the guard, that if Captain Cattivanza had but shown his face, with- 
out so much as drawing, they would certainly have put the whole 
pack to flight. But delay spoiled all; for Bertino received some ugly 
wounds and fell; at the same time, Anguillotto was also hit in the 
right arm, and being unable to use his sword, got out of the fray as 
well as he was able. The others did the same. Bertino Aldobrandi 
was lifted from the ground seriously injured. 


While these things were happening, we were all at table; for that 
morning we had dined more than an hour later than usual. On hear- 
ing the commotion, one of the old man's sons, the elder, rose from 
table to go and look at the scuffle. He was called Giovanni; and I 
said to him: "For Heaven's sake, don't go! In such matters one is 
always certain to lose, while there is nothing to be gained." His 
father spoke to like purpose: "Pray, my son, don't go!" But the lad, 
without heeding any one, ran down the stairs. Reaching the Banchi, 

^His baptismal name was Bernardo. Cattivanza was a nickname. He fought 
bravely for Florence in the siege. 


where the great scrimmage was, and seeing Bertino lifted from the 
ground, he ran towards home, and met my brother Cecchino on the 
way, who asked what was the matter. Though some of the by- 
standers signed to Giovanni not to tell Cecchino, he cried out like a 
madman how it was that Bertino Aldobrandi had been killed by the 
guard. My poor brother gave vent to a bellow which might have 
been heard ten miles away. Then he turned to Giovanni: "Ah me! 
but could you tell me which of those men killed him for me?'" 
Giovanni said, yes, that it was a man who had a big two-handed 
sword, with a blue feather in his bonnet. My poor brother rushed 
ahead, and having recognised the homicide by those signs, he threw 
himself with all his dash and spirit into the middle of the band, and 
before his man could turn on guard, ran him right through the guts, 
and with the sword's hilt thrust him to the ground. Then he turned 
upon the rest with such energy and daring, that his one arm was 
on the point of putting the whole band to flight, had it not been 
that, while wheeling round to strike an arquebusier, this man fired 
in self-defence, and hit the brave unfortunate young fellow above 
the knee of his right leg. While he lay stretched upon the ground, 
the constables scrambled off in disorder as fast as they were able, 
lest a pair to my brother should arrive upon the scene. 

Noticing that the tumult was not subsiding, I too rose from the 
table, and girding on my sword — for everybody wore one then — I 
went to the bridge of Sant' Agnolo, where I saw a group of several 
men assembled. On my coming up and being recognised by some 
of them, they gave way before me, and showed me what I least of 
all things wished to see, albeit I made mighty haste to view the sight. 
On the instant I did not know Cecchino, since he was wearing a 
different suit of clothes from that in which I had lately seen him. 
Accordingly, he recognised me first, and said: "Dearest brother, do 
not be upset by my grave accident; it is only what might be expected 
in my profession : get me removed from here at once, for I have but 
few hours to live." They had acquainted me with the whole event 
while he was speaking, in brief words befitting such occasion. So 
I answered: "Brother, this is the greatest sorrow and the greatest 

* Oimi, saprestimi tu dire che di quelli me I'ha morto? The me is so emphatic, 
that, though it makes poor English, I have preserved it in my version. 


trial that could happen to me in the whole course of my life. But 
be of good cheer; for before you lose sight of him who did the mis- 
chief, you shall see yourself revenged by my hand." Our words on 
both sides were to the purport, but of the shortest. 


The guard was now about fifty paces from us; for Maffio, their 
officer, had made some of them turn back to take up the corporal 
my brother killed. Accordingly, I quickly traversed that short space, 
wrapped in my cape, which I had tightened round me, and came 
up with Maffio, whom I should most certainly have murdered, for 
there were plenty of people round, and I had wound my way among 
them. With the rapidity of lightning, I had half drawn my sword 
from the sheath, when Berlinghier Berlinghieri, a young man of the 
greatest daring and my good friend, threw himself from behind upon 
my arms; he had four other fellows of like kidney with him, who 
cried out to Maffio: "Away with you, for this man here alone was 
killing you!" He asked: "Who is he?" and they answered: "Own 
brother to the man you see there." Without waiting to hear more, 
he made haste for Torre di Nona;* and they said: "Benvenuto, we 
prevented you against your will, but did it for your good; now let 
us go to succour him who must die shortly." Accordingly, we turned 
and went back to my brother, whom I had at once conveyed into a 
house. The doctors who were called in consultation, treated him 
with medicaments, but could not decide to amputate the leg, which 
might perhaps have saved him. 

As soon as his wound had been dressed, Duke Alessandro ap- 
peared and most affectionately greeted him. My brother had not 
as yet lost consciousness; so he said to the Duke: "My lord, this only 
grieves me, that your Excellency is losing a servant than whom 
you may perchance find men more valiant in the profession of 
arms, but none more lovingly and loyally devoted to your service 
than I have been." The Duke bade him do all he could to keep 
alive; for the rest, he well knew him to be a man of worth and 

* The Torre di Nona was one of the principal prisons in Rome, used especially tor 
criminals condemned to death. 


courage. He then turned to his attendants, ordering them to see that 
the brave young fellow wanted for nothing. 

When he was gone, my brother lost blood so copiously, for nothing 
could be done to stop it, that he went off his head, and kept raving 
all the following night, with the exception that once, when they 
wanted to give him the communion, he said: "You would have 
done well to confess me before; now it is impossible that I should 
receive the divine sacrament in this already ruined frame; it will 
be enough if I partake of it by the divine virtue of the eyesight, 
whereby it shall be transmitted into my immortal soul, which only 
prays to Him for mercy and forgiveness." Having spoken thus, the 
host was elevated; but he straightway relapsed into the same delirious 
ravings as before, pouring forth a torrent of the most terrible frenzies 
and horrible imprecations that the mind of man could imagine; nor 
did he cease once all that night until the day broke. 

When the sun appeared above our horizon, he turned to me and 
said: "Brother, I do not wish to stay here longer, for these fellows 
will end by making me do something tremendous, which may cause 
them to repent of the annoyance they have given me." Then he 
kicked out both his legs — the injured limb we had enclosed in a 
very heavy box — and made as though he would fling it across a 
horse's back. Turning his face round to me, he called out thrice — 
"Farewell, farewell!" and with the last word that most valiant spirit 
passed away. 

At the proper hour, toward nightfall, I had him buried with due 
ceremony in the church of the Florentines; and afterwards I erected 
to his memory a very handsome monument of marble, upon which I 
caused trophies and banners to be carved. I must not omit to men- 
tion that one of his friends had asked him who the man was that 
had killed him, and if he could recognise him; to which he answered 
that he could, and gave his description. My brother, indeed, at- 
tempted to prevent this coming to my ears; but I got it very well 
impressed upon my mind, as will appear in the sequel.^ 

^ Varchi, in his Storia Florentina, lib. xi., gives a short account of Cecchino Cellini's 
death in Rome, mentioning also Beitino Aldobrandi, in the attempt to revenge whom 
he lost his life. 


Returning to the monument, I should relate that certain famous 
men of letters, who knew my brother, composed for me an epitaph, 
telling me that the noble young man deserved it. The inscription ran 
thus: — 

"Francisco Cellino Florentino, qui quod in teneris annis ad loannem 
Medicem ducem plures victorias retulit et signijer juit, facile docu- 
tnentum dedit quantce jortitudinis et consilii vir futurus erat, ni crudelis 
fati archibuso transfossus, quinto cetatis lustra jaceret, Benvenutus jrater 
posuit. Obiit die xxvii Maii MD.XXIX." 

He was twenty-five years of age; and since the soldiers called him 
Cecchino del Piflero,' his real name being Giovanfrancesco Cellini, 
I wanted to engrave the former, by which he was commonly known, 
under the armorial bearings of our family. This name then I had 
cut in fine antique characters, all of which were broken save the 
first and last. I was asked by the learned men who had composed 
that beautiful epitaph, wherefore I used these broken letters; and 
my answer was, because the marvellous framework of his body was 
spoiled and dead; and the reason why the first and last remained 
entire was, that the first should symbolise the great gift God had 
given him, namely, of a human soul, inflamed with his divinity, 
the which hath never broken, while the second represented the 
glorious renown of his brave actions. The thought gave satisfaction, 
and several persons have since availed themselves of my device- 
Close to the name I had the coat of us Cellini carved upon the 
stone, altering it in some particulars. In Ravenna, which is a most 
ancient city, there exist Cellini of our name in the quality of very 
honourable gentry, who bear a lion rampant or upon a field of azure, 
holding a lily gules in his dexter paw, with a label in chief and three 
little lilies or.'' These are the true arms of the Cellini. My father 
showed me a shield as ours which had the paw only, together with 
the other bearings; but I should prefer to follow those of the Cellini 
of Ravenna, which I have described above. Now to return to what 
I caused to be engraved upon my brother's tomb: it was the lion's 

' That is, Frank, the Fifer's son. 

2 1 believe Cellini meant here to write "on a chief argent a label of four points, and 
three lilies gules." He has tricked the arms thus in a MS. o£ the Palatine Library. 
See Leclanch^, p. 103; see also Piatti, vol. i. p. 233, and Plon, p. 2. 


paw, but instead of a lily, I made the lion hold an axe, with the field 
of the scutcheon quartered; and I put the axe in solely that I might 
not be unmindful to revenge him. 



I went on applying myself with the utmost diligence upon the 
gold-work for Pope Clement's button. He was very eager to have it, 
and used to send for me two or three times a week, in order to inspect 
it; and his delight in the work always increased. Often would he 
rebuke and scold me, as it were, for the great grief in which my 
brother's loss had plunged me; and one day, observing me more 
downcast and out of trim than was proper, he cried aloud: "Ben- 
venuto, oh! I did not know that you were mad. Have you only 
just learned that there is no remedy against death? One would 
think that you were trying to run after him." When I left the pres- 
ence, I continued working at the jewel and the dies' for the Mint; 
but I also took to watching the arquebusier who shot my brother, 
as though he had been a girl I was in love with. The man had 
formerly been in the light cavalry, but afterwards had joined the 
arquebusiers as one of the Bargello's corporals; and what increased 
my rage was that he had used these boastful words: "If it had not 
been for me, who killed that brave young man, the least trifle of 
delay would have resulted in his putting us all to flight with great 
disaster." When I saw that the fever caused by always seeing him 
about was depriving me of sleep and appetite, and was bringing me 
by degrees to sorry plight, I overcame my repugnance to so low and 
not quite praiseworthy an enterprise, and made my mind up one 
evening to rid myself of the torment. The fellow lived in a house 
near a place called Torre Sanguigua, next door to the lodging of one 
of the most fashionable courtesans in Rome, named Signora Antea. 
It had just struck twenty-four, and he was standing at the house- 
door, with his sword in hand, having risen from supper. With 
great address I stole up to him, holding a large Pistojan dagger,^ and 
dealt him a back-handed stroke, with which I meant to cut his head 

' Ferri. I have translated this word dies: but it seems to mean all the coining 
instruments, stampe or conii being the dies proper. 
* Pugnal pistolese; it came in time to mean a cutlass. 


clean off; but as he turned round very suddenly, the blow fell upon 
the point of his left shoulder and broke the bone. He sprang up, 
dropped his sword, half-stunned with the great pain, and took to 
flight. I followed after, and in four steps caught him up, when I 
lifted my dagger above his head, which he was holding very low, 
and hit him in the back exactly at the juncture of the nape-bone 
and the neck. The poniard entered this point so deep into the bone, 
that, though I used all my strength to pull it out, I was not able. 
For just at that moment four soldiers with drawn swords sprang 
out from Antea's lodging, and obliged me to set hand to my own 
sword to defend my life. Leaving the poniard then, I made off, and 
fearing I might be recognised, took refuge in the palace of Duke 
Alessandro, which was between Piazza Navona and the Rotunda.' 
On my arrival, I asked to see the Duke; who told me that, if I was 
alone, I need only keep quiet and have no further anxiety, but to 
go on working at the jewel which the Pope had set his heart on, and 
stay eight days indoors. He gave this advice the more securely, be- 
cause the soldiers had now arrived who interrupted the completion 
of my deed; they held the dagger in their hand, and were relating 
how the matter happened, and the great trouble they had to pull 
the weapon from the neck and head-bone of the man, whose 
name they did not know. Just then Giovan Bandini came up, and 
said to them.* "That poniard is mine, and I lent it to Benvenuto, 
who was bent on revenging his brother." The soldiers were profuse 
in their expressions of regret at having interrupted me, although 
my vengeance had been amply satisfied. 

More than eight days elapsed, and the Pope did not send for me 
according to his custom. Afterwards he summoned me through his 
chamberlain, the Bolognese nobleman I have already mentioned, 
who let me, in his own modest manner, understand that his Holi- 
ness knew all, but was very well inclined toward me, and that I 
had only to mind my work and keep quiet. When we reached the 

' That is, the Pantheon. 

* Bandini bears a distinguished name in Florentine annals. He served Duke Ales- 
sandro in affairs of much importance; but afterwards he betrayed the interests of his 
master, Duke Cosimo, in an embassy to Charles V. in 1543. It seems that he had then 
been playing into the hands of Filippo Strozzi, for which offence he passed fifteen 
years in a dungeon. See Varchi and Segni; also Montazio's Prigionieri del Mastio di 
Voiterra, cap. vii. 


presence, the Pope cast so menacing a glance towards me, that the 
mere look of his eyes made me tremble. Afterwards, upon examin- 
ing my work his countenance cleared, and he began to praise me 
beyond measure, saying that I had done a vast amount in a short 
time. Then, looking me straight in the face, he added: "Now that 
you are cured, Benvenuto, take heed how you live." ' I, who under- 
stood his meaning, promised that I would. Immediately upon this, 
I opened a very fine shop in the Banchi, opposite Raflaello, and there 
I finished the jewel after the lapse of a few months. 


The Pope had sent me all those precious stones, except the dia- 
mond, which was pawned to certain Genoese bankers for some 
pressing need he had of money. The rest were in my custody, to- 
gether with a model of the diamond. I had five excellent journey- 
men, and in addition to the great piece, I was engaged on several 
jobs; so that my shop contained property of much value in jewels, 
gems, and gold and silver. I kept a shaggy dog, very big and hand- 
some, which Duke Alessandro gave me; the beast was capital as a 
retriever, since he brought me every sort of birds and game I shot, 
but he also served most admirably for a watchdog. It happened, as 
was natural at the age of twenty-nine, that I had taken into my 
service a girl of great beauty and grace, whom I used as a model in 
my art, and who was also complaisant of her personal favours to me. 
Such being the case, I occupied an apartment far away from my 
workmen's rooms, as well as from the shop; and this communicated 
by a little dark passage with the maid's bedroom. I used frequently 
to pass the night with her; and though I sleep as lightly as ever yet 
did man upon this earth, yet, after indulgence in sexual pleasure, 
my slumber is sometimes very deep and heavy. 

So it chanced one night: for I must say that a thief, under the pre- 
text of being a goldsmith, had spied on me, and cast his eyes upon 
the precious stones, and made a plan to steal them. Well, then, this 
fellow broke into the shop, where he found a quantity of little things 
in gold and silver. He was engaged in bursting open certain boxes 

' This was the Pope's hint to Cellini that he was aware of the murder he had just 


to get at the jewels he had noticed, when my dog jumped upon him, 
and put him to much trouble to defend himself with his sword. The 
dog, unable to grapple with an armed man, ran several times through 
the house, and rushed into the rooms of the journeymen, which had 
been left open because of the great heat. When he found they paid 
no heed to his loud barking, he dragged their bed-clothes ofl; and 
when they still heard nothing, he pulled first one and then another 
by the arm till he roused them, and, barking furiously, ran before 
to show them where he wanted them to go. At last it became clear 
that they refused to follow; for the traitors, cross at being disturbed, 
threw stones and sticks at him; and this they could well do, for I 
had ordered them to keep all night a lamp alight there; and in the 
end they shut their rooms tight; so the dog, abandoning all hope of 
aid from such rascals, set out alone again on his adventure. He ran 
down, and not finding the thief in the shop, flew after him. When 
he got at him, he tore the cape off his back. It would have gone hard 
with the fellow had he not called for help to certain tailors, praying 
them for God's sake to save him from a mad dog; and they, believing 
what he said, jumped out and drove the dog off with much trouble. 
After sunrise my workmen went into the shop, and saw that it 
had been broken open and all the boxes smashed. They began to 
scream at the top of their voices: "Ah, woe is me! Ah, woe is me!" 
The clamour woke me, and I rushed out in a panic. Appearing 
thus before them, they cried out: "Alas to us! for we have been 
robbed by some one, who has broken and borne everything away!" 
These words wrought so forcibly upon my mind that I dared not 
go to my big chest and look if it still held the jewels of the Pope. 
So intense was the anxiety, that I seemed to lose my eyesight, and 
told them they themselves must unlock the chest, and see how many 
of the Pope's gems were missing. The fellows were all of them in 
their shirts; and when, on opening the chest, they saw the precious 
stones and my work with them, they took heart of joy and shouted: 
"There is no harm done; your piece and all the stones are here; but 
the thief has left us naked to the shirt, because last night, by reason 
of the burning heat, we took our clothes off In the shop and left them 
here." Recovering my senses, I thanked God, and said: "Go and 
get yourselves new suits of clothes; I will pay when I hear at leisure 


how the whole thing happened." What caused me the most pain, 
and made me lose my senses, and take fright — so contrary to my 
real nature — was the dread lest peradventure folk should fancy I 
had trumped a story of the robber up to steal the jewels. It had 
already been said to Pope Clement by one of his most trusted serv- 
ants, and by others, that is, by Francesco del Nero, Zana de' Biliotti 
his accountant, the Bishop of Vasona, and several such men:' "Why, 
most blessed Father, do you confide gems of that vast value to a 
young fellow, who is all fire, more passionate for arms than for his 
art, and not yet thirty years of age?" The Pope asked in answer if 
any one of them knew that I had done aught to justify such sus- 
picions. Whereto Francesco del Nero, his treasurer, replied:^ "No, 
most blessed Father, because he has not as yet had an opportunity." 
Whereto the Pope rejoined: "I regard him as a thoroughly honest 
man; and if I saw with my own eyes some crime he had committed, 
I should not believe it." This was the man who' caused me the 
greatest torment, and who suddenly came up before my mind. 

After telling the young men to provide themselves with fresh 
clothes, I took my piece, together with the gems, setting them as 
well as I could in their proper places, and went off at once with 
them to the Pope. Francesco del Nero had already told him some- 
thing of the trouble in my shop, and had put suspicions in his head. 
So then, taking the thing rather ill than otherwise, he shot a furious 
glance upon me, and cried haughtily: "What have you come to do 
here.? What is up.?" "Here are all your precious stones, and not one 
of them is missing." At this the Pope's face cleared, and he said: 
"So then, you're welcome." I showed him the piece, and while he 
was inspecting it, I related to him the whole story of the thief and 
of my agony, and what had been my greatest trouble in the matter. 
During this speech, he oftentimes turned round to look me sharply 

' of these people, we can trace the Bishop of Vasona. He was Girolamo Schio or 
Schedo, a native of Vicenza, the confidential agent and confessor of Clement VII., who 
obtained the See of Vaison in the county of Avignon in 1523, and died at Rome 
in 1533. His successor in the bishopric was Tomaso Cortesi, the Datary, mentioned 

^ Varchi gives a very ugly account of this man, Francesco del Nero, who was nick- 
named the Cra del Piccadiglio, in his History of Florence, book iii. "In the whole city 
of Florence there never was born, in my belief, a man of such irreligion or of such 
sordid avarice." Giovio confirms the statement. 

' Questo fu qtiello che. This may be neuter: This was the circumstance which. 


in the eyes; and Francesco del Nero being also in the presence, this 
seemed to make him half sorry that he had not guessed the truth. 
At last, breaking into laughter at the long tale I was telling, he sent 
me off with these words: "Go, and take heed to be an honest man, 
as indeed I know that you are." 


I went on working assiduously at the button, and at the same time 
laboured for the Mint, when certain pieces of false money got abroad 
in Rome, stamped with my own dies. They were brought at once 
to the Pope, who, hearing things against me, said to Giacopo Bal- 
ducci, the Master of the Mint, "Take every means in your power 
to find the criminal; for we are sure that Benvenuto is an honest 
fellow." That traitor of a master, being in fact my enemy, replied: 
"Would God, most blessed Father, that it may turn out as you say; 
for we have some proofs against him." Upon this the Pope turned 
to the Governor of Rome, and bade him see he found the malefactor. 
During those days the Pope sent for me, and leading cautiously in 
conversation to the topic of the coins, asked me at the fitting mo- 
ment: "Benvenuto, should you have the heart to coin false money?" 
To this I replied that I thought I could do so better than all the 
rascals who gave their minds to such vile work; for fellows who 
practise lewd trades of that sort are not capable of earning money, 
nor are they men of much ability. I, on the contrary, with my poor 
wits could gain enough to keep me comfortably; for when I set dies 
for the Mint, each morning before dinner I put at least three crowns 
into my pocket; this was the customary payment for the dies, and 
the Master of the Mint bore me a grudge, because he would have 
liked to have them cheaper; so then, what I earned with God's grace 
and the world's, sufficed me, and by coining false money I should 
not have made so much. The Pope very well perceived my drift; 
and whereas he had formerly given orders that they should see I did 
not fly from Rome, he now told them to look well about and have 
no heed of me, seeing he was ill-disposed to anger me, and in this 
way run the risk of losing me. The officials who received these orders 
were certain clerks of the Camera, who made the proper search, as 
was their duty, and soon found the rogue. He was a stamper in the 


service of the Mint, named Cesare Macherone, and a Roman citizen. 
Together with this man they detected a metal-founder of the Mint.' 


On that very day, as I was passing through the Piazza Navona, 
and had my fine retriever with me, j ust when we came opposite the 
gate of the Bargello, my dog flew barking loudly inside the door 
upon a youth, who had been arrested at the suit of a man called 
Donnino (a goldsmith from Parma, and a former pupil of Cara- 
dosso), on the charge of having robbed him. The dog strove so 
violently to tear the fellow to pieces, that the constables were moved 
to pity. It so happened that he was pleading his own cause with 
boldness, and Donnino had not evidence enough to support the 
accusation; and what was more, one of the corporals of the guard, 
a Genoese, was a friend of the young man's father. The upshot was 
that, what with the dog and with those other circumstances, they 
were on the point of releasing their prisoner. When I came up, the 
dog had lost all fear of sword or staves, and was flying once more at 
the young man; so they told me if I did not call the brute off they 
would kill him. I held him back as well as I was able; but just then 
the fellow, in the act of readjusting his cape, let fall some paper 
packets from the hood, which Donnino recognised as his property. 
I too recognised a little ring; whereupon I called out: "This is the 
thief who broke into my shop and robbed it; and therefore my dog 
knows him;" then I loosed the dog, who flew again upon the robber. 
On this the fellow craved for mercy, promising to give back whatever 
he possessed of mine. When I had secured the dog, he proceeded 
to restore the gold and silver and the rings which he had stolen from 
me, and twenty-five crowns in addition. Then he cried once more 
to me for pity. I told him to make his peace with God, for I should 
do him neither good nor evil. So I returned to my business; and a 
few days afterwards, Cesare Macherone, the false coiner, was hanged 
in the Banchi opposite the Mint; his accomplice was sent to the 
galleys; the Genoese thief was hanged in the Campo di Fiore, while 
I remained in better repute as an honest man than I had enjoyed 

' The word in Cellini is ovolatore di zecca. 



When I had nearly finished my piece, there happened that terrible 
inundation which flooded the whole of Rome.' I waited to see what 
would happen; the day was well-nigh spent, for the clocks struck 
twenty-two and the water went on rising formidably. Now the front 
of my house and shop faced the Banchi, but the back was several 
yards higher, because it turned toward Monte Giordano; accord- 
ingly, bethinking me first of my own safety and in the next place 
of my honour, I filled my pockets with the jewels, and gave the gold- 
piece into the custody of my workmen, and then descended barefoot 
from the back-windows, and waded as well as I could until I reached 
Monte Cavallo. There I sought out Messer Giovanni Gaddi, clerk 
of the Camera, and Bastiano Veneziano, the painter. To the former 
I confided the precious stones, to keep in safety: he had the same 
regard for me as though I had been his brother. A few days later, 
when the rage of the river was spent, I returned to my workshop, 
and finished the piece with such good fortune, through God's grace 
and my own great industry, that it was held to be the finest master- 
piece which had been ever seen in Rome.^ 

When then I took it to the Pope, he was insatiable in praising me, 
and said: "Were I but a wealthy emperor, I would give my Ben- 
venuto as much land as his eyes could survey; yet being nowadays 
but needy bankrupt potentates, we will at any rate give him bread 
enough to satisfy his modest wishes." I let the Pope run on to the 
end of his rhodomontade,' and then asked him for a mace-bearer's 
place which happened to be vacant. He replied that he would grant 
me something of far greater consequence. I begged his Holiness to 
bestow this little thing on me meanwhile by way of earnest. He 
began to laugh, and said he was willing, but that he did not wish 
me to serve, and that I must make some arrangement with the other 
mace-bearers to be exempted. He would allow them through me a 
certain favour, for which they had already petitioned, namely, the 

' This took place on the 8th and gth October, 1530. 

^This famous naasterpiece was preserved in the Castle of S. Angelo during the 
Papal Government of Rome. It was brought out on Christmas, Easter, and S. Peter's 

' Quella sua sniania di parole. 


right of recovering their fees at law. This was accordingly done; 
and that mace-bearer's office brought me in little less than 200 crowns 
a year.* 


I continued to work for the Pope, executing now one trifle and 
now another, when he commissioned me to design a chalice of 
exceeding richness. So I made both drawing and model for the piece. 
The latter was constructed of wood and wax. Instead of the usual 
top, I fashioned three figures of a fair size in the round; they repre- 
sented Faith, Hope, and Charity. Corresponding to these, at the 
base of the cup, were three circular histories in bas-relief. One was 
the Nativity of Christ, the second the Resurrection, and the third S. 
Peter crucified head downwards; for thus I had received commis- 
sion. While I had this work in hand, the Pope was often pleased 
to look at it; wherefore, observing that his Holiness had never 
thought again of giving me anything, and knowing that a post in 
the Piombo was vacant, I asked for this one evening. The good 
Pope, quite oblivious of his extravagances at the termination of the 
last piece, said to me : "That post in the Piombo is worth more than 
800 crowns a year, so that if I gave it you, you would spend your 
time in scratching your paunch,' and your magnificent handicraft 
would be lost, and I should bear the blame." I replied at once as 
thus: "Cats of a good breed mouse better when they are fat than 
starving; and likewise honest men who possess some talent, exercise 
it to far nobler purport when they have the wherewithal to live 
abundantly; wherefore princes who provide such folk with com- 
petences, let your Holiness take notice, are watering the roots of 
genius; for genius and talent, at their birth, come into this world 
lean and scabby; and your Holiness should also know that I never 
asked for the place with the hope of getting it. Only too happy I 
to have that miserable post of mace-bearer. On the other I built but 
castles in the air. Your Holiness will do well, since you do not care 

■* Cellini received this post among the Mazzieri (who walked like beadles before 
the Pope) on April 14, 1531. He resigned it in favour of Pietro Cornaro of Venice 
in 1535- 

' Grattare il corpo, which I have translated scratch your paunch, is equivalent to 
twirl your thumbs. 


to give it me, to bestow it on a man of talent who deserves it, and 
not upon some fat ignoramus who will spend his time scratching 
his paunch, if I may quote your Holiness's own words. Follow the 
example of Pope Giulio's illustrious memory, who conferred an 
office of the same kind upon Bramante, that most admirable archi- 

Immediately on finishing this speech, I made my bow, and went 
off in a fury. Then Bastiano Veneziano the painter approached, and 
said : "Most blessed Father, may your Holiness be willing to grant it 
to one who works assiduously in the exercise of some talent; and as 
your Holiness knows that I am diligent in my art, 1 beg that I may 
be thought worthy of it." The Pope replied: "That devil Benvenuto 
will not brook rebuke. I was inclined to give it him, but it is not 
right to be so haughty with a Pope. Therefore I do not well know 
what I am to do." The Bishop of Vasona then came up, and put in 
a word for Bastiano, saying: "Most blessed Father, Benvenuto is 
but young; and a sword becomes him better than a friar's frock. 
Let your Holiness give the place to this ingenious person Bastiano. 
Some time or other you will be able to bestow on Benvenuto a good 
thing, perhaps more suitable to him than this would be." Then the 
Pope turning to Messer Bartolommeo Valori, told him: "When next 
you meet Benvenuto, let him know from me that it was he who 
got that office in the Piombo for Bastiano the painter, and add that 
he may reckon on obtaining the next considerable place that falls; 
meanwhile let him look to his behaviour, and finish my commis- 
sions." ^ 

The following evening, two hours after sundown, I met Messer 
Bartolommeo Valori' at the corner of the Mint; he was preceded 
by two torches, and was going in haste to the Pope, who had sent 
for him. On my taking off my hat, he stopped and called me, and 

^The office of the Piombo in Rome was a bureau in which leaden seals were 
appended to Bulls and instruments of state. It remained for a long time in the hands 
of the Cistercians; but it used also to be conferred on laymen, among whom were 
Bremante and Sebastiano del Piombo. When the latter obtained it, he neglected his 
art and gave himself up to "scratching his paunch," as Cellini predicted. 

' Bartolommeo or Baccio Valori, a devoted adherent of the Medici, played an 
important part in Florentine history. He was Clement's commissary to the Prince 
of Orange during the siege. Afterwards, feeling himself ill repaid for his services, 
he joined Filippo Strozzi in his opposition to the Medicean rule, and was beheaded in 
1537, together with his son and a nephew. 


reported in the most friendly manner all the messages the Pope had 
sent me. I replied that I should complete my work with greater 
diligence and application than any I had yet attempted, but without 
the least hope of having any reward whatever from the Pope. Messer 
Bartolommeo reproved me, saying that this was not the way in 
which one ought to reply to the advances of a Pope. I answered that 
I should be mad to reply otherwise — mad if I based my hopes on 
such promises, being certain to get nothing. So I departed, and 
went off to my business. 

Messer Bartolommeo must have reported my audacious speeches 
to the Pope, and more perhaps than I had really said; for his Holi- 
ness waited above two months before he sent to me, and during that 
while nothing would have induced me to go uncalled for to the 
palace. Yet he was dying with impatience to see the chalice, and 
commissioned Messer Ruberto Pucci to give heed to what I was 
about.* That right worthy fellow came daily to visit me, and always 
gave me some kindly word, which I returned. The time was draw- 
ing nigh now for the Pope to travel toward Bologna f so at last, per- 
ceiving that I did not mean to come to him, he made Messer Ruberto 
bid me bring my work, that he might see how I was getting on. 
Accordingly, I took it; and having shown, as the piece itself proved, 
that the most important part was finished, I begged him to advance 
me five hundred crowns, partly on account, and partly because I 
wanted gold to complete the chalice. The Pope said : "Go on, go on 
at work till it is finished." I answered, as I took my leave, that I 
would finish it if he paid me the money. And so I went away. 


When the Pope took his journey to Bologna, he left Cardinal 
Salviati as Legate of Rome, and gave him commission to push the 
work that I was doing forward, adding: "Benvenuto is a fellow who 
esteems his own' great talents but slightly, and us less; look to it then 

* Roberto Pucci was another of the devoted Medicean partisans who remained true 
to His colours. He sat among the forty-eight senators of Alessandro, and was made a 
Cardinal by Paul III. in 1534. 

^ On November i8, 1532, Clement went to meet Charles V. at Bologna, where, in 
1529, he had already given him the Imperial crown. 


that you keep him always going, so that I may find the chalice 
finished on my return." 

That beast of a Cardinal sent for me after eight days, bidding me 
bring the piece up. On this I went to him without the piece. No 
sooner had I shown my face, than he called out: "Where is that 
onion-stew of yours ? ' Have you got it ready?" I answered : "O most 
reverend Monsignor, I have not got my onion-stew ready, nor shall I 
make it ready, unless you give me onions to concoct it with." At 
these words the Cardinal, who looked more like a donkey than a 
man, turned uglier by half than he was naturally; and wanting at 
once to cut the matter short, cried out: "I'll send you to a galley, and 
then perhaps you'll have the grace^ to go on with your labour." The 
bestial manners of the man made me a beast too; and I retorted: 
"Monsignor, send me to the galleys when I've done deeds worthy of 
them; but for my present laches, I snap my fingers at your galleys: 
and what is more, I tell you that, just because of you, I wdll not set 
hand further to my piece. Don't send for me again, for I won't 
appear, no, not if you summon me by the police." 

After this, the good Cardinal tried several times to let me know 
that I ought to go on working, and to bring him what I was doing 
to look at. I only told his messengers: "Say to Monsignor that he 
must send me onions, if he wants me to get my stew ready." Nor 
gave I ever any other answer; so that he threw up the commission 
in despair. 


The Pope came back from Bologna, and sent at once for me, be- 
cause the Cardinal had written the worst he could of my affairs in 
his despatches. He was in the hottest rage imaginable, and bade 
me come upon the instant with my piece. I obeyed. Now, while the 
Pope was staying at Bologna, I had suffered from an attack of in- 
flammation in the eyes, so painful that I scarce could go on living 
for the torment; and this was the chief reason why I had not carried 
out my work. The trouble was so serious that I expected for certain 

' Cipollata. Literally, a show of onions and pumpkins; metaphorically, a mess, 

^ Arai di grazia di. I am not sure whether I have given the right shade of meaning 
in the text above. It may mean: You will be permitted. 


to be left without my eyesight; and I had reckoned up the sum on 
which I could subsist, if I were blind for life. Upon the way to the 
Pope, I turned over in my mind what I should put forward to excuse 
myself for not having been able to advance his work. I thought 
that while he was inspecting the chalice, I might tell him of my 
personal embarrassments. However, I was unable to do so; for when 
I arrived in the presence, he broke out coarsely at me: "Come here 
with your work; is it finished?" I displayed it; and his temper rising, 
he exclaimed: "In God's truth I tell thee, thou that makest it thy 
business to hold no man in regard, that, were it not for decency and 
order, I would have thee chucked together with thy work there out 
of windows." Accordingly, when I perceived that the Pope had 
become no better than a vicious beast, my chief anxiety was how I 
could manage to withdraw from his presence. So, while he went on 
bullying, I tucked the piece beneath my cape, and muttered under 
my breath: "The whole world could not compel a blind man to 
execute such things as these." Raising his voice still higher, the Pope 
shouted: "Come here; what say'st thou?" I stayed in two minds, 
whether or not to dash at full speed down the staircase; then I took 
my decision and threw myself upon my knees, shouting as loudly 
as I could, for he too had not ceased from shouting: "If an infirmity 
has blinded me, am I bound to go on working?" He retorted: "You 
saw well enough to make your way hither, and I don't believe one 
word of what you say." I answered, for I noticed he had dropped 
his voice a little: "Let your Holiness inquire of your physician, and 
you will find the truth out." He said: "So ho! softly; at leisure we 
shall hear if what you say is so." Then, perceiving thatj he was 
willing to give me hearing, I added: "I am convinced that the only 
cause of this great trouble which has happened to me is Cardinal 
Salviati; for he sent to me immediately after your Holiness's de- 
parture, and when I presented myself, he called my work a stew of 
onions, and told me he would send me to complete it in a galley; 
and such was the effect upon me of his knavish words, that in my 
passion I felt my face in flame, and so intolerable a heat attacked 
my eyes that I could not find my own way home. Two days after- 
wards, cataracts fell on both my eyes; I quite lost my sight, and after 
your Holiness's departure I have been unable to work at all." 


Rising from my knees, I left the presence without further Ucense. 
It was afterwards reported to me that the Pope had said : "One can 
give commissions, but not the prudence to perform them. I did not 
tell the Cardinal to go so brutally about this business/ If it is true 
that he is suffering from his eyes, of which I shall get information 
through my doctor, one ought to make allowance for him." A great 
gentleman, intimate with the Pope, and a man of very distinguished 
parts, happened to be present. He asked who I was, using terms 
like these: "Most blessed Father, pardon if I put a question. I have 
seen you yield at one and the same time to the hottest anger I ever 
observed, and then to the warmest compassion; so I beg your Holi- 
ness to tell me who the man is; for if he is a person worthy to be 
helped, I can teach him a secret which may cure him of that infirm- 
ity." The Pope replied: "He is the greatest artist who was ever born 
in his own craft; one day, when we are together, I will show you 
some of his marvellous works, and the man himself to boot; and I 
shall be pleased if we can see our way toward doing something to 
assist him." Three days after this, the Pope sent for me after dinner- 
time, and I found that great noble in the presence. On my arrival, 
the Pope had my cope-button brought, and I in the meantime drew 
forth my chalice. The nobleman said, on looking at it, that he had 
never seen a more stupendous piece of work. When the button came, 
he was still more struck with wonder : and looking me straight in the 
face, he added: "The man is young, I trow, to be so able in his art, 
and still apt enough to learn much." He then asked me what my 
name was. I answered : "My name is Benvenuto." He replied : "And 
Benvenuto shall I be this day to you. Take flower-de-luces, stalk, 
blossom, root, together; then decoct them over a slack fire; and with 
the liquid bathe your eyes several times a day; you will most cer- 
tainly be cured of that weakness; but see that you purge first, and 
then go forward with the lotion." The Pope gave me some kind 
words, and so I went away half satisfied. 


It was true indeed that I had got the sickness; but I believe I 
caught it from that fine young servant-girl whom I was keeping 

' Che mettessi tanta mazza. 


when my house was robbed. The French disease, for it was that, 
remained in me more than four months dormant before it showed 
itself, and then it broke out over my whole body at one instant. 
It was not like what one commonly observes, but covered my flesh 
with certain blisters, of the size of six-pences, and rose-coloured. 
The doctors would not call it the French disease, albeit I told them 
why I thought it was that. I went on treating myself according to 
their methods, but derived no benefit. At last, then, I resolved on 
taking the wood, against the advice of the first physicians in Rome;' 
and I took it with the most scrupulous discipline and rules of absti- 
nence that could be thought of; and after a few days, I perceived in 
me a great amendment. The result was that at the end of fifty days 
I was cured and as sound as a fish in the water. 

Some time afterwards I sought to mend my shattered health, and 
with this view I betook myself to shooting when the winter came 
in. That amusement, however, led me to expose myself to wind 
and water, and to staying out in marsh-lands; so that, after a few 
days, I fell a hundred times more ill than I had been before. I put 
myself once more under doctors' orders, and attended to their direc- 
tions, but grew always worse. When the fever fell upon me, I re- 
solved on having recourse again to the wood; but the doctors for- 
bade it, saying that if I took it with the fever on me, I should not 
have a week to live. However, I made my mind up to disobey their 
orders, observed the same diet as I had formerly adopted, and after 
drinking the decoction four days, was wholly rid of fever. My 
health improved enormously; and while I was following this cure, I 
went on always working at the models of the chalice. I may add 
that, during the time of that strict abstinence, I produced finer things 
and of more exquisite invention than at any other period of my life. 
After fifty days my health was re-established, and I continued with 
the utmost care to keep it and confirm it. When at last I ventured 
to relax my rigid diet, I found myself as wholly free from those in- 
firmities as though I had been born again. Although I took pleasure 
in fortifying the health I so much longed for, yet I never left off 
working; both the chalice and the Mint had certainly as much of my 
attention as was due to them and to myself. 

' That is, Guiacum, called by the Italians legno santo. 



It happened that Cardinal Salviati, who, as I have related, enter- 
tained an old hostility against me, had been appointed Legate to 
Parma. In that city a certain Milanese goldsmith, named Tobbia, 
was taken up for false coining, and condemned to the gallows and 
the stake. Representations in his favour, as being a man of great 
ability, were made to the Cardinal, who suspended the execution of 
the sentence, and wrote to the Pope, saying the best goldsmith in the 
world had come into his hands, sentenced to death for coining false 
money, but that he was a good simple fellow, who could plead in 
his excuse that he had taken counsel with his confessor, and had 
received, as he said, from him permission to do this. Thereto he 
added: "If you send for this great artist to Rome, your Holiness will 
bring down the overweening arrogance of your favourite Benvenuto, 
and I am quite certain that Tobbia's work will please you far more 
than his." The Pope accordingly sent for him at once; and when the 
man arrived, he made us both appear before him, and commissioned 
each of us to furnish a design for mounting an unicorn's horn, the 
finest which had ever been seen, and which had been sold for 17,000 
ducats of the Camera. The Pope meant to give it to King Francis; 
but first he wished it richly set in gold, and ordered us to make 
sketches for this purpose. When they were finished, we took them 
to the Pope. That of Tobbia was in the form of a candlestick, the 
horn being stuck in it like a candle, and at the base of the piece he 
had introduced four little unicorns' heads of a very poor design. 
When I saw the thing, I could not refrain from laughing gently in 
my sleeve. The Pope noticed this, and cried : "Here, show me your 
sketch I" It was a single unicorn's head, proportioned in size to the 
horn. I had designed the finest head imaginable; for I took it pardy 
from the horse and partly from the stag, enriching it with fantastic 
mane and other ornaments. Accordingly, no sooner was it seen, than 
every one decided in my favour. There were, however, present at 
the competition certain Milanese gentlemen of the first consequence, 
who said: "Most blessed Father, your Holiness is sending this mag- 
nificent present into France; please to reflect that the French are 
people of no culture, and will not understand the excellence of Ben- 


venuto's work; pyxes like this one of Tobbia's will suit their taste 
well, and these too can be finished quicker.' Benvenuto will devote 
himself to completing your chalice, and you will get two pieces done 
in the same time; moreover, this poor man, whom you have brought 
to Rome, will have the chance to be employed." The Pope, who 
was anxious to obtain his chalice, very willingly adopted the advice 
of the Milanese gentlefolk. 

Next day, therefore, he commissioned Tobbia to mount the uni- 
corn's horn, and sent his Master of the Wardrobe to bid me finish 
the chalice.^ I replied that I desired nothing in the world more than 
to complete the beautiful work I had begun: and if the material 
had been anything but gold, I could very easily have done so myself; 
but it being gold, his Holiness must give me some of the metal if he 
wanted me to get through with my work. To this the vulgar courtier 
answered: "Zounds! don't ask the Pope for gold, unless you mean 
to drive him into such a fury as will ruin you." I said: "Oh, my 
good lord, will your lordship please to tell me how one can make 
bread without flour ? Even so without gold this piece of mine cannot 
be finished." The Master of the Wardrobe, having an inkling that I 
had made a fool of him, told me he should report all I had spoken 
to his Holiness; and this he did. The Pope flew into a bestial pas- 
sion, and swore he would wait to see if I was so mad as not to finish 
it. More than two months passed thus; and though I had declared I 
would not give a stroke to the chalice, I did not do so, but always 
went on working with the greatest interest. When he perceived I 
was not going to bring it, he began to display real displeasure, and 
protested he would punish me in one way or another. 

A jeweller from Milan in the Papal service happened to be present 
when these words were spoken. He was called Pompeo, and was 
closely related to Messer Trajano, the most favoured servant of Pope 
Clement. The two men came, upon a common understanding, to 
him and said: "If your Holiness were to deprive Benvenuto of the 
Mint, perhaps he would take it into his head to complete the chalice." 

'The word I have translated pyxes is ciborii, vessels for holding the Eucharist. 

2 The Master of the Wardrobe was at that time Giovanni Aleotti. I need hardly 
remind my readers that Guardaroba or wardrobe was the apartment in a palace where 
arms, plate, furniture, and clothes were stored. We shall find, when we come to 
Cellini's service under Duke Cosimo, that princes spent much of their time in this 


To this the Pope answered: "No; two evil things would happen: 
first, I should be ill served in the Mint, which concerns me greatly; 
and secondly, I should certainly not get the chalice." The two 
Milanese, observing the Pope indisposed towards me, at last so far 
prevailed that he deprived me of the Mint, and gave it to a young 
Perugian, commonly known as Fagiuolo.' Pompeo came to inform 
me that his Holiness had taken my place in the Mint away, and 
that if I did not finish the chalice, he would deprive me of other 
things besides. I retorted: "Tell his Holiness that he has deprived 
himself and not me of the Mint, and that he will be doing the same 
with regard to those other things of which he speaks; and that if 
he wants to confer the post on me again, nothing will induce me to 
accept it." The graceless and unlucky fellow went off like an arrow 
to find the Pope and report this conversation; he added also some- 
thing of his own invention. Eight days later, the Pope sent the same 
man to tell me that he did not mean me to finish the chalice, and 
wanted to have it back precisely at the point to which I had already 
brought it. I told Pompeo: "This thing is not like the Mint, which 
it was in his power to take away; but five hundred crowns which I 
received belong to his Holiness, and I am ready to return them; the 
piece itself is mine, and with it I shall do what I think best." Pompeo 
ran off to report my speech, together with some biting words which 
in my righteous anger I had let fly at himself. 


After the lapse of three days, on a Thursday, there came to me two 
favourite Chamberlains of his Holiness; one of them is alive now, 
and a bishop; he was called Messer Pier Giovanni, and was an officer 
of the wardrobe; the other could claim nobler birth, but his name 
has escaped me. On arriving they spoke as follows : The Pope hath 
sent us, Benvenuto; and since you have not chosen to comply with 
his request on easy terms, his commands now are that either you 
should give us up his piece, or that we should take you to prison." 
Thereupon I looked them very cheerfully in the face, replying: "My 
lords, if I were to give the work to his Holiness, I should be giving 

' Vasari mentions a Girolamo Fagiuoli, who flourished at this period but calls him 
a Bolognese. 


what is mine and not his, and at present I have no intention to make 
him this gift. I have brought it far forward with great labour, and 
do not want it to go into the hands of some ignorant beast who will 
destroy it with no trouble." While I spoke thus, the goldsmith Tob- 
bia was standing by, who even presumptuously asked me for the 
models also of my work. What I retorted, in words worthy of such 
a rascal, need not here be repeated. Then, when those gentlemen, the 
Chamberlains, kept urging me to do quickly what I meant to do, 
I told them I was ready. So I took my cape up, and before I left the 
shop, I turned to an image of Christ, with solemn reverence and cap 
in hand, praying as thus: "O gracious and undying, just and holy 
our Lord, all the things thou doest are according to thy justice, which 
hath no peer on earth. Thou knowest that I have exactly reached 
the age of thirty, and that up to this hour I was never threatened 
with a prison for any of my actions. Now that it is thy will that I 
should go to prison, with all my heart I thank thee for this dispensa- 
tion." Thereat I turned round to the two Chamberlains, and ad- 
dressed them with a certain lowering look I have: "A man of my 
quality deserved no meaner catchpoles than your lordships: place 
me between you, and take me as your prisoner where you like." 
Those two gentlemen, with the most perfect manners, burst out 
laughing, and put me between them; and so we went off, talking 
pleasantly, until they brought me to the Governor of Rome, who was 
called II Magalotto.' When I reached him (and the Procurator- 
Fiscal was with him, both waiting for me), the Pope's Chamber- 
lains, still laughing, said to the Governor: "We give up to you this 
prisoner; now see you take good care of him. We are very glad to 
have acted in the place of your agents; for Benvenuto has told us that 
this being his first arrest, he deserved no catchpoles of inferior station 
than we are." Immediately on leaving us, they sought the Pope; and 
when they had minutely related the whole matter, he made at first 
as though he would give way to passion, but afterwards he put 
control upon himself and laughed, because there were then in the 
presence certain lords and cardinals, my friends, who had warmly 
espoused my cause. 

' Gregorio Magalotti was a Roman. The Procurator-Fiscal was then Benedetto 
Valenti. Magalotti is said to have discharged his office with extreme severity, and to 
have run great risks of his life in consequence. 


Meanwhile, the Governor and the Fiscal were at me, partly bully- 
ing, partly expostulating, partly giving advice, and saying it was 
only reason that a man who ordered work from another should be 
able to withdraw it at his choice, and in any way which he thought 
best. To this I replied that such proceedings were not warranted by 
justice, neither could a Pope act thus; for that a Pope is not of the 
same kind as certain petty tyrant princes, who treat their folk as 
badly as they can, without regard to law or justice; and so a Vicar 
of Christ may not commit any of these acts of violence. Thereat the 
Governor, assuming his police-court style of threatening and bul- 
lying, began to say: "Benvenuto, Benvenuto, you are going about 
to make me treat you as you deserve." "You will treat me with 
honour and courtesy, if you wish to act as I deserve." Taking me up 
again, he cried: "Send for the work at once, and don't wait for a 
second order." I responded : "My lords, grant me the favour of being 
allowed to say four more words in my defence." The Fiscal, who 
was a far more reasonable agent of police than the Governor, turned 
to him and said: "Monsignor, suppose we let him say a hundred 
words, if he likes : so long as he gives up the work, that is enough for 
us." I spoke: "If any man you like to name had ordered a palace or 
a house to be built, he could with justice tell the master-mason: 'I 
do not want you to go on working at my house or palace;' and after 
paying him his labour, he would have the right to dismiss him. 
Likewise, if a nobleman gave commission for a jewel of a thousand 
crowns' value to be set, when he saw that the jeweller was not serv- 
ing him according to his desire, he could say: 'Give me back my 
stone, for I do not want your work.' But in a case of this kind none 
of those considerations apply; there is neither house nor jewel here; 
nobody can command me further than that I should return the five 
hundred crowns which I have had. Therefore, monsignori, do 
everything you can do; for you will get nothing from me beyond 
the five hundred crowns. Go and say this to the Pope. Your threats 
do not frighten me at all; for I am an honest man, and stand in no 
fear of my sins." The Governor and Fiscal rose, and said they were 
going to the Pope, and should return with orders which I should 
soon learn to my cost. So I remained there under guard. I walked 
up and down a large hall, and they were about three hours away 


before they came back from the Pope. In that while the flower of 
our nation among the merchants came to visit me, imploring me not 
to persist in contending with a Pope, for this might be the ruin of 
me. I answered them that I had made my mind up quite well what 
I wished to do. 


No sooner had the Governor returned, together with the Procura- 
tor, from the palace, than he sent for me, and spoke to this effect: 
"Benvenuto, I am certainly sorry to come back from the Pope with 
such commands as I have received; you must either produce the 
chalice on the instant, or look to your affairs." Then I replied that 
"inasmuch as I had never to that hour believed a holy Vicar of Christ 
could commit an unjust act, so I should like to see it before I did 
believe it; therefore do the utmost that you can." The Governor 
rejoined: "I have to report a couple of words more from the Pope 
to you, and then I will execute the orders given me. He says that 
you must bring your work to me here, and that after I have seen 
it put into a box and sealed, I must take it to him. He engages his 
word not to break the seal, and to return the piece to you untouched. 
But this much he wants to have done, in order to preserve his own 
honour in the affair." In return to this speech, I answered, laughing, 
that I would very willingly give up my work in the way he men- 
tioned, because I should be glad to know for certain what a Pope's 
word was really worth. 

Accordingly, I sent for my piece, and having had it sealed as de- 
scribed, gave it up to him. The Governor repaired again to the 
Pope, who took the box, according to what the Governor himself 
told me, and turned it several times about. Then he asked the Gov- 
ernor if he had seen the work; and he replied that he had, and that it 
had been sealed up in his presence, and added that it had struck him 
as a very admirable piece. Thereupon the Pope said : "You shall tell 
Benvenuto that Popes have authority to bind and loose things of far 
greater consequence than this;" and while thus speaking he opened 
the box with some show of anger, taking off the string and seals 
with which it was done up. Afterwards he paid it prolonged atten- 
tion; and, as I subsequently heard, showed it to Tobbia the gold- 


smith, who bestowed much praise upon it. Then the Pope asked 
him if he felt equal to producing a piece in that style. On his saying 
yes, the Pope told him to follow it out exactly; then turned to the 
Governor and said: "See whether Benvenuto will give it up; for if 
he does, he shall be paid the value fixed on it by men of knowledge 
in this art; but if he is really bent on finishing it himself, let him 
name a certain time; and if you are convinced that he means to do 
it, let him have all the reasonable accommodations he may ask for." 
The Governor replied: "Most blessed Father, I know the violent 
temper of this young man; so let me have authority to give him a 
sound rating after my own fashion." The Pope told him to do what 
he liked with words, though he was sure he would make matters 
worse; and if at last he could do nothing else, he must order me to 
take the five hundred crowns to his jeweller, Pompeo. 

The Governor returned, sent for me into his cabinet, and casting 
one of his catchpole's glances, began: to speak as follows: "Popes 
have authority to loose and bind the whole world, and what they do 
is immediately ratified in heaven. Behold your box, then, which has 
been opened and inspected by his Holiness." I lifted up my voice 
at once, and said: "I thank God that now I have learned and can 
report what the faith of Popes is made of." Then the Governor 
launched out into brutal bullying words and gestures; but perceiving 
that they came to nothing, he gave up his attempt as desperate, and 
spoke in somewhat milder tones after this wise: "Benvenuto, I am 
very sorry that you are so blind to your own interest; but since it is 
so, go and take the five hundred crowns, when you think fit, to 
Pompeo." I took my piece up, went away, and carried the crowns 
to Pompeo on the instant. It is most likely that the Pope had counted 
on some want of money or other opportunity preventing me from 
bringing so considerable a sum at once, and was anxious in this way 
to repiece the broken thread of my obedience. When then he saw 
Pompeo coming to him with a smile upon his lips and the money 
in his hand, he soundly rated him, and lamented that the affair had 
turned out so. Then he said: "Go find Benvenuto in his shop, and 
treat him with all the courtesies of which your ignorant and brutal 
nature is capable, and tell him that if he is willing to finish that piece 
for a reliquary to hold the Corpus Domini when I walk in pro- 


cession, I will allow him the conveniences he wants in order to com- 
plete it; provided only that he goes on working." Pompeo came 
to me, called me outside the shop, and heaped on me the most 
mawkish caresses of a donkey,^ reporting everything the Pope had 
ordered. I lost no time in answering that "the greatest treasure I 
could wish for in the world was to regain the favour of so great a 
Pope, which had been lost to me, not indeed by my fault, but by 
the fault of my overwhelming illness and the wickedness of those 
envious men who take pleasure in making mischief; and since the 
Pope has plenty of servants, do not let him send you round again, 
if you value your life . . . nay, look well to your safety. I shall not 
fail, by night or day, to think and do everything I can in the Pope's 
service; and bear this well in mind, that when you have reported 
these words to his Holiness, you never in any way whatever meddle 
with the least of my affairs, for I will make you recognise your errors 
by the punishment they merit." The fellow related everything to the 
Pope, but in far more brutal terms than I had used; and thus the 
matter rested for a time while I again attended to my shop and 


Tobbia the goldsmith meanwhile worked at the setting and the 
decoration of the unicorn's horn. The Pope, moreover, commissioned 
him to begin the chalice upon the model he had seen in mine. But 
when Tobbia came to show him what he had done, he was very 
discontented, and greatly regretted that he had broken with me, 
blaming all the other man's works and the people who had intro- 
duced them to him; and several times Baccino della Croce came 
from him to tell me that I must not neglect the reliquary. I answered 
that I begged his Holiness to let me breathe a little after the great 
illness I had suffered, and from which I was not as yet wholly free, 
adding that I would make it clear to him that all the hours in which 
I could work should be spent in his service. I had indeed begun to 
make his portrait, and was executing a medal in secret. I fashioned 
the steel dies for stamping this medal in my own house; while I kept 
' Le pitl isvenevole carezze d'asino. 


a partner in my workshop, who had been my prentice and was called 

At that time, as is the wont of young men, I had fallen in love with 
a Sicilian girl, who was exceedingly beautiful. On it becoming clear 
that she returned my affection, her mother perceived how the matter 
stood, and grew suspicious of what might happen. The truth is that 
I had arranged to elope with the girl for a year to Florence, un- 
known to her mother; but she, getting wind of this, left Rome 
secretly one night, and went off in the direction of Naples. She gave 
out that she was gone by Civita Vecchia, but she really went by Ostia. 
I followed them to Civita Vecchia, and did a multitude of mad 
things to discover her. It would be too long to narrate them all in 
detail; enough that I was on the point of losing my wits or dying. 
After two months she wrote to me that she was in Sicily, extremely 
unhappy. I meanwhile was indulging myself in all the pleasures 
man can think of, and had engaged in another love affair, merely to 
drown the memory of my real passion. 


It happened through a variety of singular accidents that I became 
intimate with a Sicilian priest, who was a man of very elevated 
genius and well instructed in both Latin and Greek letters. In the 
course of conversation one day we were led to talk about the art of 
necromancy; apropos of which I said: "Throughout my whole life 
I have had the most intense desire to see or learn something of this 
art." Thereto the priest replied : "A stout soul and a steadfast must 
the man have who sets himself to such an enterprise." I answered 
that of strength and steadfastness of soul I should have enough and 
to spare, provided I found the opportunity. Then the priest said: 
"If you have the heart to dare it, I will amply satisfy your curiosity." 
Accordingly we agreed upon attempting the adventure. 

The priest one evening made his preparations, and bade me find 
a comrade, or not more than two. I invited Vincenzio Romoli, a 
very dear friend of mine, and the priest took with him a native of 
Pistoja, who also cultivated the black art. We went together to the 
CoUseum; and there the priest, having arrayed himself in necro- 
mancer's robes, began to describe circles on the earth with the finest 


ceremonies that can be imagined. I must say that he had made us 
bring precious perfumes and fire, and also drugs of fetid odour. 
When the prehminaries were completed, he made the entrance into 
the circle; and taking us by the hand, introduced us one by one inside 
it. Then he assigned our several functions; to the necromancer, his 
comrade, he gave the pentacle to hold; the other two of us had to 
look after the fire and the perfumes; and then he began his incan- 
tations. This lasted more than an hour and a half; when several 
legions appeared, and the Coliseum was all full of devils. I was 
occupied with the precious perfumes, and when the priest perceived 
in what numbers they were present, he turned to me and said : "Ben- 
venuto, ask them something." I called on them to reunite me with 
my Sicilian Angelica. That night we obtained no answer; but I 
enjoyed the greatest satisfaction of my curiosity in such matters. The 
necromancer said that we should have to go a second time, and that 
I should obtain the full accomplishment of my request; but he wished 
me to bring with me a little boy of pure virginity. 

I chose one of my shop-lads, who was about twelve years old, and 
invited Vincenzio Romoli again; and we also took a certain Agno- 
lino Gaddi, who was a very intimate friend of both. When we came 
once more to the place appointed, the necromancer made just the 
same preparations, attended by the same and even more impressive 
details. Then he introduced us into the circle, which he had recon- 
structed with art more admirable and yet more wondrous cere- 
monies. Afterwards he appointed my friend Vincenzio to the order- 
ing of the perfumes and the fire, and with him Agnolino Gaddi. 
He next placed in my hand the pentacle, which he bid me turn 
toward the points he indicated, and under the pentacle I held the 
little boy, my workman. Now the necromancer began to utter those 
awful invocations, calling by name on multitudes of demons who 
are captains of their legions, and these he summoned by the virtue 
and potency of God, the Uncreated, Living, and Eternal, in phrases 
of the Hebrew, and also of the Greek and Latin tongues; insomuch 
that in a short space of time the whole Coliseum was full of a 
hundredfold as many as had appeared upon the first occasion. Vin- 
cenzio Romoli, together with Agnolino, tended the fire and heaped 
on quantities of precious perfumes. At the advice of the necro- 


mancer, I again demanded to be reunited with Angelica. The sor- 
cerer turned to me and said: "Hear you what they have rephed; that 
in the space of one month you will be where she is?" Then once 
more he prayed me to stand firm by him, because the legions were 
a thousandfold more than he had summoned, and were the most 
dangerous of all the denizens of hell; and now that they had settled 
what I asked, it behoved us to be civil to them and dismiss them 
gently. On the other side, the boy, who was beneath the pentacle, 
shrieked out in terror that a million of the fiercest men were swarm- 
ing round and threatening us. He said, moreover, that four huge 
giants had appeared, who were striving to force their way inside the 
circle. Meanwhile the necromancer, trembling with fear, kept doing 
his best with mild and soft persuasions to dismiss them. Vincenzio 
Romoli, who quaked like an aspen leaf, looked after the perfumes. 
Though I was quite as frightened as the rest of them, I tried to show 
it less, and inspired them all with marvellous courage; but the truth 
is that I had given myself up for dead when I saw the terror of the 
necromancer. The boy had stuck his head between his knees, ex- 
claiming: "This is how I will meet death, for we are certainly dead 
men." Again I said to him: "These creatures are all inferior to us, 
and what you see is only smoke and shadow; so then raise your 
eyes." When he had raised them he cried out: "The whole Coliseum 
is in flames, and the fire is advancing on us;" then covering his face 
with his hands, he groaned again that he was dead, and that he 
could not endure the sight longer. The necromancer appealed for 
my support, entreating me to stand firm by him, and to have assa- 
fetida flung upon the coals; so I turned to Vincenzio Romoli, and 
told him to make the fumigation at once. While uttering these 
words I looked at Agnolino Gaddi, whose eyes were starting from 
their sockets in his terror, and who was more than half dead, and 
said to him : "Agnolo, in time and place like this we must not yield 
to fright, but do the utmost to bestir ourselves; therefore, up at once, 
and fling a handful of that assafetida upon the fire." Agnolo, at the 
moment when he moved to do this, let fly such a volley from his 
breech, that it was far more effectual than the assafetida.' The boy, 
roused by that great stench and noise, lifted his face a little, and 

* Fece una istrombazzata di coregge con tanta abundanzia di merda. 


hearing me laugh, he plucked up courage, and said the devils were 
taking to flight tempestuously. So we abode thus until the matin- 
bells began to sound. Then the boy told us again that but few 
remained, and those were at a distance. When the necromancer 
had concluded his ceremonies, he put off his wizard's robe, and 
packed up a great bundle of books which he had brought with him; 
then, all together, we issued with him from the circle, huddling as 
close as we could to one another, especially the boy, who had got 
into the middle, and taken the necromancer by his gown and me 
by the cloak. All the while that we were going toward our houses 
in the Banchi, he kept saying that two of the devils he had seen in 
the Coliseum were gamboling in front of us, skipping now along 
the roofs and now upon the ground. The necromancer assured me 
that, often as he had entered magic circles, he had never met with 
such a serious affair as this. He also tried to persuade me to assist 
him in consecrating a book, by means of which we should extract 
immeasurable wealth, since we could call up fiends to show us where 
treasures were, whereof the earth is full; and after this wise we 
should become the richest of mankind: love affairs like mine were 
nothing but vanities and follies without consequence. I replied that 
if I were a Latin scholar I should be very willing to do what he 
suggested. He continued to persuade me by arguing that Latin 
scholarship was of no importance, and that, if he wanted, he could 
have found plenty of good Latinists; but that he had never met with 
a man of soul so firm as mine, and that I ought to follow his counsel. 
Engaged in this conversation, we reached our homes, and each one 
of us dreamed all that night of devils. 


As we were in the habit of meeting daily, the necromancer kept 
urging me to join in his adventure. Accordingly, I asked him how 
long it would take, and where we should have to go. To this he 
answered that we might get through with it in less than a month, 
and that the most suitable locality for the purpose was the hill 
country of Norcia;' a master of his in the art had indeed conse- 

' This district of the Central Apennines was always famous for witches, poisoners, 
and so forth. The Farfa mentioned below is a village of the Sabine hills. 


crated such a book quite close to Rome, at a place called the 
Badia di Farfa; but he had met with some difficulties there, 
which would not occur in the mountains of Norcia; the peasants 
also of that district are people to be trusted, and have some prac- 
tice in these matters, so that at a pinch they are able to render 
valuable assistance. 

This priestly sorcerer moved me so by his persuasions that I was 
well disposed to comply with his request; but I said I wanted first 
to finish the medals I was making for the Pope. I had confided 
what I was doing about them to him alone, begging him to keep 
my secret. At the same time I never stopped asking him if he be- 
lieved that I should be reunited to my Sicilian Angelica at the time 
appointed; for the date was drawing near, and I thought it singular 
that I heard nothing about her. The necromancer told me that it 
was quite certain I should find myself where she was, since the 
devils never break their word when they promise, as they did on 
that occasion; but he bade me keep my eyes open, and be on the 
look out against some accident which might happen to me in that 
connection, and put restraint upon myself to endure somewhat 
against my inclination, for he could discern a great and imminent 
danger in it: well would it be for me if I went with him to conse- 
crate the book, since this would avert the peril that menaced me, and 
would make us both most fortunate. 

I was beginning to hanker after the adventure more than he did; 
but I said that a certain Maestro Giovanni of Castel Bolognese had 
just come to Rome, vei'y ingenious in the art of making medals of 
the sort I made in steel, and that I thirsted for nothing more than 
to compete with him and take the world by storm with some great 
masterpiece, which I hoped would annihilate all those enemies of 
mine by the force of genius and not the sword.^ The sorcerer on his 
side went on urging: "Nay, prithee, Benvenuto, come with me and 
shun a great disaster which I see impending over you." However, I 
had made my mind up, come what would, to finish my medal, and 
we were now approaching the end of the month. I was so absorbed 

^ Gio. Bernardi had been in the Duke of Ferrara's service. Giovio brought him to 
Rome, where he was patronised by the Cardinals Salviati and De' Medici. He made 
a famous medal of Clement VII., and was a Pontifical mace-bearer. He died at 
Faenza in 1555. 


and enamoured by my work that I thought no more about Angelica 
or anything of that kind, but gave my whole self up to it. 


It happened one day, close on the hours of vespers, that I had to 
go at an unusual time for me from my house to my workshop; for 
I ought to say that the latter was in the Banchi, while I lived behind 
the Banchi, and went rarely to the shop; all my business there I left 
in the hands of my partner, Felice. Having stayed a short while in 
the workshop, I remembered that I had to say something to Ales- 
sandro del Bene. So I arose, and when I reached the Banchi, I met 
a man called Ser Benedetto, who was a great friend of mine. He 
was a notary, born in Florence, son of a blind man who said prayers 
about the streets for alms, and a Sienese by race. This Ser Benedetto 
had been very many years at Naples; afterwards he had settled in 
Rome, where he transacted business for some Sienese merchants 
of the Chigi.' My partner had over and over again asked him for 
some moneys which were due for certain little rings confided to Ser 
Benedetto. That very day, meeting him in the Banchi, he demanded 
his money rather roughly, as his wont was. Benedetto was walking 
with his masters, and they, annoyed by the interruption, scolded him 
sharply, saying they would be served by somebody else, in order not 
to have to listen to such barking. Ser Benedetto did the best he could 
to excuse himself, swore that he had paid the goldsmith, and said he 
had no power to curb the rage of madmen. The Sienese took his 
words ill, and dismissed him on the spot. Leaving them, he ran like 
an arrow to my shop, probably to take revenge upon Felice. It 
chanced that just in the middle of the street we met. I, who had 
heard nothing of the matter, greeted him most kindly, according to 
my custom, to which courtesy he replied with insults. Then what 
the sorcerer had said flashed all at once upon my mind; and bridling 
myself as well as I was able, in the way he bade me, I answered: 
"Good brother Benedetto, don't fly into a rage with me, for I have 
done you no harm, nor do I know anything about these affairs of 
yours. Please go and finish what you have to do with Felice. He is 
quite capable of giving you a proper answer; but inasmuch as I 
* The MS. has Figi; but this is probably a mistake of the amanuensis. 


know nothing about it, you are wrong to abuse me in this way, 
especially as you are well aware that I am not the man to put up 
with insults." He retorted that I knew everything, and that he was 
the man to make me bear a heavier load than that, and that Felice 
and I were two great rascals. By this time a crowd had gathered 
round to hear the quarrel. Provoked by his ugly words, I stooped 
and took up a lump of mud — for it had rained — and hurled it with 
a quick and unpremeditated movement at his face. He ducked his 
head, so that the mud hit him in the middle of the skull. There was 
a stone in it with several sharp angles, one of which striking him, 
he fell stunned like a dead man: whereupon all the bystanders, 
seeing the great quantity of blood, judged that he was really dead. 


While he was still lying on the ground, and people were pre- 
paring to carry him away, Pompeo the jeweller passed by. The 
Pope had sent for him to give orders about some jewels. Seeing the 
fellow in such a miserable plight, he asked who had struck him; on 
which they told him: "Benvenuto did it, but the stupid creature 
brought it down upon himself." No sooner had Pompeo reached 
the Pope than he began to speak: "Most blessed Father, Benvenuto 
has this very moment murdered Tobbia; I saw it with my own 
eyes." On this the Pope in a fury ordered the Governor, who was 
in the presence, to take and hang me at once in the place where the 
homicide had been committed, adding that he must do all he 
could to catch me, and not appear again before him until he had 
hanged me. 

When I saw the unfortunate Benedetto stretched upon the ground, 
I thought at once of the peril I was in, considering the power of my 
enemies, and what might ensue from this disaster. Making off, I 
took refuge in the house of Messer Giovanni Gaddi, clerk of the 
Camera, with the intention of preparing as soon as possible to escape 
from Rome. He, however, advised me not to be in such a hurry, 
for it might turn out perhaps that the evil was not so great as I 
imagined; and calling Messer Annibal Caro, who lived with him, 
bade him go for information. 

While these arrangements were being made, a Roman gentleman 


appeared, who belonged to the household of Cardinal de' Medici, 
and had been sent by him.' Taking Messer Giovanni and me apart, 
he told us that the Cardinal had reported to him what the Pope said, 
and that there was no way of helping me out of the scrape; it would 
be best for me to shun the first fury of the storm by flight, and not 
to risk myself in any house in Rome. Upon this gentleman's depar- 
ture, Messer Giovanni looked me in the face as though he were 
about to cry, and said: "Ah me! Ah woe is me! There is nothing 
I can do to aid you!" I replied: "By God's means, I shall aid myself 
alone; only I request you to put one of your horses at my disposition." 
They had already saddled a black Turkish horse, the finest and the 
best in Rome- I mounted with an arquebuse upon the saddle-bow, 
wound up in readiness to fire, if need were.^ When I reached Ponte 
Sisto, I found the whole of the Bargello's guard there, both horse 
and foot. So, making a virtue of necessity, I put my horse boldly 
to a sharp trot, and with God's grace, being somehow unperceived 
by them, passed freely through. Then, with all the speed I could, 
I took the road to Palombara, a fief of my lord Giovanbatista Savello, 
whence I sent the horse back to Messer Giovanni, without, how- 
ever, thinking it well to inform him where I was.' Lord Giovan- 
batista, after very kindly entertaining me two days, advised me to 
remove and go toward Naples till the storm blew over. So, providing 
me with company, he set me on the way to Naples. 

While travelling, I met a sculptor of my acquaintance, who was 
going to San Germano to finish the tomb of Piero de' Medici at 
Monte Cassino.* His name was Solosmeo, and he gave me the news 
that on the very evening of the fray, Pope Clement sent one of his 

' Ippolito de' Medici was a Cardinal, much against his natural inclination. When 
he went as Papal Legate to Hungary in 1532, he assumed the airs and style of a 
Condottiere. His jealousy of his cousin Alessandro led to his untimely death by 
poison in 1535. 

^ The gun was an arquebuso a ruola, which had a wheel to cock it. 

' A village in the Sabina, north of Tivoli. Giov. Battista Savelli, of a great Roman 
house, was a captain of cavalry in the Papal service after 1530. In 1540 he entered 
the service of Duke Cosimo, and died in 1553. 

*This sculptor was Antonio Solosmeo of Settignano. The monument erected to 
Piero de' Medici (drowned in the Garigliano, 1504) at Monte Cassino is by no means 
a brilliant piece of Florentine art. Piero was the exiled son of Lorenzo the Magnificent; 
and the Medici, when they regained their principality, erected this monument to his 
memory, employing Antonio da San Gallo, Francesco da San Gallo and a Neapolitan, 
Matteo de' Quaranta. The work was begun in 1532. Solosmeo appears from this 
passage in Cellini to have taken the execution of it over. 


chamberlains to inquire how Tobbia was getting on. Finding him at 
work, unharmed, and without even knowing anything about the 
matter, the messenger went back and told the Pope, who turned 
round to Pompeo and said: "You are a good-for-nothing rascal; but 
I promise you well that you have stirred a snake up which will sting 
you, and serve you right!" Then he addressed himself to Cardinal 
de' Medici, and commissioned him to look after me, adding that he 
should be very sorry to let me slip through his fingers. And so 
Solosmeo and I went on our way singing toward Monte Cassino, 
intending to pursue our journey thence in company toward Naples. 


When Solosmeo had inspected his affairs at Monte Cassino, we 
resumed our journey, and having come within a mile of Naples, we 
were met by an innkeeper, who invited us to his house, and said he 
had been at Florence many years with Carlo Ginori;' adding, that if 
we put up at his inn, he would treat us most kindly, for the reason 
that we both were Florentines. We told him frequently that we 
did not want to go to him. However, he kept passing, sometimes in 
front and sometimes behind, perpetually repeating that he would 
have us stop at his hostelry. When this began to bore me, I asked 
if he could tell me anything about a certain Sicilian woman called 
Beatrice, who had a beautiful daughter named Angelica, and both 
were courtesans. Taking it into his head that I was jeering him, 
he cried out: "God send mischief to all courtesans and such as favour 
them!" Then he set spurs to his horse, and made off as though he 
was resolved to leave us. I felt some pleasure at having rid myself 
in so fair a manner of that ass of an innkeeper; and yet I was rather 
the loser than the gainer; for the great love I bore Angelica had 
come back to my mind, and while I was conversing, not without 
some lover's sighs, upon this subject with Solosmeo, we saw the man 
returning to us at a gallop. When he drew up, he said: "Two or 
perhaps three days ago a woman and a girl came back to a house in 
my neighbourhood; they had the names you mentioned, but whether 
they are Sicilians I cannot say." I answered: "Such power over me 

' A Gonfalonier of the Republic in 1527. 


has that name of AngeUca, that I am now determined to put up at 
your inn." 

We rode on all together with mine host into the town of Naples, 
and descended at his house. Minutes seemed years to me till I had 
put my things in order, which I did in the twinkling of an eye; 
then I went to the house, which was not far from our inn, and found 
there my Angelica, who greeted me with infinite demonstrations 
of the most unbounded passion. I stayed with her from evenfall 
until the following morning, and enjoyed such pleasure as I never 
had before or since; but while drinking deep of this delight, it 
occurred to my mind how exactly on that day the month expired, 
which had been prophesied within the necromantic circle by the 
devils. So then let every man who enters into relation with those 
spirits weigh well the inestimable perils I have passed through! 


I happened to have in my purse a diamond, which I showed about 
among the goldsmiths; and though I was but young, my reputation 
as an able artist was so well known even at Naples that they wel- 
comed me most warmly. Among others, I made acquaintance with a 
most excellent companion, a jeweller, Messer Domenico Fontana by 
name. This worthy man left his shop for the three days that I spent 
in Naples, nor ever quitted my company, but showed me many 
admirable monuments of antiquity in the city and its neighbour- 
hood. Moreover, he took me to pay my respects to the Viceroy of 
Naples, who had let him know that he should like to see me. When 
I presented myself to his Excellency, he received me with much 
honour;' and while we were exchanging compliments, the diamond 
■which I have mentioned caught his eye. He made me show it him, 
and prayed me, if I parted with it, to give him the refusal. Having 
taken back the stone, I offered it again to his Excellency, adding that 
the diamond and I were at his service. Then he said that the 
diamond pleased him well, but that he should be much better pleased 
if I were to stay with him; he would make such terms with me as 

iThe Spanish Viceroy was at this time Pietro Alvarez de Toledo, Marquis o£ 
Villafranca, and uncle of the famous Duke of Alva. He governed Naples for 
twenty years, from 1532 onwards. 


would cause me to feel satisfied. We spoke many words of courtesy 
on both sides; and then coming to the merits of the diamond, his 
Excellency bade me without hesitation name the price at which I 
valued it. Accordingly I said that it was worth exactly two hundred 
crowns. He rejoined that in his opinion I had not overvalued it; 
but that since I had set it, and he knew me for the first artist in the 
world, it would not make the same effect when mounted by another 
hand. To this I said that I had not set the stone, and that it was 
not well set; its brilliancy was due to its own excellence; and that if 
I were to mount it afresh, I could make it show far better than it 
did. Then I put my thumb-nail to the angles of its facets, took it 
from the ring, cleaned it up a little, and handed it to the Viceroy. 
Delighted and astonished, he wrote me out a cheque^ for the two 
hundred crowns I had demanded. 

When I returned to my lodging, I found letters from the Cardinal 
de' Medici, in which he told me to come back post-haste to Rome, 
and to dismount without delay at the palace of his most reverend 
lordship. I read the letter to my Angelica, who begged me with 
tears of affection either to remain in Naples or to take her with me. 
I replied that if she was disposed to come with me, I would give up 
to her keeping the two hundred ducats I had received from the 
Viceroy. Her mother perceiving us in this close conversation, drew 
nigh and said: "Benvenuto, if you want to take my daughter to 
Rome, leave me a sum of fifteen ducats, to pay for my lying-in, and 
then I will travel after you." I told the old harridan that I would 
very gladly leave her thirty if she would give me my Angelica. We 
made the bargain, and Angelica entreated me to buy her a gown of 
black velvet, because the stuff was cheap at Naples. I consented to 
everything, sent for the velvet, settled its price and paid for it; then 
the old woman, who thought me over head and ears in love, begged 
for a gown of fine cloth for herself, as well as other outlays for her 
sons, and a good bit more money than I had offered. I turned to 
her with a pleasant air and said : "My dear Beatrice, are you satisfied 
with what I offered?" She answered that she was not; thereupon I 
said that what was not enough for her would be quite enough for 

' Mi jece una polizza. A polizza was an order for money, practically identical with 
our cheque. 


me; and having kissed Angelica, we parted, she with tears, and I 
with laughter, and off at once I set for Rome. 


1 left Naples by night with my money in my pocket, and this I 
did to prevent being set upon or murdered, as is the way there; but 
when I came to Selciata,' I had to defend myself with great address 
and bodily prowess from several horsemen who came out to assassi- 
nate me. During the following days, after leaving Solosmeo at his 
work in Monte Cassino, I came one morning to breakfast at the 
inn of Adanagni;^ and when I was near the house, I shot some birds 
with my arquebuse. An iron spike, which was in the lock of my 
musket, tore my right hand. Though the wound was not of any 
consequence, it seemed to be so, because it bled abundantly. Going 
into the inn, I put my horse up, and ascended to a large gallery, 
where I found a party of Neapolitan gentlemen just upon the point 
of sitting down to table; they had with them a young woman of 
quality, the loveliest I ever saw. At the moment when I entered the 
room, I was followed by a very brave young serving-man of mine 
holding a big partisan in his hand. The sight of us, our arms, and 
the blood, inspired those poor gentlemen with such terror, par- 
ticularly as the place was known to be a nest of murderers, that they 
rose from table and called on God in a panic to protect them. I began 
to laugh, and said that God had protected them already, for that I 
was a man to defend them against whoever tried to do them harm. 
Then I asked them for something to bind up my wounded hand; 
and the charming lady took out a handkerchief richly embroidered 
with gold, wishing to make a bandage with it. I refused; but she 
tore the piece in half, and in the gentlest manner wrapt my hand up 
with her fingers. The company thus having regained confidence, 
we dined together very gaily; and when the meal was over, we all 
mounted and went off together. The gentlemen, however, were not 
as yet quite at their ease; so they left me in their cunning to entertain 
the lady, while they kept at a short distance behind. I rode at her 

' Ponte a Selice, between Capua and Aversa. 

2 Anagni, where Boniface VIII. was outraged to the death by the French partisans 
of Philip le Bel. 


side upon a pretty little horse of mine, making signs to my servant 
that he should keep somewhat apart, which gave us the opportunity 
of discussing things that are not sold by the apothecary.^ In this way 
I journeyed to Rome with the greatest enjoyment I have ever had. 

When I got to Rome, I dismounted at the palace of Cardinal de' 
Medici, and having obtained an audience of his most reverend lord- 
ship, paid my respects, and thanked him warmly for my recall. I 
then entreated him to secure me from imprisonment, and even from 
a fine if that were possible. The Cardinal was very glad to see me; 
told me to stand in no fear; then turned to one of his gentlemen, 
called Messer Pier Antonio Pecci of Siena, ordering him to tell the 
Bargello not to touch me.* He then asked him how the man was 
going on whose head I had broken with the stone. Messer Pier 
Antonio replied that he was very ill, and that he would probably be 
even worse; for when he heard that I was coming back to Rome, 
he swore he would die to serve me an ill turn. When the Cardinal 
heard that, he burst into a fit of laughter, and cried: "The fellow 
could not have taken a better way than this to make us know that he 
was born a Sienese." After that he turned to me and said: "For our 
reputation and your own, refrain these four or five days from going 
about in the Banchi; after that go where you like, and let fools die 
at their own pleasure." 

I went home and set myself to finishing the medal which I had 
begun, with the head of Pope Clement and a figure of Peace on the 
reverse. The figure was a slender woman, dressed in very thin 
drapery, gathered at the waist, with a little torch in her hand, which 
was burning a heap of arms bound together like a trophy. In the 
background I had shown part of a temple, where was Discord 
chained with a load of fetters. Round about it ran a legend in these 
words: Clauduntur belli portce^ 

During the time that I was finishing this medal, the man whom 
I had wounded recovered, and the Pope kept incessantly asking for 
me. I, however, avoided visiting Cardinal de' Medici; for whenever 

'/. e., private and sentimental. 

■*This Pecci passed into the service of Caterina de' Medici. In 1551 he schemed 
to withdraw Siena from the Spanish to the French cause, and was declared a rebel. 

*The medal was struck to celebrate the peace in Christendom between 1530 and 


I showed my face before him, his lordship gave me some commission 
of importance, which hindered me from working at my medal to the 
end. Consequently Messer Pier Carnesecchi, who was a great fav- 
ourite of the Pope's, undertook to keep me in sight, and let me 
adroitly understand how much the Pope desired my services.^ I told 
him that in a few days I would prove to hisi Holiness that his 
service had never been neglected by me. 


Not many days had passed before, my medal being finished, I 
stamped it in gold, silver, and copper. After I had shown it to 
Messer Pietro, he immediately introduced me to the Pope. It was 
on a day in April after dinner, and the weather very fine; the Pope 
was in the Belvedere. After entering the presence, I put my medals 
together with the dies of steel into his hand. He took them, and 
recognising at once their mastery of art, looked Messer Pietro in the 
face and said: "The ancients never had such medals made for them 
as these." 

While he and the others were inspecting them, taking up now the 
dies and now the medals in their hands, I began to speak as sub- 
missively as I was able: "If a greater power had not controlled the 
working of my inauspicious stars, and hindered that with which they 
violently menaced me, your Holiness, without your fault or mine, 
would have lost a faithful and loving servant. It must, most blessed 
Father, be allowed that in those cases where men are risking all upon 
one throw, it is not wrong to do as certain poor and simple men are 
wont to say, who tell us we must mark seven times and cut once.' 
Your Holiness will remember how the malicious and lying tongue of 
my bitter enemy so easily aroused your anger, that you ordered the 
Governor to have me taken on the spot and hanged; but I have no 
doubt that when you had become aware of the irreparable act by 
which you would have wronged yourself, in cutting off from you a 
servant such as even now your Holiness hath said he is, I am sure, 

' Pietro Carnesecchi was one of the martyrs of free-thought in Italy. He adopted 
Protestant opinions, and was beheaded and burned in Rome, August 1567. 

^Segnar sette e tagliar una. A proverb derived possibly from felling trees; or, as 
some commentators interpret, from the points made by sculptors on their marble 
before they block the statue out. 


I repeat, that, before God and the world, you would have felt no 
trifling twinges of remorse. Excellent and virtuous fathers, and 
masters of like quality, ought not to let their arm in wrath descend 
upon their sons and servants with such inconsiderate haste, seeing 
that subsequent repentance will avail them nothing. But now that 
God has overruled the malign influences of the stars and saved me 
for your Holiness, I humbly beg you another time not to let yourself 
so easily be stirred to rage against me." 

The Pope had stopped from looking at the medals and was now 
listening attentively to what I said. There were many noblemen of 
the greatest consequence present, which made him blush a little, as 
it were for shame; and not knowing how else to extricate himself 
from this entanglement, he said that he could not remember having 
given such an order. I changed the conversation in order to cover 
his embarrassment. His Holiness then began to speak again about 
the medals, and asked what method I had used to stamp them so 
marvellously, large as they were; for he had never met with ancient 
pieces of that size. We talked a little on this subject; but being not 
quite easy that I might not begin another lecture sharper than the 
last, he praised my medals, and said they gave him the greatest 
satisfaction, but that he should like another reverse made according 
to a fancy of his own, if it were possible to stamp them with two 
different patterns. I said that it was possible to do so. Then his 
Holiness commissioned me to design the history of Moses when he 
strikes the rock and water issues from it, with this motto: Ut bibat 
populus? At last he added: "Go Benvenuto; you will not have 
finished it before I have provided for your fortune." After I had 
taken leave, the Pope proclaimed before the whole company that 
he would give me enough to live on wealthily without the need of 
labouring for any one but him. So I devoted myself entirely to 
working out this reverse with the Moses on it. 


In the meantime the Pope was taken ill, and his physicians thought 
the case was dangerous. Accordingly my enemy began to be afraid 
of me, and engaged some Neapolitan soldiers to do to me what he 

^ The medal commemorated a deep well sunk by Clement at Orvieto. 


was dreading I might do to him/ I had therefore much trouble to 
defend my poor Hfe. In course of time, however, I completed the 
reverse; and when I took it to the Pope, I found him in bed in a 
most deplorable condition. Nevertheless, he received me with the 
greatest kindness, and wished to inspect the medals and the dies. He 
sent for spectacles and lights, but was unable to see anything clearly. 
Then he began to fumble with his fingers at them, and having felt 
them a short while, he fetched a deep sigh, and said to his attendants 
that he was much concerned about me, but that if God gave him 
back his health he would make it all right. 

Three days afterwards the Pope died, and I was left with all my 
labour lost; yet I plucked up courage, and told myself that these 
medals had won me so much celebrity, that any Pope who was 
elected would give me work to do, and peradventure bring me better 
fortune. Thus I encouraged and put heart into myself, and buried in 
oblivion all the injuries which Pompeo had done me. Then putting 
on my arms and girding my sword, I went to San Piero, and kissed 
the feet of the dead Pope, not without shedding tears. Afterwards I 
returned to the Banchi to look on at the great commotion which 
always happens on such occasions. 

While I was sitting in the street with several of my friends, 
Pompeo went by, attended by ten men very well armed; and when 
he came just opposite, he stopped, as though about to pick a quarrel 
with myself. My companions, brave and adventurous young men, 
made signs to me to draw my sword; but it flashed through my 
mind that if I drew, some terrible mischief might result for persons 
who were wholly innocent. Therefore I considered that it would 
be better if I put my life to risk alone. When Pompeo had stood 
there time enough to say two Ave Marias, he laughed derisively in 
my direction; and going off, his fellows also laughed and wagged 
their heads, with many other insolent gestures. My companions 
wanted to begin the fray at once; but I told them hotly that I was 
quite able to conduct my quarrels to an end by myself, and that I 
had no need of stouter fighters than I was; so that each of them 
might mind his business. My friends were angry and went ofl 

^The meaning of this is, that if Clement died, Cellini would have had his 
opportunity of vengeance during the anarchy which followed a vacancy of the Papal 


muttering. Now there was among them my dearest comrade, named 
Albertaccio del Bene, own brother to Alessandro and Albizzo, who 
is now a very rich man in Lyons. He was the most redoubtable 
young man I ever knew, and the most high-spirited, and loved me 
like himself; and insomuch as he was well aware that my forbear- 
ance had not been inspired by want of courage, but by the most 
daring bravery, for he knew me down to the bottom of my nature, 
he took my words up and begged me to favour him so far as to 
associate him with myself in all I meant to do. I replied: "Dear 
Albertaccio, dearest to me above all men that live, the time will very 
likely come when you shall give me aid; but in this case, if you love 
me, do not attend to me, but look to your own business, and go at 
once like our other friends, for now there is no time to lose." These 
words were spoken in one breath. 


In the meanwhile my enemies had proceeded slowly toward 
Chiavica, as the place was called, and had arrived at the crossing of 
several roads, going in different directions; but the street in which 
Pompeo's house stood was the one which leads straight to the Campra 
di Fiore. Some business or other made him enter the apothecary's 
shop which stood at the corner of Chiavica, and there he stayed a 
while transacting it. I had just been told that he had boasted of the 
insult which he fancied he had put upon me; but be that as it may, 
it was to his misfortune; for precisely when I came up to the corner, 
he was leaving the shop and his bravi had opened their ranks and 
received him in their midst. I drew a little dagger with a sharpened 
edge, and breaking the line of his defenders, laid my hands upon 
his breast so quickly and coolly, that none of them were able to pre- 
vent me. Then I aimed to strike him in the face; but fright made 
him turn his head round; and I stabbed him just beneath the ear. 
I only gave two blows, for he fell stone dead at the second. I had 
not meant to kill him; but as the saying goes, knocks are not dealt 
by measure. With my left hand I plucked back the dagger, and with 
my right hand drew my sword to defend my life. However, all those 
bravi ran up to the corpse and took no action against me; so I went 


back alone through Strada Giulia, considering how best to put 
myself in safety. 

I had walked about three hundred paces, when Piloto the gold- 
smith, my very good friend, came up and said: "Brother, now that 
the mischief's done, we must see to saving you." I replied: "Let us 
go to Albertaccio del Bene's house; it is only a few minutes since I 
told him I should soon have need of him." When we arrived there, 
Albertaccio and I embraced with measureless affection; and soon the 
whole flower of the young men of the Banchi, of all nations except 
the Milanese, came crowding in; and each and all made proffer of 
their own life to save mine. Messer Luigi Rucellai also sent with 
marvellous promptitude and courtesy to put his services at my dis- 
posal, as did many other great folk of his station; for they all agreed 
in blessing my hands,' judging that Pompeo had done me too great 
and unforgivable an injury, and marvelling that I had put up with 
him so long. 


Cardinal Cornaro, on hearing of the affair, despatched thirty sol- 
diers, with as many partisans, pikes, and arquebuses, to bring me 
with all due respect to his quarters.'' This he did unasked; where- 
upon I accepted the invitation, and went off with them, while more 
than as many of the young men bore me company. Meanwhile, 
Messer Traiano, Pompeo's relative and first chamberlain to the Pope, 
sent a Milanese of high rank to Cardinal de' Medici, giving him 
news of the great crime I had committed, and calling on his most 
reverend lordship to chastise me. The Cardinal retorted on the spot: 
"His crime would indeed have been great if he had not committed 
this lesser one; thank Messer Traiano from me for giving me this 
information of a fact of which I had not heard before." Then he 
turned and in presence of the nobleman said to the Bishop of 
FruUi,' his gentleman and intimate acquaintance: "Search diligently 
after my friend Benvenuto; I want to help and defend him; and 

• Tutti d'accordo mi benedissono le mani. This is tantamount to approving Cellini's 
handiwork in murdering Pompeo. 

^This was Francesco, brother to Cardinal Marco Cornaro. He received the hat in 
1528, while yet a layman, and the Bishopric of Brescia in 1531. 

' Forli. The Bishop was Bernardo de' Medici. 


whoso acts against him acts against myself." The Milanese noble- 
man went back, much disconcerted, while the Bishop of Frulli come 
to visit me at Cardinal Cornaro's palace. Presenting himself to the 
Cardinal, he related how Cardinal de' Medici had sent for Ben- 
venuto, and wanted to be his protector. Now Cardinal Cornaro, who 
had the touchy temper of a bear, flew into a rage, and told the Bishop 
he was quite as well able to defend me as Cardinal de' Medici. The 
Bishop, in reply, entreated to be allowed to speak with me on some 
matters of his patron which had nothing to do with the affair. Cor- 
naro bade him for that day make as though he had already talked 
with me. 

Cardinal de' Medici was very angry. However, I went the follow- 
ing night, without Cornaro's knowledge, and under good escort, to 
pay him my respects. Then I begged him to grant me the favour of 
leaving me where I was, and told him of the great courtesy which 
Cornaro had shown me; adding that if his most reverend lordship 
suffered me to stay, I should gain one friend the more in my hour of 
need; otherwise his lordship might dispose of me exactly as he 
thought best. He told me to do as I liked; so I returned to Cornaro's 
palace, and a few days afterwards the Cardinal Farnese was elected 

After he had put affairs of greater consequence in order, the new 
Pope sent for me, saying that he did not wish any one else to strike 
his coins. To these words of his Holiness a gentleman very privately 
acquainted with him, named Messer Latino Juvinale, made answer 
that I was in hiding for a murder committed on the person of one 
Pompeo of Milan, and set forth what could be argued for my justi- 
fication in the most favourable terms.' The Pope replied: "I knew 
nothing of Pompeo's death, but plenty of Benvenuto's provocation; 
so let a safe-conduct be at once made out for him, in order that he 
may be placed in perfect security." A great friend of Pompeo's, who 
was also intimate with the Pope, happened to be there; he was a 
Milanese, called Messer Ambrogio.' This man said: "In the first 

*Paul in., elected October 13, 1534. 

'Latino Giovenale de' Manetti was a Latin poet and a man of humane learning, 
much esteemed by his contemporaries. 

' Ambrogio Recalcati. He was for many years the trusted secretary and diplomatic 
agent of Paul III. 


days of your papacy it were not well to grant pardons of this kind." 
The Pope turned to him and answered: "You know less about such 
matters than I do. Know then that men like Benvenuto, unique in 
their profession, stand above the law; and how far more he, then, 
who received the provocation I have heard of?" When my safe 
conduct had been drawn out, I began at once to serve him, and was 
treated with the utmost favour. 


Messer Latino Juvinale came to call on me, and gave me orders to 
strike the coins of the Pope. This roused up all my enemies, who 
began to look about how they should hinder me; but the Pope, per- 
ceiving their drift, scolded them, and insisted that I should go on 
working. I took the dies in hand, designing a S. Paul, surrounded 
with this inscription: Vas electionis. This piece of money gave far 
more satisfaction than the models of my competitors; so that the 
Pope forbade any one else to speak to him of coins, since he wished 
me only to have to do with them. This encouraged me to apply 
myself with untroubled spirit to the task; and Messer Latino Juvi- 
nale, who had received such orders from the Pope, used to introduce 
me to his Holiness. I had it much at heart to recover the post of 
stamper to the Mint; but on this point the Pope took advice, and 
then told me I must first obtain pardon for the homicide, and this 
I should get at the holy Maries' day in August through the Caporioni 
of Rome.' I may say that it is usual every year on this solemn festival 
to grant the freedom of twelve outlaws to these officers. Meanwhile 
he promised to give me another safe-conduct, which should keep me 
in security until that time. 

When my enemies perceived that they were quite unable to devise 

the means of keeping me out of the Mint, they resorted to another 

expedient. The deceased Pompeo had left three thousand ducats as 

dowry to an illegitimate daughter of his; and they contrived that a 

certain favourite of Signor Pier Luigi, the Pope's son, should ask 

' Le sante Marie. So the Feast of the Assumption is called at Florence, because 
devotion is paid on that day to the various images of the Virgin scattered through the 
town. The Caporioni of Rome were, like aldermen, wardens of the districts into 
which the city was divided. 


her hand in marriage through the medium of his master.^ Accord- 
ingly the match came off; but this fellow was an insignificant coun- 
try lad, who had been brought up by his lordship; and, as folk said, 
he got but little of the money, since his lordship laid his hands on 
it and had the mind to use it. Now the husband of the girl, to please 
his wife, begged the prince to have me taken up; and he promised 
to do so when the first flush of my favour with the Pope had passed 
away. Things stood so about two months, the servant always suing 
for his wife's dower, the master putting him off with pretexts, but 
assuring the woman that he would certainly revenge her father's 
murder. I obtained an inkling of these designs; yet I did not omit 
to present myself pretty frequently to his lordship, who made show 
of treating me with great distinction. He had, however, decided to 
do one or other of two things — either to have me assassinated, or 
to have me taken up by the Bargello. Accordingly he commissioned 
a certain little devil of a Corsican soldier in his service to do the 
trick as cleverly as he could;' and my other enemies, with Messer 
Traiano at the head of them, promised the fellow a reward of one 
hundred crowns. He assured them that the job would be as easy as 
sucking a fresh egg. Seeing into their plot, I went about with my 
eyes open and with good attendance, wearing an under-coat and 
armlets of mail, for which I had obtained permission. 

The Corsican, influenced by avarice, hoped to gain the whole sum 
of money without risk, and imagined himself capable of carrying 
the matter through alone. Consequently, one day after dinner, he 
had me sent for in the name of Signor Pier Luigi. I went off at once, 
because his lordship had spoken of wanting to order several big 
silver vases. Leaving my home in a hurry, armed, however, as usual, 
I walked rapidly through Strada Giulia toward the Palazzo Farnese, 
not expecting to meet anybody at that hour of day. I had reached the 
end of the street and was making toward the palace, when, my habit 
being always to turn the corners wide, I observed the Corsican get 
up and take his station in the middle of the road. Being prepared, 

*Pier Luigi Farnese, Paul III.'s bastard, was successively created Gonfaloniere of 
the Church, Duke of Castro, Marquis of Novara, and finally Duke of Parma and 
Piacenza in 1545. He was murdered at Parma by his own courtiers in 1547. He was 
a man of infamous habits, quite unfit for the high dignities conferred on him. 

* Che la facessi piu netta chc poteva. 


I was not in the least disconcerted; but kept upon my guard, and 
slackening pace a little, drew nearer toward the wall, in order to ^ive 
the fellow a wide berth. He on his side came closer to the wall, and 
when we were now within a short distance of each other, I perceived 
by his gestures that he had it in his mind to do me mischief, and 
seeing me alone thus, thought he should succeed. Accordingly, I 
began to speak and said: "Brave soldier, if it had been night, you 
might have said you had mistaken me, but since it is full day, you 
know well enough who I am. I never had anything to do with you, 
and never injured you, but should be well disposed to do you service." 
He replied in a high-spirited way, without, however, making room 
for me to pass, that he did not know what I was saying. Then I 
answered: "I know very well indeed what you want, and what you 
are saying; but the job which you have taken in hand is more 
dangerous and difficult than you imagine, and may peradventure 
turn out the wrong way for you. Remember that you have to do with 
a man who would defend himself against a hundred; and the adven- 
ture you are on is not esteemed by men of courage like yourself." 
Meanwhile I also was looking black as thunder, and each of us 
had changed colour. Folk too gathered round us, for it had become 
clear that our words meant swords and daggers. He then, not having 
the spirit to lay hands on me, cried out: "We shall meet another 
time." I answered: "I am always glad to meet honest men and 
those who show themselves as such." 

When we parted, I went to his lordship's palace, and found he 
had not sent for me. When I returned to my shop, the Corsican 
informed me, through an intimate friend of his and mine, that I 
need not be on my guard against him, since he wished to be my good 
brother; but that I ought to be much upon my guard against others, 
seeing I was in the greatest peril, for folk of much consequence had 
sworn to have my life. I sent to thank him, and kept the best look- 
out I could. Not many days after, a friend of mine informed me that 
Signer Pier Luigi had given strict orders that I should be taken 
that very evening. They told me this at twenty; whereupon I spoke 
with some of my friends, who advised me to be off at once. The 
order had been given for one hour after sunset; accordingly at twenty- 
three I left in the post for Florence. It seems that when the Corsican 


showed that he had not pluck enough to do the business as he prom- 
ised, Signer Pier Luigi on his own authority gave orders to have me 
taken, merely to stop the mouth of Pompeo's daughter, who was 
always clamouring to know where her dower had gone to. When 
he was unable to gratify her in this matter of revenge on either of 
the two plans he had formed, he bethought him of another, which 
shall be related in its proper place. 


I reached Florence in due course, and paid my respects to the Duke 
Alessandro, who greeted me with extraordinary kindness and pressed 
me to remain in his service. There was then at Florence a sculptor 
called II Tribolino, and we were gossips, for I had stood godfather to 
his son.' In course of conversation he told me that a certain Giacopo 
del Sansovino, his first master, had sent for him; and whereas he had 
never seen Venice, and because of the gains he expected, he was very 
glad to go there.^ On his asking me if I had ever been at Venice, I 
said no; this made him invite me to accompany him, and I agreed. 
So then I told Duke Alessandro that I wanted first to go to Venice, 
and that afterwards I would return to serve him. He exacted a 
formal promise to this effect, and bade me present myself before I 
left the city. Next day, having made my preparations, I went to take 
leave of the Duke, whom I found in the palace of the Pazzi, at that 
time inhabited by the wife and daughters of Signor Lorenzo Cibo.' 
Having sent word to his Excellency that I wished to set off for 
Venice with his good leave, Signor Cosimino de' Medici, now Duke 
of Florence, returned with the answer that I must go to Niccolo de 

■ Niccolo de' Pericoli, a Florentine, who got the nickname of Tribolo in his boyhood, 
was a sculptor of some distinction. He worked on the bas-reliefs of San Petronio at 
Bologna, and helped Michel Agnolo da Siena to execute the tomb of Adrian VI. at 
Rome. Afterwards he was employed upon the sculpture of the Santa Casa at 
Loreto. He also made some excellent bronzework for the Medicean villas at Cestello 
and Petraja. All through his life Tribolo served the Medici, and during the siege 
of Florence in 1530 he constructed a cork model of the town for Clement VII. Born 
1485, died 1550. 

^ This is the famous Giacopo Tatti, who took his artist's surname from his master, 
Andrea da Monte a Sansovino. His works at Florence, Rome, and Venice are justly 
famous. He died in 1570, aged ninety-three. 

' A brother of the Cardinal, and himself Marquis of Massa. 


Monte Aguto, who would give me fifty golden crowns, which his 
Excellency bestowed on me in sign of his good-will, and afterwards 
I must return to serve him. 

I got the money from Niccolo, and then went to fetch Tribolo, 
whom I found ready to start; and he asked me whether I had bound 
my sword. I answered that a man on horseback about to take a 
journey ought not to bind his sword. He said that the custom was 
so in Florence, since a certain Ser Maurizio then held office, who was 
capable of putting S. John the Baptist to the rack for any trifling 
peccadillo.* Accordingly one had to carry one's sword bound till 
the gates were passed. I laughed at this, and so we set off, joining 
the courier to Venice, who was nicknamed 11 Lamentone. In his 
company we travelled through Bologna, and arrived one evening at 
Ferrara. There we halted at the inn of the Piazza, which Lamentone 
went in search of some Florentine exiles, to take them letters and 
messages from their wives. The Duke had given orders that only 
the courier might talk to them, and no one else, under penalty of 
incurring the same banishment as they had. Meanwhile, since it was 
a little past the hour of twenty-two, Tribolo and I went to see the 
Duke of Ferrara come back from Belfiore, where he had been at a 
jousting match. There we met a number of exiles, who stared at us 
as though they wished to make us speak with them. Tribolo, who 
was the most timorous man that I have ever known, kept on saying: 
"Do not look at them or talk to them, if you care to go back to 
Florence," So we stayed, and saw the Duke return; afterwards, 
when we regained our inn, we found Lamentone there. After night- 
fall there appeared Niccolo Benintendi, and his brother Piero, and 
another old man, whom I believe to have been Jacopo Nardi,'' 
together with some young fellows, who began immediately to ask 
the courier news, each man of his own family in Florence." Tribolo 
and I kept at a distance, in order to avoid speaking with them. After 

* Ser Maurizio was entitled Chancellor, but really superintended the criminal 
magistracy of Florence. Varchi and Segni both speak of him as harsh and cruel in 
the discharge of his office. 

^Jacopo Nardi was the excellent historian of Florence, a strong anti-Medicean 
partisan, who was exiled in 1530. 

* I have translated the word brigata by family above, because I find Cellini in one 
of his letters alluding to his family as la mia brigatina. 


they had talked a while with Lamentone, Niccolo Benintendi^ said: 
"I know those two men there very well; what's the reason they give 
themselves such beastly airs, and will not talk to us?" Tribolo kept 
begging me to hold my tongue, while Lamentone told them that we 
had not the same permission as he had. Benintendi retorted it was 
idiotic nonsense, adding "Pox take them," and other pretty flowers 
of speech. Then I raised my head as gently as I could, and said: 
"Dear gentlemen, you are able to do us serious injury, while we 
cannot render you any assistance; and though you have flung words 
at us which we are far from deserving, we do not mean on that 
account to get into a rage with you." Thereupon old Nardi said 
that I had spoken like a worthy young man as I was. But Niccolo 
Benintendi shouted : "I snap my fingers at them and the Duke." * I 
replied that he was in the wrong toward us, since we had nothing 
to do with him or his affairs. Old Nardi took our part, telling 
Benintendi plainly that he was in the wrong, which made him go 
on muttering insults. On this I bade him know that I could say and 
do things to him which he would not like, and therefore he had 
better mind his business, and let us alone. Once more he cried out 
that he snapped his fingers at the Duke and us, and that we were 
all of us a heap of donkeys.* I replied by giving him the lie direct 
and drawing my sword. The old man wanting to be first upon the 
staircase, tumbled down some steps, and all the rest of them came 
huddling after him. I rushed onward, brandishing my sword along 
the walls with fury, and shouting: "I will kill you all!" but I took 
good care not to do them any harm, as I might too easily have done. 
In the midst of this tumult the innkeeper screamed out; Lamentone 
cried, "For God's sake, hold!" some of them exclaimed, "Oh me, 
my head!" others, "Let me get out from here." In short, it was an 
indescribable confusion; they looked like a herd of swine. Then the 
host came with a light, while I withdrew upstairs and put my 
sword back in its scabbard. Lamentone told Niccolo Benintendi that 
he had behaved very ill. The host said to him: "It is as much as 
one's life is worth to draw swords here; and if the Duke were to 

'Niccolo Benintendi, who had been a member of the Eight in 1529, was exiled by 
the Medici in 1530. 

* The Florentine slang is Jo ho in culo loro e il duca. ® Vn monte di asini. 


know of your brawling, he would have you hanged. I will not do 
to you what you deserve; but take care you never show yourself again 
in my inn, or it will be the worse for you." Our host then came up 
to me, and when I began to make him my excuses, he would not 
sufEer me to say a word, but told me that he knew I was entirely in 
the right, and bade me be upon my guard against those men upon 
my journey. 


After we had supped, a barge-man appeared, and offered to take us 
to Venice. I asked if he would let us have the boat to ourselves; he 
was willing, and so we made our bargain. In the morning we rose 
early, and mounted our horses for the port, which is a few miles 
distant from Ferrara. On arriving there, we found Niccolo Benin- 
tendi's brother, with three comrades, waiting for me. They had 
among them two lances, and I had bought a stout pike in Ferrara. 
Being very well armed to boot, I was not at all frightened, as Tribolo 
was, who cried: "God help us! those fellows are waiting here to 
murder us." Lamentone turned to me and said: "The best that you 
can do is to go back to Ferrara, for I see that the affair is likely to be 
ugly; for Heaven's sake, Benvenuto, do not risk the fury of these 
mad beasts." To which I replied : "Let us go forward, for God helps 
those who have the right on their side; and you shall see how I will 
help myself. Is not this boat engaged for us?" "Yes," said Lamen- 
tone. "Then we will stay in it. without them, unless my manhood 
has deserted me." I put spurs to my horse, and when I was within 
fifty paces, dismounted and marched boldly forward with my pike. 
Tribolo stopped behind, all huddled up upon his horse, looking the 
very image of frost. Lamentone, the courier, meanwhile, was swell- 
ing and snorting like the wind. That was his usual habit; but now 
he did so more than he was wont, being in doubt how this devilish 
affair would terminate. When I reached the boat, the master pre- 
sented himself and said that those Florentine gentlemen wanted to 
embark in it with us, if I was willing. I answered: "The boat is 
engaged for us and no one else, and it grieves me to the heart that 
I am not able to have their company." At these words a brave young 
man of the Magalotti family spoke out: "Benvenuto, we will make 


you able to have it." To which I answered: "If God and my good 
cause, together with my own strength of body and mind, possess the 
will and the power, you shall not make me able to have what you 
say." So saying I leapt into the boat, and turning my pike's point 
against them, added : "I'll show you with this weapon that I am not 
able." Wishing to prove he was in earnest, Magalotti then seized his 
own and came toward me. I sprang upon the gunwale and hit him 
such a blow, that, if he had not tumbled backward, I must have 
pierced his body. His comrades, in lieu of helping him, turned to 
fly; and when I saw that I could kill him, instead of striking, I said: 
"Get up, brother; take your arms and go away. I have shown you 
that I cannot do what I do not want, and what I had the power to 
do I have not chosen to do." Then I called for Tribolo, the boatman, 
and Lamentone to embark; and so we got under way for Venice. 
When we had gone ten miles on the Po, we sighted those young 
men, who had got into a skiff and caught us up; and when they were 
alongside, that idiot Piero Benintendi sang out to me: "Go thy ways 
this time, Benvenuto; we shall meet in Venice." "Set out betimes 
then," I shouted, "for I am coming, and any man can meet me where 
he lists." In due course we arrived at Venice, when I applied to a 
brother of Cardinal Cornaro, begging him to procure for me the 
favour of being allowed to carry arms. He advised me to do so 
without hesitation, saying that the worst risk I ran was that I might 
lose my sword. 


Accordingly I girded on my sword, and went to visit Jacopo del 
Sansovino, the sculptor, who had sent for Tribolo. He received me 
most kindly, and invited us to dinner, and we stayed with' him. 
In course of conversation with Tribolo, he told him that he had no 
work to give him at the moment, but that he might call again. Hear- 
ing this, I burst out laughing, and said pleasantly to Sansovino: 
"Your house is too far off from his, if he must call again." Poor 
Tribolo, all in dismay, exclaimed : "I have got your letter here, which 
you wrote to bid me come." Sansovino rejoined that men of his 
sort, men of worth and genius, were free to do that and greater 
things besides. Tribolo shrugged up his shoulders and muttered: 


"Patience, patience," several times. Thereupon, without regarding 
the copious dinner which Sansovino had given me, I took the part 
of my comrade Tribolo, for he was in the right. All the while at 
table Sansovino had never stopped chattering about his great achieve- 
ments, abusing Michel Agnolo and the rest of his fellow-sculptors, 
while he bragged and vaunted himself to the skies. This had so 
annoyed me that not a single mouthful which I ate had tasted well; 
but I refrained from saying more than these two words: "Messer 
Jacopo, men of worth act like men of worth, and men of genius, 
who produce things beautiful and excellent, shine forth far better 
when other people praise them than when they boast so confidently 
of their own achievements." Upon this he and I rose from table 
blowing off the steam of our choler. The same day, happening to 
pass near the Rialto, I met Piero Benintendi in the company of some 
men; and perceiving that they were going to pick a quarrel with 
me, I turned into an apothecary's shop till the storm blew over. 
Afterwards I learned that the young Magalotti, to whom I showed 
that courtesy, had scolded them roundly; and thus the affair ended. 


A few days afterwards we set out on our return to Florence. We 
lay one night at a place on this side Chioggia, on the left hand as you 
go toward Ferrara. Here the host insisted upon being paid before 
we went to bed, and in his own way; and when I observed that it 
was the custom everywhere else to pay in the morning, he answered : 
"I insist on being paid overnight, and in my own way." I retorted 
that men who wanted everything their own way ought to make a 
world after their own fashion, since things were differently managed 
here. Our host told me not to go on bothering his brains, because 
he was determined to do as he had said. Tribolo stood trembling 
with fear, and nudged me to keep quiet, lest they should do some- 
thing worse to us; so we paid them in the way they wanted, and 
afterwards we retired to rest. We had, I must admit, the most 
capital beds, new in every particular, and as clean as they could be. 
Nevertheless I did not get one wink of sleep, because I kept on 
thinking how I could revenge myself. At one time it came into my 
head to set fire to his house; at another to cut the throats of four 


fine horses which he had in the stable; I saw well enough that it 
was easy for me to do all this; but I could not see how it was easy to 
secure myself and my companion. At last I resolved to put my things 
and my comrade's on board the boat; and so I did. When the to wing- 
horses had been harnessed to the cable, I ordered the people not to 
stir before I returned, for I had left a pair of slippers in my bed- 
room. Accordingly I went back to the inn and called our host, who 
told me he had nothing to do with us, and that we might go to 
Jericho.' There was a ragged stable-boy about, half asleep, who cried 
out to me: "The master would not move to please the Pope, because 
he has got a wench in bed with him, whom he has been wanting 
this long while." Then he asked me for a tip, and I gave him a few 
Venetian coppers, and told him to make the barge-man wait till I 
had found my slippers and returned. I went upstairs, took out a 
little knife as sharp as a razor, and cut the four beds that I found 
there into ribbons. I had the satisfaction of knowing I had done a 
damage of more than fifty crowns. Then I ran down to the boat 
with some pieces of the bed-covers^ in my pouch, and bade the 
bargee start at once without delay. We had not gone far before my 
gossip Tribolo said that he had left behind some little straps belong- 
ing to his carpet-bag, and that he must be allowed to go back for 
them. I answered that he need not take thought for a pair of little 
straps, since I could make him as many big ones as he liked.' He 
told me I was always joking, but that he must really go back for his 
straps. Then he began ordering the bargee to stop, while I kept 
ordering him to go on. Meanwhile I informed my friend what kind 
of trick I had played our host, and showed him specimens of the 
bed-covers and other things, which threw him into such a quaking 
fright that he roared out to the bargee : "On with you, on with you, 
as quick as you can!" and never thought himself quite safe until we 
reached the gates of Florence. 

When we arrived there, Tribolo said: "Let us bind our swords up, 
for the love of God; and play me no more of your games, I beg; 
for all this while I've felt as though my guts were in the saucepan." 
I made answer: "Gossip Tribolo, you need not tie your sword up, 

' E che not andassimo al bordello. 

^ Sarge. Sargia is interpreted sopraccoperta del letto. 

'The Italian for straps, coregge, has a double meaning, upon which Cellini plays. 


for you have never loosed it;" and this I said at random, because I 
never once had seen him act the man upon that journey. When he 
heard the remark, he looked at his sword and cried out: "In God's 
name, you speak true! Here it is tied, just as I arranged it before I 
left my house." My gossip deemed that I had been a bad travelling 
companion to him, because I resented affronts and defended myself 
against folk who would have done us injury. But I deemed that he 
had acted a far worse part with regard to me by never coming to 
my assistance at such pinches. Let him judge between us who stands 
by and has no personal interest in our adventures. 


No sooner had I dismounted than I went to visit Duke Alessandro, 
and thanked him greatly for his present of the fifty crowns, telling 
his Excellency that I was always ready to serve him according to my 
abilities. He gave me orders at once to strike dies for his coinage; 
and the first I made was a piece of forty soldi, with the Duke's head 
on one side and San Cosimo and San Damiano on the other.' This 
was in silver, and it gave so much satisfaction that the Duke did not 
hesitate to say they were the best pieces of money in Christendom. 
The same said all Florence and every one who saw them. Conse- 
quently I asked his Excellency to make me appointments,^ and to 
grant me the lodgings of the Mint. He bade me remain in his 
service, and promised he would give me more than I demanded. 
Meanwhile he said he had commissioned the Master of the Mint, a 
certain Carlo Acciaiuoli, and that I might go to him for all the 
money that I wanted. This I found to be true; but I drew my 
monies so discreetly, that I had always something to my credit, 
according to my account. 

I then made dies for a giulio,' it had San Giovanni in profile, 
seated with a book in his hand, finer in my judgment than anything 
which I had done; and on the other side were the armorial bearings 
of Duke Alessandro. Next I made dies for half-giulios on which I 

' These were the special patrons of the Medicean family, being physician-saints. 

''■Che mi fermassi una provvisione. 

^ The gitilio was a coin of 56 Italian centimes or 8 Tuscan crazie, which in Florence 
was also called barile or gabellotto, because the sum had to be paid as duty on a 
barrel of wine. 


Struck the full face of San Giovanni in small. This was the first 
coin with a head in full face on so thin a piece of silver that had yet 
been seen. The difficulty of executing it is apparent only to the eyes 
of such as are past-masters in these crafts. Afterwards I made dies 
for the golden crowns; this crown had a cross upon one side with 
some little cherubim, and on the other side his Excellency's arms. 

When I had struck these four sorts, I begged the Duke to make 
out my appointments and to assign me the lodgings I have men- 
tioned, if he was contented with my service. He told me very 
graciously that he was quite satisfied, and that he would grant me 
my request. While we were thus talking, his Excellency was in his 
wardrobe, looking at a remarkable little gun that had been sent him 
out of Germany.* When he noticed that I too paid particular atten- 
tion to this pretty instrument, he put it in my hands, saying that he 
knew how much pleasure I took in such things, and adding that I 
might choose for earnest of his promises an arquebuse to my own 
liking from the armoury, excepting only this one piece; he was well 
aware that I should find things of greater beauty, and not less excel- 
lent, there. Upon this invitation, I accepted with thanks; and when 
he saw me looking round, he ordered his Master of the Wardrobe, 
a certain Pretino of Lucca, to let me take whatever I liked.^ Then 
he went away with the most pleasant words at parting, while I 
remained, and chose the finest and best arquebuse I ever saw, or 
ever had, and took it back with me to home. 

Two days afterward I brought some drawings which his Excel- 
lency had commissioned for gold-work he wanted to give his wife, 
who was at that time still in Naples." I again asked him to settle 
my affairs. Then his Excellency told me that he should like me first 
to execute the die of his portrait in fine style, as I had done for Pope 
Clement. I began it in wax; and the Duke gave orders, while I was 
at work upon it, that whenever I went to take his portrait, I should 
be admitted. Perceiving that I had a lengthy piece of business on 
my hands, I sent for a certain Pietro Pagolo from Monte Ritondo, in 
the Roman district, who had been with me from his boyhood in 

*See above, p. 120, for the right meaning of wardrobe. 
'Messer Francesco of Lucca, surnamed II Pretino. 

^ Margaret of Austria, natural daughter to Charles V., was eventually married in 
1536 to Alessandro de' Medici. 


Rome.' I found him with one Bernardonaccio,' a goldsmith, who 
did not treat him well; so I brought him away from there, and 
taught him minutely how to strike coins from those dies. Mean- 
while, I went on making the Duke's portrait; and oftentimes I 
found him napping after dinner with that Lorenzino of his, who 
afterwards murdered him, and no other company; and much I 
marvelled that a Duke of that sort showed such confidence about 
his safety.* 


It happened at this time Ottaviano de' Medici,' who to all appear- 
ances had got the government of everything in his own hands, 
favoured the old Master of the Mint against the Duke's will. This 
man was called Bastiano Cennini, an artist of the antiquated school, 
and of little skill in his craft.^ Ottaviano mixed his stupid dies with 
mine in the coinage of crown-pieces. I complained of this to the 
Duke, who, when he saw how the matter stood, took it very ill, and 
said to me: "Go, tell this to Ottaviano de' Medici, and show him 
how it is." ^ I lost no time; and when I had pointed out the injury 
that had been done to my fine coins, he answered, like the donkey 
that he was: "We choose to have it so." I replied that it ought not 
to be so, and that I did not choose to have it so. He said: "And if 
the Duke likes to have it so?" I answered: "It would not suit me, 
for the thing is neither just nor reasonable." He told me to take 
myself off, and that I should have to swallow it in this way, even if 
I burst. Then I returned to the Duke, and related the whole unpleas- 
ant conversation between Ottaviano de' Medici and me, entreating 
his Excellency not to allow the fine coins which I had made for him 
to be spoiled, and begging for permission to leave Florence. He 

^ Pietro Pagolo Galleotti, much praised by Vasari for his artistic skill. 

' Perhaps Bernardo Sabatini. 

'This is the famous Tuscan Brutus who murdered Alessandro. He was descended 
from Lorenzo de' Medici, the brother of Cosimo, Pater Patriic, and the uncle of 
Lorenzo the Magnificent. 

'This Ottaviano was not descended from either Cosimo or Lorenzo de' Medici, 
but from an elder, though less illustrious, branch of the great family. He married 
Francesca Salviati, the aunt of Duke Cosimo. Though a great patron of the arts 
and an intimate friend of M. A. Buonarroti, he was not popular, owing to his pride 
of place. 

^ Cellini praises this man, however, in the preface to the Oreficeria. 

' Mostragnene. This is perhaps equivalent to mostraglielo. 


replied: "Ottaviano is too presuming: you shall have what you want; 
for this is an injury offered to myself." 

That very day, which was a Thursday, I received from Rome a full 
safe-conduct from the Pope, with advice to go there at once and 
get the pardon of Our Lady's feast in mid-August, in order that I 
might clear myself from the penalties attaching to my homicide. I 
went to the Duke, whom I found in bed, for they told me he was 
suffering the consequence of a debauch. In little more than two 
hours I finished what was wanted for his waxen medal; and when I 
showed it to him, it pleased him extremely. Then I exhibited the 
safe-conduct sent me at the order of the Pope, and told him how his 
Holiness had recalled me to execute certain pieces of work; on this 
account I should like to regain my footing in the fair city of Rome, 
which would not prevent my attending to his medal. The Duke 
made answer half in anger: "Benvenuto, do as I desire: stay here; 
I will provide for your appointments, and will give you the lodgings 
in the Mint, with much more than you could ask for, because your 
requests are only just and reasonable. And who do you think will 
be able to strike the beautiful dies which you have made for me?" 
Then I said: "My lord, I have thought of everything, for I have here 
a pupil of mine, a young Roman whom I have taught the art; he will 
serve your Excellency very well till I return with your medal finished, 
to remain for ever in your service. I have in Rome a shop open, with 
journeymen and a pretty business; as soon as I have got my pardon, 
I will leave all the devotion of Rome^ to a pupil of mine there, and 
will come back, with your Excellency's good permission, to you." 
During this conversation, the Lorenzino de' Medici whom I have 
above mentioned was present, and no one else. The Duke frequently 
signed to him that he should join in pressing me to stay; but Loren- 
zino never said anything except: "Benvenuto, you would do better to 
remain where you are." I answered that I wanted by all means to 
regain my hold on Rome. He made no reply, but continued eyeing 
the Duke with very evil glances. When I had finished the medal 
to my liking, and shut it in its little box, I said to the Duke: "My 
lord, pray let me have your good-will, for I will make you a much 

* Tutta la divozione di Roma. It is not very clear what this exactly means. Perhaps 
"all the affection and reverence I have for the city o£ Rome," or merely "all my ties 
in Rome." 


finer medal than the one I made for Pope Clement. It is only 
reasonable that I should since that was the first I ever made. Messer 
Lorenzo here will give me some exquisite reverse, as he is a person 
learned and of the greatest genius." To these words Lorenzo sud- 
denly made answer: "I have been thinking of nothing else but how 
to give you a reverse worthy of his Excellency." The Duke laughed 
a little, and looking at Lorenzo, said: "Lorenzo, you shall give him 
the reverse, and he shall do it here and shall not go away." Lorenzo 
took him up at once, saying: "I will do it as quickly as I can, and 
I hope to do something that shall make the whole world wonder." 
The Duke, who held him sometimes for a fool and sometimes for 
a coward, turned about in bed, and laughed at his bragging words. 
I took my leave without further ceremony, and left them alone 
together. The Duke, who did not believe that I was really going, 
said nothing further. Afterwards, when he knew that I was gone, 
he sent one of his servants, who caught me up at Siena, and gave 
me fifty golden ducats with a message from the Duke that I should 
take and use them for his sake, and should return as soon as possible; 
"and from Messer Lorenzo I have to tell you that he is preparing 
an admirable reverse for that medal which you want to make." I 
had left full directions to Petro Pagolo, the Roman above mentioned, 
how he had to use the dies; but as it was a very delicate affair, he 
never quite succeeded in employing them. I remained creditor to 
the Mint in a matter of more than seventy crowns on account of 
dies supplied by me. 


On the journey to Rome I carried with me that handsome arque- 
buse which the Duke gave me; and very much to my own pleasure, 
I used it several times by the way, performing incredible feats by 
means of it. The little house I had in Strada Giulia was not ready; 
so I dismounted at the house of Messer Giovanni Gaddi, clerk of 
the Camera, to whose keeping I had committed, on leaving Rome, 
many of my arms and other things I cared for. So I did not choose to 
alight at my shop, but sent for Felice, my partner, and got him to 
put my little dwelling forthwith into excellent order. The day 
following, I went to sleep there, after well providing myself with 


clothes and all things requisite, since I intended to go and thank 
the Pope next morning. 

I had two young serving-lads, and beneath my lodgings lived a 
laundress who cooked extremely nicely for me. That evening I 
entertained several friends at supper, and having passed the time 
with great enjoyment, betook myself to bed. The night had hardly 
ended, indeed it was more than an hour before daybreak, when I 
heard a furious knocking at the house-door, stroke succeeding stroke 
without a moment's pause. Accordingly I called my elder servant, 
Cencio' (he was the man I took into the necromantic circle), and 
bade him to go and see who the madman was that knocked so 
brutally at that hour of the night. While Cencio was on this errand, 
I lighted another lamp, for I always keep one by me at night; then 
I made haste to pass an excellent coat of mail over my shirt, and 
above that some clothes which I caught up at random. Cencio 
returned, exclaiming: "Heavens, master! it is the Bargello and all his 
guard; and he says that if you do not open at once, he will knock 
the door down. They have torches, and a thousand things 
besides with them!" I answered: "Tell them that I am huddling 
my clothes on, and will come out to them in my shirt." Supposing 
it was a trap laid to murder me, as had before been done by Signor 
Pier Luigi, I seized an excellent dagger with my right hand, and 
with the left I took the safe-conduct; then I ran to the back-window, 
which looked out on gardens, and there I saw more than thirty 
constables; wherefore I knew that I could not escape upon that side. 
I made the two lads go in front, and told them to open the door 
exactly when I gave the word to do so. Then taking up an attitude 
of defence, with the dagger in my right hand and the safe-conduct 
in my left, I cried to the lads: "Have no fear, but open!" The 
Bargello, Vittorio, and the officers sprang inside at once, thinking 
they could easily lay hands upon me; but when they saw me pre- 
pared in that way to receive them, they fell back, exclaiming: "We 
have a serious job on hand here!" Then I threw the safe-conduct to 
them, and said: "Read that! and since you cannot seize me, I do 
not mean that you shall touch me." The Bargello upon this ordered 
some of his men to arrest me, saying he would look to the safe- 
' »'. e., Vincenzio Romoli. 


conduct later. Thereat I presented ntiy arms boldly, calling aloud: 
"Let God defend the right! Either I shall escape your hands alive, or 
be taken a dead corpse!" The room was crammed with men; they 
made as though they would resort to violence; I stood upon my 
guard against them; so that the Bargello saw he would not be able 
to have me except in the way I said. Accordingly he called his clerk, 
and while the safe-conduct was being read, he showed by signs two 
or three times that he meant to have me secured by his officers; but 
this had no effect of shaking my determination. At last they gave 
up the attempt, threw my safe-conduct on the ground, and went 
away without their prize. 


When I returned to bed, I felt so agitated that I could not get to 
sleep again. My mind was made up to let blood as soon as day 
broke. However, I asked advice of Messer Gaddi, and he referred 
to a wretched doctor-fellow he employed,' who asked me if I had 
been frightened. Now, just consider what a judicious doctor this 
was, after I had narrated an occurrence of that gravity, to ask me 
such a question! He was an empty fribbler, who kept perpetually 
laughing about nothing at all. Simpering and sniggering, then, he 
bade me drink a good cup of Greek wine, keep my spirits up, and 
not be frightened. Messer Giovanni, however, said : "Master, a man 
of bronze or marble might be frightened in such circumstances. How 
much more one of flesh and blood!" The quack responded: "Mon- 
signor, we are not all made after the same pattern; this fellow is no 
man of bronze or marble, but of pure iron." Then he gave one of 
his meaningless laughs, and putting his lingers on my wrist, said: 
"Feel here; this is not a man's pulse, but a lion's or a dragon's." At 
this, I, whose blood was thumping in my veins, probably far beyond 
anything which that fool of a doctor had learned from his Hip- 
pocrates or Galen, knew at once how serious was my situation; yet, 
wishing not to add to my uneasiness and to the harm I had already 
taken, I made show of being in good spirits. While this was happen- 
ing, Messer Giovanni had ordered dinner, and we all of us sat down 
to eat in company. I remembered that Messer Lodovico da Fano, 

' Possibly Bernardino Lilii of Todi. 


Messer Antonio AUegretti, Messer Giovanni Greco, all of them men 
of the finest scholarship, and Messer Annibal Caro, who was then 
quite young, were present. At table the conversation turned entirely 
upon my act of daring. They insisted on hearing the whole story 
over and over again from my apprentice Cencio, who was a youth of 
superlative talent, bravery, and extreme personal beauty. Each time 
that he described my truculent behaviour, throwing himself into the 
attitudes I had assumed, and repeating the words which I had used, 
he called up some fresh detail to my memory. They kept asking 
him if he had been afraid; to which he answered that they ought 
to ask me if I had been afraid, because he felt precisely the same as 
I had. 

All this chattering grew irksome to me; and since I still felt 
strongly agitated, I rose at last from table, saying that I wanted to 
go and get new clothes of blue silk and stuff for him and me; 
adding that I meant to walk in procession after four days at the 
feast of Our Lady, and meant Cencio to carry a white lighted torch 
on the occasion. Accordingly I took my leave, and had the blue 
cloth cut, together with a handsome jacket of blue sarcenet and a 
little doublet of the same; and I had a similar jacket and waistcoat 
made for Cencio. 

When these things had been cut out, I went to see the Pope, who 
told me to speak with Messer Ambruogio; for he had given orders 
that I should execute a large piece of golden plate. So I went to find 
Messer Ambruogio, who had heard the whole of the affair of the 
Bargello, and had been in concert with my enemies to bring me 
back to Rome, and had scolded the Bargello for not laying hands 
on me. The man excused himself by saying that he could not do so 
in the face of the safe-conduct which I held. Messer Ambruogio now 
began to talk about the Pope's commission, and bade me make 
drawings for it, saying that the business should be put at once in 
train. Meanwhile the feast of Our Lady came round. Now it is the 
custom for those who get a pardon upon this occasion to give them- 
selves up to prison; in order to avoid doing which I returned to the 
Pope, and told his Holiness that I was very unwilling to go to 
prison, and that I begged him to grant me the favour of a dispen- 
sation. The Pope answered that such was the custom, and that I 


must follow it. Thereupon I fell again upon my knees, and thanked 
him for the safe-conduct he had given me, saying at the same time 
that I should go back with it to serve my Duke in Florence, who was 
waiting for me so impatiently. On hearing this, the Pope turned 
to one of his confidential servants and said: "Let Benvenuto get his 
grace without the prison, and see that his moto propria is made out 
in due form." As soon as the document had been drawn up, his 
Holiness signed it; it was then registered at the Capitol; afterwards, 
upon the day appointed, I walked in procession very honourably 
between two gentlemen, and so got clear at last. 


Four days had passed when I was attacked with violent fever 
attended by extreme cold; and taking to my bed, I made my mind 
up that I was sure to die. I had the first doctors of Rome called in, 
among whom was Francesco da Norcia, a physician of great age, and 
of the best repute in Rome.' I told them what I believed to be the 
cause of my illness, and said that I had wished to let blood, but that 
I had been advised against it; and if it was not too late, I begged 
them to bleed me now. Maestro Francesco answered that it would 
not be well for me to let blood then, but that if I had done so 
before, I should have escaped without mischief; at present they 
would have to treat the case with other remedies. So they began to 
doctor me as energetically as they were able, while I grew daily 
worse and worse so rapidly, that after eight days the physicians 
despaired of my life, and said that I might be indulged in any whim 
I had to make me comfortable. Maestro Francesco added : "As long 
as there is breath in him, call me at all hours; for no one can divine 
what Nature is able to work in a young man of this kind; moreover, 
if he should lose consciousness, administer these five remedies one 
after the other, and send for me, for I will come at any hour of 
the night; I would rather save him than any of the cardinals in 

Every day Messer Giovanni Gaddi came to see me two or three 
times, and each time he took up one or other of my handsome 
fowling-pieces, coats of mail, or swords, using words like these: 

'Francesco Fusconi, physician to Popes Adrian VI., Clement VII., and Paul III. 


"That is a handsome thing, that other is still handsomer;" and like- 
wise with my models and other trifles, so that at last he drove me 
wild with annoyance. In his company came a certain Matio 
Franzesi'' and this man also appeared to be waiting impatiently for 
my death, not indeed because he would inherit anything from me, 
but because he wished for what his master seemed to have so much 
at heart. 

Felice, my partner, was always at my side, rendering the greatest 
services which it is possible for one man to give another. Nature 
in me was utterly debilitated and undone; I had not strength enough 
to fetch my breath back if it left me; and yet my brain remained as 
clear and strong as it had been before my illness. Nevertheless, 
although I kept my consciousness, a terrible old man used to come 
to my bedside, and make as though he would drag me by force 
into a huge boat he had with him. This made me call out to my 
Felice to draw near and chase that malignant old man away. 
Felice, who loved me most affectionately, ran weeping and crying: 
"Away with you, old traitor; you are robbing me of all the good I 
have in this world." Messer Giovanni Gaddi, who was present, 
then began to say : "The poor fellow is delirious, and has only a few 
hours to live." His fellow, Mattio Franzesi, remarked: "He has 
read Dante, and in the prostration of his sickness this apparition has 
appeared to him"^ then he added laughingly: "Away with you, old 
rascal, and don't bother our friend Benvenuto." When I saw that 
they were making fun of me, I turned to Messer Gaddi and said: 
"My dear master, know that I am not raving, and that it is true that 
this old man is really giving me annoyance; but the best that you 
can do for me would be to drive that miserable Mattio from my side, 
who is laughing at my affliction, afterwards if your lordship deigns 
to visit me again, let me beg you to come with Messer Antonio 
Allegretti, or with Messer Annibal Caro, or with some other of your 
accomplished friends, who are persons of quite different intelligence 
and discretion from that beast." Thereupon Messer Giovanni told 
Mattio in jest to take himself out of his sight for ever; but because 
Mattio went on laughing, the joke turned to earnest, for Messer 

' Franzesi was a clever Italian poet. His burlesque Capitoli are printed with those 
of Berni and others. 

' Inferno, iii., the verses about Charon. 


Giovanni would not look upon him again, but sent for Messer 
Antonio Allegretti, Messer Ludovico, and Messer Annibal Caro. On 
the arrival of these worthy men, I was greatly comforted, and talked 
reasonably with them awhile, not however without frequently urging 
Felice to drive the old man away. Messer Ludovico asked me what 
it was I seemed to see, and how the man was shaped. While I por- 
trayed him accurately in words, the old man took me by the arm and 
dragged me violently towards him. This made me cry out for aid, 
because he was going to fling me under hatches in his hideous boat. 
On saying that last word, I fell into a terrible swoon, and seemed to 
be sinking down into the boat. They say that during that fainting- 
fit I flung myself about and cast bad words at Messer Giovanni 
Gaddi, to wit, that he came to rob me, and not from any motive of 
charity, and other insults of the kind, which caused him to be much 
ashamed. Later on, they say I lay still like one dead; and after 
waiting by me more than an hour, thinking I was growing cold, 
they left me for dead. When they returned home, Mattio Franzesi 
was informed, who wrote to Florence to Messer Benedetto Varchi, 
my very dear friend, that they had seen me die at such and such an 
hour of the night. When he heard the news, that most accomplished 
man and my dear friend composed an admirable sonnet upon my 
supposed but not real death, which shall be reported in its proper 

More than three long hours passed, and yet I did not regain con- 
sciousness. Felice having used all the remedies prescribed by Maestro 
Francesco, and seeing that I did not come to, ran post-haste to the 
physician's door, and knocked so loudly that he woke him up, and 
made him rise, and begged him with tears to come to the house, for 
he thought that I was dead. Whereto Maestro Francesco, who was 
a very choleric man, replied: "My son, of what use do you think I 
should be if I came? If he is dead, I am more sorry than you are. 
Do you imagine that if I were to come with my medicine I could 
blow breath up through his guts* and bring him back to life for 
you.''" But when he saw that the poor young fellow was going 
away weeping, he called him back and gave him an oil with which 
to anoint my pulses and my heart, telling him to pinch my little 
*Io alt possa soffiare in ctdo. 


fingers and toes very tightly, and to send at once to call him if I 
should revive. Felice took his way, and did as Maestro Francesco 
had ordered. It was almost bright day when, thinking they would 
have to abandon hope, they gave orders to have my shroud made 
and to wash me. Suddenly I regained consciousness, and called out 
to Felice to drive away the old man on the moment, who kept 
tormenting me. He wanted to send for Maestro Francesco, but I 
told him not to do so, but to come close up to me, because that old 
man was afraid of him and went away at once. So Felice drew near 
to the bed; I touched him, and it seemed to me that the infuriated old 
man withdrew; so I prayed him not to leave me for a second. 

When Maestro Francesco appeared, he said it was his dearest wish 
to save my life, and that he had never in all his days seen greater 
force in a young man than I had. Then he sat down to write, and 
prescribed for me perfumes, lotions, unctions, plasters, and a heap 
of other precious things. Meanwhile I came to life again by the 
means of more than twenty leeches applied to my buttocks, but with 
my body bore through, bound, and ground to powder. Many of 
my friends crowded in to behold the miracle of the resuscitated dead 
man, and among them people of the first importance. 

In their presence I declared that the small amount of gold and 
money I possessed, perhaps some eight hundred crowns, what with 
gold, silver, jewels, and cash, should be given by my will to my poor 
sister in Florence, called Mona Liperata; all the remainder of my 
property, armour and everything besides, I left to my dearest FeUce, 
together with fifty golden ducats, in order that he might buy mourn- 
ing. At those words Felice flung his arms around my neck, pro- 
testing that he wanted nothing but to have me as he wished alive 
with him. Then I said : "If you want me alive, touch me as you did 
before, and threaten the old man, for he is afraid of you." At these 
words some of the folk were terrified, knowing that I was not 
raving, but talking to the purpose and with all my wits. Thus my 
wretched malady went dragging on, and I got but little better. 
Maestro Francesco, that most excellent man, came four or five times 
a day; Messer Giovanni Gaddi, who felt ashamed, did not visit me 
again. My brother-in-law, the husband of my sister, arrived; he 
came from Florence for the inheritance; but as he was a very 


worthy man, he rejoiced exceedingly to have found me aUve. The 
sight of him did me a world of good, and he began to caress me at 
once, saying he had only come to take care of me in person; and 
this he did for several days. Afterwards I sent him away, having 
almost certain hope of my recovery. On this occasion he left the 
sonnet of Messer Benedetto Varchi, which runs as follows:' 

"Who shall, Mattio, yield our pain relief? 
Who shall forbid the sad expense of tears? 
Alas! 'tis true that in his youthful years 
Our friend hath flown, and left us here to grief. 

"He hath gone up to heaven, who was the chief 
Of men renowned in art's immortal spheres; 
Among the mighty dead he had no peers, 
Nor shall earth see his like, in my belief. 

"O gende sprite! if love still sway the blest, 

Look down on him thou here didst love, and view 
These tears that mourn my loss, not thy great good. 

"There dost thou gaze on His beatitude 
Who made our universe, and findest true 
The form of Him thy skill for men expressed." 


My sickness had been of such a very serious nature that it seemed 
impossible for me to fling it off. That worthy man Maestro Fran- 
cesco da Norcia redoubled his efforts, and brought me every day 
fresh remedies, trying to restore strength to my miserable unstrung 
frame. Yet all these endeavours were apparently insufficient to over- 
come the obstinacy of my malady, so that the physicians were in 
despair and at their wits' ends what to do. I was tormented by thirst, 
but had abstained from drinking for many days according to the 
doctors' orders. Felice, who thought he had done wonders in 

' This sonnet is so insipid, so untrue to Cellini's real place in art, so false to the 
far from saintly character of the man, that I would rather have declined translating 
it, had I not observed it to be a good example of that technical and conventional 
insincerity which was invading Italy at this epoch. Varchi was really sorry to hear 
the news of Cellini's death; but for his genuine emotion he found spurious vehicles 
of utterance. Cellini, meanwhile, had a right to prize it, since it revealed to him 
what friendship was prepared to utter after his decease. 


restoring me, never left my side. That old man ceased to give so 
much annoyance, yet sometimes he appeared to me in dreams. 

One day Felice had gone out of doors, leaving me under the care 
of a young apprentice and a servant-maid called Beatrice. I asked 
the apprentice what had become of my lad Cencio, and what was 
the reason why I had never seen him in attendance on me. The boy 
replied that Cencio had been far more ill than I was, and that he was 
even at death's door. Felice had given them orders not to speak to 
me of this. On hearing the news, I was exceedingly distressed; then 
I called the maid Beatrice, a Pistojan girl, and asked her to bring 
me a great crystal water-cooler which stood near, full of clear and 
fresh water. She ran at once, and brought it to me full; I told her to 
put it to my lips, adding that if she let me take a draught according 
to my heart's content, I would give her a new gown. This maid had 
stolen from me certain little things of some importance, and in her 
fear of being detected, she would have been very glad if I had died. 
Accordingly she allowed me twice to take as much as I could of the 
water, so that in good earnest I swallowed more than a flask full.' 
I then covered myself, and began to sweat, and fell into a deep sleep. 
After I had slept about an hour, Felice came home and asked the 
boy how I was getting on. He answered: "I do not know. Beatrice 
brought him that cooler full of water, and he has drunk almost the 
whole of it. I don't know now whether he is alive or dead." They 
say that my poor friend was on the point of falling to the ground, so 
grieved was he to hear this. Afterwards he took an ugly stick and 
began to beat the serving-girl with all his might, shouting out: "Ah! 
traitress, you have killed him for me then?" While Felice was 
cudgelling and she screaming, I was in a dream; I thought the old 
man held ropes in his hand, and while he was preparing to bind me, 
Felice had arrived and struck him with an axe, so that the old man 
fled exclaiming: "Let me go, and I promise not to return for a long 
while." Beatrice in the meantime had run into my bedroom shriek- 
ing loudly. This woke me up, and I called out: "Leave her alone; 
perhaps, when she meant to do me harm, she did me more good 
than you were able to do with all your efforts. She may indeed have 
saved my life; so lend me a helping hand, for I have sweated; and 

' Vn fiasco, holding more than a quart. 


be quick about it." Felice recovered his spirits, dried and made me 
comfortable; and I, being conscious of a great improvement in my 
state, began to reckon on recovery. 

When Maestro Francesco appeared and saw my great improve- 
ment, and the servant-girl in tears, and the prentice running to and 
fro, and FeUce laughing, all this disturbance made him think that 
something extraordinary must have happened, which had been the 
cause of my amendment. Just then the other doctor, Bernardino, 
put in his appearance, who at the beginning of my illness had refused 
to bleed me. Maestro Francesco, that most able man, exclaimed: 
"Oh, power of Nature! She knows what she requires, and the 
physicians know nothing." That simpleton. Maestro Bernardino, 
made answer, saying: "If he had drunk another bottle he would 
have been cured upon the spot." Maestro Francesco da Norcia, a 
man of age and great authority, said: "That would have been a 
terrible misfortune, and would to God that it may fall on you!" 
Afterwards he turned to me and asked if I could have drunk more 
water. I answered : "No, because I had entirely quenched my thirst." 
Then he turned to Maestro Bernardino, and said: "Look you how 
Nature has taken precisely what she wanted, neither more nor less. 
In Hke manner she was asking for what she wanted when the poor 
young man begged you to bleed him. If you knew that his recovery 
depended upon his drinking two flasks of water, why did you not 
say so before ? You might then have boasted of his cure." At these 
words the wretched quack sulkily departed, and never showed his 
face again. 

Maestro Francesco then gave orders that I should be removed 
from my room and carried to one of the hills there are in Rome. 
Cardinal Cornaro, when he heard of my improvement, had me 
transported to a place of his on Monte Cavallo. The very evening I 
was taken with great precautions in a chair, well wrapped up and 
protected from the cold. No sooner had I reached the place than I 
began to vomit, during which there came from my stomach a hairy 
worm about a quarter of a cubit in length : the hairs were long, and 
the worm was very ugly, speckled of divers colours, green, black, and 
red. They kept and showed it to the doctor, who said he had never 
seen anything of the sort before, and afterwards remarked to Felice: 


"Now take care of your Benvenuto, for he is cured. Do not permit 
him any irregularities; for though he has escaped this time, another 
disorder now would be the death of him. You see his malady has 
been so grave, that if we had brought him the extreme unction, we 
might not have been in time. Now I know that with a little patience 
and time he will live to execute more of his fine works." Then he 
turned to me and said: "My Benvenuto, be prudent, commit no 
excesses, and when you are quite recovered, I beg you to make me a 
Madonna with your own hand, and I will always pay my devotions 
to it for your sake." This I promised to do, and then asked him 
whether it would be safe for me to travel so far as to Florence. He 
advised me to wait till I was stronger, and till we could observe 
how Nature worked in me. 


When eight days had come and gone, my amendment was so 
slight that life itself became almost a burden to me; indeed I had 
been more than fifty days in that great suffering. So I made my 
mind up, and prepared to travel. My dear Fehce and I went toward 
Florence in a pair of baskets;' and as I had not written, when I 
reached my sister's house, she wept and laughed over me all in one 
breath. That day many friends came to see me; among others Pier 
Landi, who was the best and dearest friend I ever had. Next day 
there came a certain Niccolo da Monte Aguto, who was also a very 
great friend of mine. Now he had heard the Duke say: "Benvenuto 
would have done much better to die, because he is come to put his 
head into a noose, and I will never pardon him." Accordingly when 
Niccolo arrived, he said to me in desperation: "Alas! my dear Ben- 
venuto, what have you come to do here? Did you not know what 
you have done to displease the Duke ? I have heard him swear that 
you were thrusting your head into a halter." Then I replied: 
"Niccolo, remind his Excellency that Pope Clement wanted to do 
as much to me before, and quite as unjusdy; tell him to keep his 
eye on me, and give me time to recover; then I will show his Excel- 

* Un paio di ceste, a kind of litter, here described in the plural, because two of 
them were perhaps put together. I have thought it best to translate the phrase literally. 
From a letter of Varchi to Bembo, we learn that Cellini reached Florence, November 
9. 1535- 


lency that I have been the most faithful servant he will ever have 
in all his life; and forasmuch as some enemy must have served me 
this bad turn through envy, let him wait till I get well; for I shall 
then be able to give such an account of myself as will make him 

This bad turn had been done me by Giorgetto Vassellario of 
Arezzo/ the painter; perchance in recompense for many benefits 
conferred on him. I had harboured him in Rome and provided for 
his costs, while he had turned my whole house upside down; for 
the man was subject to a species of dry scab, which he was always 
in the habit of scratching with his hands. It happened, then, that 
sleeping in the same bed as an excellent workman, named Manno, 
who was in my service, when he meant to scratch himself, he tore 
the skin from one of Manno's legs with his filthy claws, the nails 
of which he never used to cut. The said Manno left my service, and 
was resolutely bent on killing him. I made the quarrel up, and 
afterwards got Giorgio into Cardinal de' Medici's household, and 
continually helped him. For these deserts, then, he told Duke Ales- 
sandro that I had abused his Excellency, and had bragged I meant 
to be the first to leap upon the walls of Florence with his foes the 
exiles. These words, as I afterwards learned, had been put into 
Vasari's lips by that excellent fellow,' Ottaviano de' Medici, who 
wanted to revenge himself for the Duke's irritation against him, on 
account of the coinage and my departure from Florence. I, being 
innocent of the crime falsely ascribed to me, felt no fear whatever. 
Meanwhile that able physician Francesco da Monte Varchi attended 
to my cure with great skill. He had been brought by my very 
dear friend Luca Martini, who passed the larger portion of the 
day with me.* 


During this while I had sent my devoted comrade Felice back to 
Rome, to look after our business there. When I could raise my 

^This is the famous Giorgio Vasari, a bad painter and worse architect, but dear 
to all lovers of the arts for his anecdotic work upon Italian artists. 

^ Galantuomo , used ironically. 

* Luca Martini was a member of the best literary society in his days, and the author 
of some famous burlesque pieces. 


head a little from the bolster, which was at the end o£ fifteen days, 
although I was unable to walk upon my feet, I had myself carried 
to the palace of the Medici, and placed upon the httle upper terrace. 
There they seated me to wait until the Duke went by. Many of my 
friends at court came up to greet me, and expressed surprise that I 
had undergone the inconvenience of being carried in that way, while 
so shattered by illness; they said that I ought to have waited till I was 
well, and then to have visited the Duke. A crowd of them collected, 
all looking at me as a sort of miracle; not merely because they had 
heard that I was dead, but far more because I had the look of a 
dead man. Then publicly, before them all, I said how some wicked 
scoundrel had told my lord the Duke that I had bragged I meant 
to be the first to scale his Excellency's walls, and also that I had 
abused him personally; wherefore I had not the heart to live or die 
till I had purged myself of that infamy, and found out who the 
audacious rascal was who had uttered such calumnies against me. 
At these words a large number of those gentlemen came round, 
expressing great compassion for me; one said one thing, one another, 
and I told them I would never go thence before I knew who had 
accused me. At these words Maestro Agostino, the Duke's tailor, 
made his way through all those gentlemen, and said: "If that is all 
you want to know, you shall know it at this very moment." 

Giorgio the painter, whom I have mentioned, happened just then 
to pass, and Maestro Agostino exclaimed: "There is the man who 
accused you; now you know yourself if it be true or not." As 
fiercely as I could, not being able to leave my seat, I asked Giorgio if 
it was true that he had accused me. He denied that it was so, and 
that he had ever said anything of the sort. Maestro Agostino 
retorted: "You gallows-bird! don't you know that I know it for most 
certain?" Giorgio made off as quickly as he could, repeating that he 
had not accused me. Then, after a short while, the Duke came by; 
whereupon I had myself raised up before his Excellency, and he 
halted. I told him that I had come there in that way solely in order 
to clear my character. The Duke gazed at me, and marvelled I was 
still alive; afterwards he bade me take heed to be an honest man 
and regain my health. 

When I reached home, Niccolo da Monte Aguto came to visit 


me, and told me that I had escaped one of the most dreadful perils 
in the world, quite contrary to all his expectations, for he had seen 
my ruin written with indeUble ink; now I must make haste to get 
well, and afterwards take French leave, because my jeopardy came 
from a quarter and a man who was able to destroy me. He then 
said, "Beware," and added: "What displeasure have you given to 
that rascal Ottaviano de' Medici?" I answered that I had done noth- 
ing to displease him, but that he had injured me; and told him all 
the affair about the Mint. He repeated: "Get hence as quickly as 
you can, and be of good courage, for you will see your vengeance 
executed sooner than you expect." I paid the best attention to my 
health, gave Pietro Pagolo advice about stamping the coins, and 
then went off upon my way to Rome without saying a word to the 
Duke or anybody else. 


When I reached Rome, and had enjoyed the company of my 
friends awhile, I began the Duke's medal. In a few days I finished 
the head in steel, and it was the finest work of the kind which I had 
ever produced. At least once every day there came to visit me a sort 
of blockhead named Messer Francesco Soderini.' When he saw what 
I was doing, he used frequently to exclaim: "Barbarous wretch! you 
want them to immortalise that ferocious tyrant! You have never 
made anything so exquisite, which proves you our inveterate foe and 
their devoted friend; and yet the Pope and he have had it twice in 
mind to hang you without any fault of yours. That was the Father 
and the Son; now beware of the Holy Ghost." It was firmly believed 
that Duke Alessandro was the son of Pope Clement. Messer Fran- 
cesco used also to say and swear by all his saints that, if he could, 
he would have robbed me of the dies for that medal. I responded 
that he had done well to tell me so, and that I would take such care 
of them that he should never see them more. 

I now sent to Florence to request Lorenzino that he would send 

me the reverse of the medal. Niccolo da Monte Aguto, to whom I 

had written, wrote back, saying that he had spoken to that mad 

melancholy philosopher Lorenzino for it; he had replied that he was 

' He had been banished in 1530 as a foe to the Medicean house. 


thinking night and day of nothing else, and that he would finish it 
as soon as he was able. Nevertheless, I was not to set my hopes upon 
his reverse, but I had better invent one out of my own head, and 
when I had finished it, I might bring it without hesitation to the 
Duke, for this would be to my advantage. 

I composed the design of a reverse which seemed to me appro- 
priate, and pressed the work forward to my best ability. Not being, 
however, yet recovered from that terrible illness, I gave myself 
frequent relaxation by going out on fowling expeditions with my 
friend Felice. This man had no skill in my art; but since we were 
perpetually day and night together, everybody thought he was a 
first-rate craftsman. This being so, as he was a fellow of much 
humour, we used often to laugh together about the great credit he 
had gained. His name was Felice Guadagni (Gain), which made 
him say in jest: "I should be called Felice Gain-little if you had not 
enabled me to acquire such credit that I can call myself Gain-much." 
I replied that there are two ways of gaining: the first is that by 
which one gains for one's self, the second that by which one gains 
for others; so I praised him much more for the second than the first, 
since he had gained for me my life. 

We often held such conversations; but I remember one in par- 
ticular on the day of Epiphany, when we were together near La 
Magliana. It was close upon nightfall, and during the day I had 
shot a good number of ducks and geese; then, as I had almost made 
my mind up to shoot no more that time, we were returning briskly 
toward Rome. Calling to my dog by his name, Barucco, and not 
seeing him in front of me, I turned round and noticed that the well- 
trained animal was pointing at some geese which had settled in a 
ditch. I therefore dismounted at once, got my fowling-piece ready, 
and at a very long range brought two of them down with a single 
ball. I never used to shoot with more than one ball, and was usually 
able to hit my mark at two hundred cubits, which cannot be done by 
other ways of loading. Of the two geese, one was almost dead, and 
the other, though badly wounded, was flying lamely. My dog re- 
trieved the one and brought it to me; but noticing that the other 
was diving down into the ditch, I sprang forward to catch it. Trust- 
ing to my boots, which came high up the leg, I put one foot for- 


ward; it sank in the oozy ground; and so, although I got the goose, 
the boot o£ my right leg was full of water. I lifted my foot and let 
the water run out; then, when I had mounted, we made haste for 
Rome. The cold, however, was very great, and I felt my leg freeze, 
so that I said to Felice : "We must do something to help this leg, for 
I don't know how to bear it longer." The good Felice, without a 
word, leapt from his horse, and gathering some thistles and bits of 
stick, began to build a fire. I meanwhile was waiting, and put my 
hands among the breast-feathers of the geese, and felt them very 
warm. So I told him not to make the fire, but filled my boot with 
the feathers of the goose, and was immediately so much comforted 
that I regained vitality. 


We mounted, and rode rapidly toward Rome; and when we had 
reached a certain gently rising ground — night had already fallen — 
looking in the direction of Florence, both with one breath exclaimed 
in the utmost astonishment: "O God of heaven! what is that great 
thing one sees there over Florence?" It resembled a huge beam of 
fire, which sparkled and gave out extraordinary lustre. 

I said to Felice: "Assuredly we shall hear to-morrow that some- 
thing of vast importance has happened in Florence." As we rode 
into Rome, the darkness was extreme; and when we came near the 
Banchi and our own house, my little horse was going in an amble 
at a furious speed. Now that day they had thrown a heap of plaster 
and broken tiles in the middle of the road, which neither my horse 
nor myself perceived. In his fiery pace the beast ran up it; but on 
coming down upon the other side he turned a complete somer- 
sault. He had his head between his legs, and it was only through the 
power of God himself that I escaped unhurt. The noise we made 
brought the neighbours out with lights; but I had already jumped 
to my feet; and so, without remounting, I ran home, laughing to 
have come unhurt out of an accident enough to break my neck. 

On entering the house, I found some friends of mine there, to 
whom, while we were supping together, I related the adventures 
of the day's chase and the diabolical apparition of the fiery beam 
which we had seen. They exclaimed : "What shall we hear to-morrow 


which this portent has announced?" I answered: "Some revolution 
must certainly have occurred in Florence." So we supped agree- 
ably; and late the next day there came the news to Rome of Duke 
Alessandro's death.' Upon this many of my acquaintances came to 
me and said: "You were right in conjecturing that something of 
great importance had happened at Florence." Just then Francesco 
Soderini appeared jogging along upon a wretched mule he had, 
and laughing all the way like a madman. He said to me: "This is 
the reverse of that vile tyrant's medal which your Lorenzino de' 
Medici promised you." Then he added: "You wanted to immortalise 
the dukes for us; but we mean to have no more dukes;" and there- 
upon he jeered me, as though I had been the captain of the factions 
which make dukes. Meanwhile a certain Baccio Bettini,^ who had 
an ugly big head like a bushel, came up and began to banter me 
in the same way about dukes, calling out : "We have dis-duked them, 
and won't have any more of them; and you were for making them 
immortal for us!" with many other tiresome quips of the same kind. 
I lost my patience at this nonsense, and said to them: "You block- 
heads! I am a poor goldsmith, who serve whoever pays me; and 
you are jeering me as though I were a party-leader. However, this 
shall not make me cast in your teeth the insatiable greediness, idiotcy, 
and good-for-nothingness of your predecessors. But this one answer 
I will make to all your silly railleries; that before two or three days 
at the longest have passed by, you will have another duke, much 
worse perhaps than he who now has left you." ^ 

The following day Bettini came to my shop and said: "There is 
no need to spend money in couriers, for you know things before 
they happen. What spirit tells them to you?" Then he informed 
me that Cosimo de' Medici, the son of Signer Giovanni, was made 
Duke; but that certain conditions had been imposed at his election, 
which would hold him back from kicking up his heels at his own 
pleasure. I now had my opportunity for laughing at them, and 
saying: "Those men of Florence have set a young man upon a 

' Alessandro was murdered by his cousin Lorenzino at Florence on the 3th of 
January 1537. 

^ Bettini was an intimate friend of Buonarroti and a considerable patron of the arts. 

' This exchange of ironical compliments testifies to Cellini's strong Medicean 
leanings, and also to the sagacity with which he judged the political situation. 


mettlesome horse; next they have buckled spurs upon his heels, and 
put the bridle freely in his hands, and turned him out upon a mag- 
nificent field, full o£ flowers and fruits and all delightful things; 
next they have bidden him not to cross certain indicated limits: now 
tell me, you, who there is that can hold him back, whenever he has 
but the mind to cross them ? Laws cannot be imposed on him who 
is the master of the law," So they left me alone, and gave me no 
further annoyance.* 


I now began to attend to my shop, and did some business, not 
however of much moment, because I had still to think about my 
health, which was not yet established after that grave illness I had 
undergone. About this time the Emperor returned victorious from 
his expedition against Tunis, and the Pope sent for me to take my 
advice concerning the present of honour it was fit to give him.' I 
answered that it seemed to me most appropriate to present his Im- 
perial Majesty with a golden crucifix, for which I had almost finished 
an ornament quite to the purpose, and which would confer the 
highest honour upon his Holiness and me. I had already made three 
little figures of gold in the round, about a palm high; they were 
those which I had begun for the chalice of Pope Clement, repre- 
senting Faith, Hope, and Charity. To these I added in wax what 
was wanting for the basement of the cross. I carried the whole to the 
Pope, with the Christ in wax, and many other exquisite decorations 
which gave him complete satisfaction. Before I took leave of his 
Holiness, we had agreed on every detail, and calculated the price of 
the work. 

This was one evening four hours after nightfall, and the Pope 
had ordered Messer Latino Juvenale to see that I had money paid 
to me next morning. This Messer Latino, who had a pretty big 
dash of the fool in his composition, bethought him of furnishing the 
Pope with a new idea, which was, however, wholly of his own inven- 

* Cellini only spoke the truth on this occasion; for Cosimo soon kicked down the 
ladder which had lifted him to sovereignty, and showed himself the absolute master 
of Florence. Cosimo was elected Duke upon the 9th of January 1537. 

' Cellini returns to the year 1535, when Charles V. arrived in November from 


tion. So he altered everything which had been arranged; and next 
morning, when I went for the money, he said with his usual brutal 
arrogance: "It is our part to invent, and yours to execute; before I 
left the Pope last night we thought of something far superior." 
To these first words I answered, without allowing him to proceed 
farther: "Neither you nor the Pope can think of anything better 
than a piece of which Christ plays a part; so you may go on with 
your courtier's nonsense till you have no more to say." 

Without uttering one word, he left me in a rage, and tried to get 
the work given to another goldsmith. The Pope, however, refused, 
and sent for me at once, and told me I had spoken well, but that 
they wanted to make use of a Book of Hours of Our Lady, which 
was marvellously illuminated, and had cost the Cardinal de' Medici 
more than two thousand crowns. They thought that this would be 
an appropriate present to the Empress, and that for the Emperor 
they would afterwards make what I had suggested, which was 
indeed a present worthy of him; but now there was no time to lose, 
since the Emperor was expected in Rome in about a month and a 
half. He wanted the book to be enclosed in a case of massive gold, 
richly worked, and adorned with jewels valued at about six thousand 
crowns. Accordingly, when the jewels and the gold were given me, 
I began the work, and driving it briskly forward, in a few days 
brought it to such beauty that the Pope was astonished, and showed 
me the most distinguished signs of favour, conceding at the same 
time that that beast Juvenale should have nothing more to do 
with me. 

I had nearly brought my work to its completion when the Em- 
peror arrived, and numerous triumphal arches of great magnificence 
were erected in his honour. He entered Rome with extraordinary 
pomp, the description of which I leave to others, since I mean to 
treat of those things only which concern myself.^ Immediately after 
his arrival, he gave the Pope a diamond which he had bought for 
twelve thousand crowns. This diamond the Pope committed to my 
care, ordering me to make a ring to the measure of his Holiness's 
finger; but first he wished me to bring the book in the state to which 
I had advanced it. I took it accordingly, and he was highly pleased 
^The entry into Rome took place April 6, 1536. 


with it; then he asked my advice concerning the apology which could 
be reasonably made to the Emperor for the unfinished condition of 
my work. I said that my indisposition would furnish a sound excuse, 
since his Majesty, seeing how thin and pale I was, would very readily 
believe and accept it. To this the Pope replied that he approved of 
the suggestion, but that I should add on the part of his Holiness, 
when I presented the bobk to the Emperor, that I made him the 
present of myself. Then he told me in detail how I had to behave, 
and the words I had to say. These words I repeated to the Pope, 
asking him if he wished me to deliver them in that way. He replied: 
"You would acquit yourself to admiration if you had the courage 
to address the Emperor as you are addressing me." Then I said that 
I had the courage to speak with far greater ease and freedom to the 
Emperor, seeing that the Emperor was clothed as I was, and that 
I should seem to be speaking to a man formed like myself; this was 
not the case when I addressed his Holiness, in whom I beheld a far 
superior deity, both by reason of his ecclesiastical adornments, which 
shed a certain aureole about him, and at the same time because of 
his Holiness's dignity of venerable age; all these things inspired in 
me more awe than the Imperial Majesty. To these words the Pope 
responded: "Go, my Benvenuto; you are a man of ability; do us 
honour, and it will be well for you." 


The Pope ordered out two Turkish horses, which had belonged to 
Pope Clement, and were the most beautiful that ever came to 
Christendom. Messer Durante,' his chamberlain, was bidden to 
bring them through the lower galleries of the palace, and there to 
give them to the Emperor, repeating certain words which his Holi- 
ness dictated to him. We both went down together, and when we 
reached the presence of the Emperor, the horses made their entrance 
through those halls with so much spirit and such a noble carriage 
that the Emperor and every one were struck with wonder. There- 
upon Messer Durante advanced in so graceless a manner, and de- 
livered his speech with so much of Brescian lingo, mumbling his 

' Messer Durante Duranti, Prefect of the Camera under Paul III., who gave him 
the hat in 1544, and the Bishopric of Brescia afterwards. 


words over in his mouth, that one never saw or heard anything 
worse; indeed the Emperor could not refrain from smiling at him. 
I meanwhile had already uncovered my piece; and observing that 
the Emperor had turned his eyes towards me with a very gracious 
look, I advanced at once and said: "Sacred Majesty, our most holy 
Father, Pope Paolo, sends this book of the Virgin as a present to 
your Majesty, the which is written in a fair clerk's hand, and illu- 
minated by the greatest master who ever professed that art; and 
this rich cover of gold and jewels is unfinished, as you here behold 
it, by reason of my illness: wherefore his Holiness, together with 
the book, presents me also, and attaches me to your Majesty in order 
that I may complete the work; nor this alone, but everything which 
you may have it in your mind to execute so long as life is left me, 
will I perform at your service." Thereto the Emperor responded: 
"The book is acceptable to me, and so are you; but I desire you to 
complete it for me in Rome; when it is finished, and you are restored 
to health, bring it me and come to see me." Afterwards, in course 
of conversation, he called me by my name, which made me wonder, 
because no words had been dropped in which my name occurred; 
and he said that he had seen that fastening of Pope Clement's cope, 
on which I had wrought so many wonderful figures. We continued 
talking in this way a whole half hour, touching on divers topics 
artistic and agreeable; then, since it seemed to me that I had acquitted 
myself with more honour than I had expected, I took the occasion 
of a slight lull in the conversation to make my bow and to retire. 
The Emperor was heard to say: "Let five hundred golden crowns 
be given at once to Benvenuto." The person who brought them up 
asked who the Pope's man was who had spoken to the Emperor. 
Messer Durante came forward and robbed me of my five hundred 
crowns. I complained to the Pope, who told me not to be uneasy, for 
he knew how everything had happened, and how well I had con- 
ducted myself in addressing the Emperor, and of the money I should 
certainly obtain my share. 


When I returned to my shop, I set my hand with diligence to 
finishing the diamond ring, concerning which the four first jewellers 


of Rome were sent to consult with me. This was because the Pope 
had been informed that the diamond had been set by the first jeweller 
of the world in Venice; he was called Maestro Miliano Targhetta; 
and the diamond being somewhat thin, the job of setting it was too 
diiScult to be attempted without great deliberation. I was well 
pleased to receive these four jewellers, among whom was a man of 
Milan called Gaio. He was the most presumptuous donkey in the 
world, the one who knew least and who thought he knew most; the 
others were very modest and able craftsmen. In the presence of us 
all this Gaio began to talk, and said: "Miliano's foil should be pre- 
served, and to do that, Benvenuto, you shall doff your cap;' for just 
as giving diamonds a tint is the most delicate and difficult thing in 
the jeweller's art, so is Miliano the greatest jeweller that ever lived, 
and this is the most difficult diamond to tint." I replied that it was 
all the greater glory for me to compete with so able a master in such 
an excellent profession. Afterwards I turned to the other jewellers 
and said: "Look here! I am keeping MiUano's foil, and I will see 
whether I can improve on it with some of my own manufacture; if 
not, we will tint it with the same you see here." That ass Gaio 
exclaimed that if I made a foil like that he would gladly doff his cap 
to it. To which I replied: "Supposing then I make it better, it will 
deserve two bows." "Certainly so," said he; and I began to compose 
my foils. 

I took the very greatest pains in mixing the tints, the method of 
doing which I will explain in the proper place.^ It is certain that the 
diamond in question offered more difficulties than any others which 
before or afterwards have come into my hands, and Miliano's foil 
was made with true artistic skill. However, that did not dismay me; 
but having sharpened my wits up, I succeeded not only in making 
something quite as good, but in exceeding it by far. Then, when I 
saw that I had surpassed him, I went about to surpass myself, and 
produced a foil by new processes which was a long way better than 
what I had previously made. Thereupon I sent for the jewellers; and 
first I tinted the diamond with Mifiano's foil: then I cleaned it well 

^ In the Oreficeria Cellini gives an account of how these foils were made and 
applied. They were composed of paste, and coloured so as to enhance the effect of 
precious stones, particularly diamonds. 

^ Oreficeria, cap. i. 


and tinted it afresh with my own. When I showed it to the jewellers, 
one of the best among them, who was called Raflael del Moro, took 
the diamond in his hand and said to Gaio : "Benvenuto has outdone 
the foil of Miliano." Gaio, unwilling to believe it, took the diamond 
and said: "Benvenuto, this diamond is worth two thousand ducats 
more than with the foil of Miliano." I rejoined: "Now that I have 
surpassed Miliano, let us see if I can surpass myself." Then I begged 
them to wait for me a while, went up into a little cabinet, and having 
tinted the diamond anew unseen by them, returned and showed it to 
the jewellers. Gaio broke out at once: "This is the most marvellous 
thing that I have ever seen in the course of my whole lifetime. The 
stone is worth upwards of eighteen thousand crowns, whereas we 
valued it at barely twelve thousand." The others jewellers turned 
to him and said: "Benvenuto is the glory of our art, and it is only 
due that we should doff our caps to him and to his foils." Then Gaio 
said: "I shall go and tell the Pope, and I mean to procure for him 
one thousand golden crowns for the setting of this diamond." Ac- 
cordingly he hurried to the Pope and told him the whole story; 
whereupon his Holiness sent three times on that day to see if the 
ring was finished. 

At twenty-three o'clock I took the ring to the palace; and since 
the doors were always open to me, I lifted the curtain gently, and 
saw the Pope in private audience with the Marchese del Guasto.' 
The Marquis must have been pressing something on the Pope which 
he was unwilling to perform; for I heard him say: "I tell you, no; 
it is my business to remain neutral, and nothing else." I was retiring 
as quickly as I could, when the Pope himself called me back; so I 
entered the room, and presented the diamond ring, upon which he 
drew me aside, and the Marquis retired to a distance. While looking 
at the diamond, the Pope whispered to me: "Benvenuto, begin some 
conversation with me on a subject which shall seem important, and 
do not stop talking so long as the Marquis remains in this room." 
Then he took to walking up and down, and the occasion making 
for my advantage, I was very glad to discourse with him upon the 
methods I had used to tint the stone. The Marquis remained stand- 

' Alfonson d'Avalos, successor and heir to the famous Ferdinando d'Avalos, Marquis 
of Pescara. He acted for many years as Spanish Viceroy of Milan. 


ing apart, leaning against a piece of tapestry; and now he balanced 
himself about on one foot, now on the other. The subject I had 
chosen to discourse upon was of such importance, if fully treated, 
that I could have talked about it at least three hours. The Pope was 
entertained to such a degree that he forgot the annoyance of the 
Marquis standing there. I seasoned what I had to say with that part 
of natural philosophy which belongs to our profession; and so having 
spoken for near upon an hour, the Marquis grew tired of waiting, 
and went off fuming. Then the Pope bestowed on me the most 
familiar caresses which can be imagined, and exclaimed: "Have pa- 
tience, my dear Benvenuto, for I will give you a better reward for 
your virtues than the thousand crowns which Gaio tells me your 
work is worth." 

On this I took my leave; and the Pope praised me in the presence 
of his household, among whom was the fellow Latino Juvenale, 
whom I have previously mentioned. This man, having become 
my enemy, assiduously strove to do me hurt; and noticing that the 
Pope talked of me with so much affection and warmth, he put in his 
word: "There is no doubt at all that Benvenuto is a person of very re- 
markable genius; but while every one is naturally bound to feel more 
goodwill for his own countrymen than for others, still one ought to 
consider maturely what language it is right and proper to use when 
speaking of a Pope. He has had the audacity to say that Pope 
Clement indeed was the handsomest sovereign that ever reigned, 
and no less gifted; only that luck was always against him: and he 
says that your Holiness is quite the opposite; that the tiara seems to 
weep for rage upon your head; that you look like a truss of straw 
with clothes on, and that there is nothing in you except good luck." 
These words, reported by a man who knew most excellently how to 
say them, had such force that they gained credit with the Pope. 
Far from having uttered them, such things had never come into my 
head. If the Pope could have done so without losing credit, he would 
certainly have taken fierce revenge upon me; but being a man of 
great tact and talent, he made a show of turning it off with a laugh. 
Nevertheless he harboured in his heart a deep vindictive feeling 
against me, of which I was not slow to be aware, since I had no 
longer the same easy access to his apartments as formerly, but found 


the greatest diiBculty in procuring audience. As I had now for many 
years been famiUar with the manners of the Roman court, I con- 
ceived that some one had done me a bad turn; and on making dex- 
terous inquiries, I was told the whole, but not the name of my 
calumniator. I could not imagine who the man was; had I but 
found him out, my vengeance would not have been measured by troy 


I went on working at my book, and when I had finished it I took 
it to the Pope, who was in good truth unable to refrain from com- 
mending it greatly. I begged him to send me with it to the Em- 
peror, as he had promised. He replied that he would do what he 
thought fit, and that I had performed my part of the business. So 
he gave orders that I should be well paid. These two pieces of work, 
on which I had spent upwards of two months, brought me in five 
hundred crowns: for the diamond I was paid one hundred and fifty 
crowns and no more; the rest was given me for the cover of the 
book, which, however, was worth more than a thousand, being en- 
riched with multitudes of figures, arabesques, enamellings, and jew- 
els. I took what I could get and made my mind up to leave Rome 
without permission. The Pope meanwhile sent my book to the Em- 
peror by the hand of his grandson Signor Sforza.' Upon accepting 
it, the Emperor expressed great satisfaction, and immediately asked 
for me. Young Signor Sforza, who had received his instructions, 
said that I had been prevented by illness from coming. All this was 
reported to me. 

My preparations for the journey into France were made; and I 
wished to go alone, but was unable on account of a lad in my service 
called Ascanio. He was of very tender age, and the most admirable 
servant in the world. When I took him he had left a former mas- 
ter, named Francesco, a Spaniard and a goldsmith. I did not much 
like to take him, lest I should get into a quai-rel with the Spaniard, 
and said to Ascanio: "I do not want to have you, for fear of offending 
your master." He contrived that his master should write me a note 

* lo ne arei jatte vendette a misura di carhone. 

' Sforza Sforza, son of Bosio, Count of Santa Fiore, and of Costanza Farnese, the 
Pope's natural daughter. He was a youth of sixteen at this epoch. 


informing me that I was free to take him. So he had been with me 
some months; and since he came to us both thin and pale of face, we 
called him "the little old man;" indeed I almost thought he was one, 
partly because he was so good a servant, and partly because he was 
so clever that it seemed unlikely he should have such talent at 
thirteen years, which he affirmed his age to be. Now to go back to 
the point from which I started, he improved in person during those 
few months, and gaining in flesh, became the handsomest youth in 
Rome. Being the excellent servant which I have described, and show- 
ing marvellous aptitude for our art, I felt a warm and fatherly affec- 
tion for him, and kept him clothed as if he had been my own son. 
When the boy perceived the improvement he had made, he esteemed 
it a good piece of luck that he had come into my hands; and he used 
frequently to go and thank his former master, who had been the 
cause of his prosperity. Now this man had a handsome young 
woman to wife, who said to him: "Surgetto" (that was what they 
called him when he lived with them), "what have you been doing 
to become so handsome?" Ascanio answered: "Madonna Francesca, 
it is my master who has made me so handsome, and far more good 
to boot." In her petty spiteful way she took it very ill that Ascanio 
should speak so; and having no reputation for chastity, she contrived 
to caress the lad more perhaps than was quite seemly, which made 
me notice that he began to visit her more frequently than his wont 
had been. 

One day Ascanio took to beating one of our little shopboys, who, 
when I came home from out of doors, complained to me with tears 
that Ascanio had knocked him about without any cause. Hearing 
this, I said to Ascanio: "With cause or without cause, see you never 
strike any one of my family, or else I'll make you feel how I can 
strike myself." He bandied words with me, which made me jump on 
him and give him the severest drubbing with both fists and feet that 
he had ever felt. As soon as he escaped my clutches, he ran away 
without cape or cap, and for two days I did not know where he was, 
and took no care to find him. After that time a Spanish gentleman, 
called Don Diego, came to speak to me. He was the most generous 
man in the world. I had made, and was making, some things for 
him, which had brought us well acquainted. He told me that As- 


canio had gone back to his old master, and asked me, if I thought 
it proper, to send him the cape and cap which I had given him. 
Thereupon I said that Francesco had behaved badly, and like a low- 
bred fellow; for if he had told me, when Ascanio first came back 
to him, that he was in his house, I should very willingly have given 
him leave; but now that he had kept him two days without inform- 
ing me, I was resolved he should not have him; and let him take 
care that I do not set eyes upon the lad in his house- This message 
was reported by Don Diego, but it only made Francesco laugh. 
The next morning I saw Ascanio working at some trifles in wire at 
his master's side. As I was passing he bowed to me, and his master 
almost laughed me in the face. He sent again to ask through Don 
Diego whether I would not give Ascanio back the clothes he had 
received from me; but if not, he did not mind, and Ascanio should 
not want for clothes. When I heard this, I turned to Don Diego and 
said: "Don Diego, sir, in all your dealings you are the most liberal 
and worthy man I ever knew, but that Francesco is quite the oppo- 
site of you; he is nothing better than a worthless and dishonoured 
renegade. Tell him from me that if he does not bring Ascanio here 
himself to my shop before the bell for vespers, I will assuredly kill 
him; and tell Ascanio that if he does not quit that house at the hour 
appointed for his master, I will treat him much in the same way." 
Don Diego made no answer, but went and inspired such terror in 
Francesco that he knew not what to do with himself. Ascanio mean- 
while had gone to find his father, who had come to Rome from 
Tagliacozzo, his birthplace; and this man also, when he heard about 
the row, advised Francesco to bring Ascanio back to me. Fran- 
cesco said to Ascanio: "Go on your own account, and your father 
shall go with you." Don Diego put in: "Francesco, I foresee that 
something very serious will happen; you know better than I do 
what a man Benvenuto is; take the lad back courageously, and I 
will come with you." I had prepared myself, and was pacing up and 
down the shop waiting for the bell to vespers; my mind was made 
up to do one of the bloodiest deeds which I had ever attempted in 
my life. Just then arrived Don Diego, Francesco, Ascanio, and his 
father, whom I did not know. When Ascanio entered, I gazed at the 
whole company with eyes of rage, and Francesco, pale as death, 


began as follows: "See here, I have brought back Ascanio, whom 
I kept with me, not thinking that I should offend you." Ascanio 
added humbly: "Master, pardon me; I am at your disposal here, to 
do whatever you shall order." Then I said: "Have you come to 
work out the time you promised me?" He answered yes, and that 
he meant never to leave me. Then I turned and told the shopboy 
he had beaten to hand him the bundle of clothes, and said to him: 
"Here are all the clothes I gave you; take with them your discharge, 
and go where you like." Don Diego stood astonished at this, which 
was quite the contrary of what he had expected; while Ascanio with 
his father besought me to pardon and take him back. On my asking 
who it was who spoke for him, he said it was his father; to whom, 
after many entreaties, I replied : "Because you are his father, for your 
sake I will take him back." 


I had formed the resolution, as I said a short while back, to go 
toward France; partly because I saw that the Pope did not hold me 
in the same esteem as formerly, my faithful service having been 
besmirched by lying tongues; and also because I feared lest those 
who had the power might play me some worse trick. So I was deter- 
mined to seek better fortune in a foreign land, and wished to leave 
Rome without company or license. On the eve of my projected de- 
parture, I told my faithful friend Felice to make free use of all my 
effects during my absence; and in the case of my not returning, left 
him everything I possessed. Now there was a Perugian workman in 
my employ, who had helped me on those commissions from the 
Pope; and after paying his wages, I told him he must leave my 
service. He begged me in reply to let him go with me, and said he 
would come at his own charges; if I stopped to work for the King 
of France, it would certainly be better for me to have Italians by 
me, and in particular such persons as I knew to be capable of giving 
me assistance. His entreaties and arguments persuaded me to take 
him on the journey in the manner he proposed. Ascanio, who was 
present at this debate, said, half in tears: "When you took me back, 
I said I wished to remain with you my lifetime, and so I have it in my 


mind to do." I told him that nothing in the world would make me 
consent; but when I saw that the poor lad was preparing to follow 
on foot, I engaged a horse for him too, put a small valise upon the 
crupper, and loaded myself with far more useless baggage than I 
should otherwise have taken.' 

From home I travelled to Florence, from Florence to Bologna, 
from Bologna to Venice, and from Venice to Padua. There my dear 
friend Albertaccio del Bene made me leave the inn for his house; 
and next day I went to kiss the hand of Messer Pietro Bembo, who 
was not yet a Cardinal.^ He received me with marks of the warmest 
affection which could be bestowed on any man; then turning to 
Albertaccio, he said: "I want Benvenuto to stay here, with all his 
followers, even though they be a hundred men; make then your 
mind up, if you want Benvenuto also, to stay here with me, for I 
do not mean elsewise to let you have him." Accordingly I spent a 
very pleasant visit at the house of that most accomplished gentle- 
man. He had a room prepared for me which would have been too 
grand for a cardinal, and always insisted on my taking my meals 
beside him. Later on, he began to hint in very modest terms that 
he should greatly like me to take his portrait. I, who desired nothing 
in the world more, prepared some snow-white plaster in a little box, 
and set to work at once. The first day I spent two hours on end at 
my modelling, and blocked out the fine head of that eminent man 
with so much grace of manner that his lordship was fairly astounded. 
Now, though he was a man of profound erudition and without a 
rival in poetry, he understood nothing at all about my art; this made 
him think that I had finished when I had hardly begun, so that I 
could not make him comprehend what a long time it took to exe- 
cute a thing of that sort thoroughly. At last I resolved to do it as 
well as I was able, and to spend the requisite time upon it; but since 
he wore his beard short after the Venetian fashion, I had great 
trouble in modelling a head to my own satisfaction. However, I 
finished it, and judged it about the finest specimen I had produced 

'He left Rome, April i, 1537. 

^ I need hardly say that this is the Bembo who ruled over Italian literature like 
a dictator from the reign of Leo X. onwards. He was of a noble Venetian house; 
Paul III. made him Cardinal in 1539. He died, aged seventy -seven, in 1547. 


in all the points pertaining to my art. Great was the astonishment 
of Messer Pietro, who conceived that I should have completed the 
waxen model in two hours and the steel in ten, when he found that 
I employed two hundred on the wax, and then was begging for 
leave to pursue my journey toward France. This threw him into 
much concern, and he implored me at least to design the reverse 
for his medal, which was to be a Pegasus encircled with a wreath 
of myrtle. I performed my task in the space of some three hours, 
and gave it a fine air of elegance. He was exceedingly delighted, and 
said : "This horse seems to me ten times more difficult to do than the 
little portrait on which you have bestowed so much pains. I can- 
not understand what made it such a labour." All the same, he kept 
entreating me to execute the piece in steel, exclaiming: "For Heav- 
en's sake, do it; I know that, if you choose, you will get it quickly 
finished." I told him that I was not willing to make it there, but 
promised without fail to take it in hand wherever I might stop to 

While this debate was being carried on I went to bargain for three 
horses which I wanted on my travels; and he took care that a secret 
watch should be kept over my proceedings, for he had vast authority 
in Padua; wherefore, when I proposed to pay for the horses, which 
were to cost five hundred ducats, their owner answered : "Illustrious 
artist, I make you a present of the three horses." I replied: "It is 
not you who give them me; and from the generous donor I cannot 
accept them, seeing I have been unable to present him with any 
specimen of my craft." The good fellow said that, if I did not take 
them, I should get no other horses in Padua, and should have to 
make my journey on foot. Upon that I returned to the magnificent 
Messer Pietro, who affected to be ignorant of the affair, and only 
begged me with marks of kindness to remain in Padua. This was 
contrary to my intention, for I had quite resolved to set out; there- 
fore I had to accept the three horses, and with them we began our 


I chose the route through the Grisons, all other passes being unsafe 
on account of war. We crossed the mountains of the Alba and Ber- 


lina; it was the 8th of May, and the snow upon them lay in masses.' 
At the utmost hazard of our hves we succeeded in surmounting 
those two Alpine ridges; and when they had been traversed, we 
stopped at a place which, if I remember rightly, is called Valdista. 
There we took up quarters, and at nightfall there arrived a Floren- 
tine courier named Busbacca. I had heard him mentioned as a man 
of character and able in his profession, but I did not know that he 
had forfeited that reputation by his rogueries. When he saw me in 
the hostelry, he addressed me by my name, said he was going on 
business of importance to Lyons, and entreated me to lend him 
money for the journey. I said I had no money to lend, but that if 
he liked to join me, I would pay his expenses as far as Lyons. The 
rascal wept, and wheedled me with a long story, saying: "If a poor 
courier employed on affairs of national consequence has fallen short 
of money, it is the duty of a man like you to assist him." Then he 
added that he was carrying things of the utmost importance from 
Messer Filippo Strozzi;^ and showing me a leather case for a cup 
he had with him, whispered in my ear that it held a goblet of silver 
which contained jewels to the value of many thousands of ducats, 
together with letters of vast consequence, sent by Messer Filippo 
Strozzi. I told him that he ought to let me conceal the jewels about 
his own person, which would be much less dangerous than carrying 
them in the goblet; he might give that up to me, and, its value being 
probably about ten crowns, I would supply him with twenty-five on 
the security- To these words the courier replied that he would go 
with me, since he could not do otherwise, for to give up the goblet 
would not be to his honour. 

Accordingly we struck the bargain so; and taking horse next morn- 
ing, came to a lake between Valdistate and Vessa; it is fifteen miles 
long when one reaches Vessa. On beholding the boats upon that 
lake I took fright; because they are of pine, of no great size and no 
great thickness, loosely put together, and not even pitched. If I had 
not seen four German gentlemen, with their four horses, embarking 

^I have retained Cellini's spelling of names upon this journey. He passed the 
Bernina and Albula mountains, descended the valley of the Rhine to Wallenstadt, 
travelled by Weesen and probably Glarus to Lachen and Zurich, thence to Solothurn, 
Lausanne, Geneva, Lyons. 

^ Filippo Strozzi was leader of the anti-Medicean party, now in exile. He fell into 
the hands of Duke Cosimo on the ist of August in this year, 1537. 


in one of the same sort as ours, I should never have set my foot in it; 
indeed I should far more hkely have turned tail; but when I saw 
their hare-brained recklessness, I took it into my head that those 
German waters would not drown folk, as ours do in Italy. How- 
ever, my two young men kept saying to me: "Benvenuto, it is surely 
dangerous to embark in this craft with four horses." I replied : "You 
cowards, do you not observe how those four gentlemen have taken 
boat before us, and are going on their way with laughter? If this 
were wine, as indeed 'tis water, I should say that they were going 
gladly to drown themselves in it; but as it is but water, I know 
well that they have no more pleasure than we have in drowning 
there." The lake was fifteen miles long and about three broad; on 
one side rose a mountain very tall and cavernous, on the other some 
flat land and grassy. When we had gone about four miles, it began 
to storm upon the lake, and our oarsmen asked us to help in row- 
ing; this we did awhile. I made gestures and directed them to land 
us on the farther shore; they said it was not possible, because there 
was not depth of water for the boat, and there were shoals there, 
which would make it go to pieces and drown us all; and still they 
kept on urging us to help them. The boatmen shouted one to the 
other, calling for assistance. When I saw them thus dismayed, my 
horse being an inteUigent animal, I arranged the bridle on his neck 
and took the end of the halter with my left hand. The horse, like 
most of his kind, being not devoid of reason, seemed to have an 
instinct of my intention; for having turned his face towards the fresh 
grass, I meant that he should swim and draw me after him. Just 
at that moment a great wave broke over the boat. Ascanio shrieked 
out: "Mercy, my father; save me," and wanted to throw himself upon 
my neck. Accordingly, I laid hand to my little dagger, and told 
them to do as I had shown them, seeing that the horses would save 
their lives as well as I too hoped to escape with mine by the same 
means; but that if he tried to jump on me, I should kill him. So we 
went forward several miles in this great peril of our lives. 


When we had reached the middle of the lake, we found a little 
bit of level ground where we could land, and I saw that those four 
German gentlemen had already come to shore there; but on our 


wishing to disembark, the boatmen would hear nothing of it. Then 
I said to my young men: "Now is the time to show what stuff we 
are made of; so draw your swords, and force these fellows to put 
us on shore." This we did, not however without difficulty, for they 
offered a stubborn resistance. When at last we got to land, we had 
to climb that mountain for two miles, and it was more troublesome 
than getting up a ladder. I was completely clothed in mail, with 
big boots, and a gun in my hand; and it was raining as though the 
fountains of the heavens were opened. Those devils, the German 
gentlemen, leading their little horses by the bridle, accomplished 
miracles of agility; but our animals were not up to the business, and 
we burst with the fatigue of making them ascend that hill of diffi- 
culty. We had climbed a little way, when Ascanio's horse, an excel- 
lent beast of Hungarian race, made a false step. He was going a 
few paces before the courier Busbacca to whom Ascanio had given 
his lance to carry for him. Well, the path was so bad that the horse 
stumbled, and went on scrambling backwards, without being able 
to regain his footing, till he stuck upon the point of the lance, which 
that rogue of a courier had not the wit to keep out of his way. The 
weapon passed right through his throat; and when my other work- 
man went to help him, his horse also, a black-coloured animal, 
slipped towards the lake, and held on by some shrub which offered 
but a slight support. This horse was carrying a pair of saddle-bags, 
which contained all my money and other valuables. I cried out to 
the young man to save his own life, and let the horse go to the devil. 
The fall was more than a mile of precipitous descent above the waters 
of the lake. Just below the place our boatmen had taken up their 
station; so that if the horse fell, he would have come precisely on 
them. I was ahead of the whole company, and we waited to see 
the horse plunge headlong; it seemed certain that he must go to per- 
dition. During this I said to my young men: "Be under no concern; 
let us save our lives, and give thanks to God for all that happens. I 
am only distressed for that poor fellow Busbacca, who tied his goblet 
and his jewels to the value of several thousands of ducats on the 
horse's saddle-bow, thinking that the safest place. My things are but 
a few hundred crowns, and I am in no fear whatever, if only I get 
God's protection." Then Busbacca cried out: "I am not sorry for my 
own loss, but for yours." "Why," said I to him, "are you sorry for 


my trifles, and not for all that property of yours?" He answered: 
"I will tell you in God's name; in these circumstances and at the 
point of peril we have reached, truth must be spoken. I know that 
yours are crowns, and are so in good sooth; but that case in which 
I said I had so many jewels and other lies, is all full of caviare." On 
hearing this I could not hold from laughing; my young men laughed 
too; and he began to cry. The horse extricated itself by a great effort 
when we had given it up for lost. So then, still laughing, we sum- 
moned our forces, and bent ourselves to making the ascent. The 
four German gentlemen, having gained the top before us, sent down 
some folk who gave us aid. Thus at length we reached our lodging 
in the wilderness. Here, being wet to the skin, tired out, and fam- 
ished, we were most agreeably entertained; we dried ourselves, took 
rest, and satisfied our hunger, while certain wild herbs were applied 
to the wounded horse. They pointed out to us the plant in question, 
of which the hedges were full; and we were told that if the wound 
was kept continually plugged with its leaves, the beast would not 
only recover, but would serve us just as if it had sustained no injury. 
We proceeded to do as they advised. Then having thanked those 
gentlemen, and feeling ourselves entirely refreshed, we quitted the 
place, and travelled onwards, thanking God for saving us from such 
great perils. 


We reached a town beyond Vessa, where we passed the night, and 
heard a watchman through all the hours singing very agreeably; for 
all the houses of that city being built of pine wood, it was the watch- 
man's only business to warn folk against fire. Busbacca's nerves had 
been quite shaken by the day's adventures; accordingly, each hour 
when the watchman sang, he called out in his sleep: "Ah God, I am 
drowning!" That was because of the fright he had had; and besides, 
he had got drunk in the evening, because he would sit boozing with 
all the Germans who were there; and sometimes he cried: "I am 
burning," and sometimes: "I am drowning;" and at other times he 
thought he was in hell, and tortured with that caviare suspended 
round his throat. 

This night was so amusing that it turned all our troubles into 


laughter. In the morning we rose with very fine weather, and 
went to dine in a smiUng Httle place called Lacca. Here we ob- 
tained excellent entertainment, and then engaged guides, who were 
returning to a town called Surich. The guide who attended us 
went along the dyked bank o£ a lake; there was no other road; and 
the dyke itself was covered with water, so that the reckless fellow 
slipped, and fell together with his horse beneath the water. I, who 
was but a few steps behind him, stopped my horse, and waited to 
see the donkey get out of the water. Just as if nothing had happened, 
he began to sing again, and made signs to me to follow. I broke 
away upon the right hand, and got through some hedges, making 
my young men and Busbacca take that way. The guide shouted in 
German that if the folk of those parts saw me they would put me to 
death. However, we passed forward, and escaped that other storm. 

So we arrived at Surich, a marvellous city, bright and polished 
like a little gem. There we rested a whole day, then left betimes one 
morning, and reached another fair city called Solutorno. Thence we 
came to Usanna, from Usanna to Ginevra, from Ginevra to Lione, 
always singing and laughing. At Lione I rested four days, and had 
much pleasant intercourse with some of my friends there; I was 
also repaid what I had spent upon Busbacca; afterwards I set out 
upon the road to Paris. This was a delightful journey, except that 
when we reached Palissa' a band of venturers tried to murder us,* 
and it was only by great courage and address that we got free from 
them. From that point onward we travelled to Paris without the 
least trouble in the world. Always singing and laughing, we arrived 
safely at our destination. 


After taking some repose in Paris, I went to visit the painter Rosso, 
who was in the King's service. I thought to find in him one of the 
sincerest friends I had in the world, seeing that in Rome I had done 
him the greatest benefits which one man can confer upon another. 
As these may be described briefly, I will not here omit their mention, 
in order to expose the shamelessness of such ingratitude. While he 

1 La Palice. 

^ Cellini, in the narrative of his second French journey, explains that these 
venturieri were a notable crew of very daring brigands in the Lyonese province. 


was in Rome, then, being a man given to back-biting, he spoke so 
ill of Raffaello da Urbino's works, that the pupils of the latter were 
quite resolved to murder him. From this peril I saved him by keep- 
ing a close watch upon him day and night. Again, the evil things 
said by Rosso against San Gallo,' that excellent architect, caused the 
latter to get work taken from him which he had previously procured 
for him from Messer Agnolo da Cesi; and after this San Gallo used 
his influence so strenuously against him that he must have been 
brought to the verge of starvation, had not I pitied his condition and 
lent him some scores of crowns to live upon. So then, not having 
been repaid, and knowing that he held employment under the King, 
I went, as I have said, to look him up. I did not merely expect him 
to discharge his debt, but also to show me favour and assist in placing 
me in that great monarch's service. 

When Rosso set eyes on me, his countenance changed suddenly, 
and he exclaimed: "Benvenuto, you have taken this long journey at 
great charges to your loss; especially at this present time, when all 
men's thoughts are occupied with war, and not with the bagatelles 
of our profession." I replied that I had brought money enough to 
take me back to Rome as I had come to Paris, and that this was not 
the proper return for the pains I had endured for him, and that now 
I began to believe what Maestro Antonio da San Gallo said of him. 
When he tried to turn the matter into jest on this exposure of his 
baseness, I showed him a letter of exchange for five hundred crowns 
upon Ricciardo del Bene. Then the rascal was ashamed, and wanted 
to detain me almost by force; but I laughed at him, and took my 
leave in the company of a painter whom I found there. This man 
was called Sguazzella:^ he too was a Florentine; and I went to lodge 
in his house, with three horses and three servants, at so much per 
week. He treated me very well, and was even better paid by me in 

Afterwards I sought audience of the King, through the introduc- 
tion of his treasurer, Messer Giuliano Buonaccorti.^ I met, however, 
with considerable delays, owing, as I did not then know, to the stren- 

* Antonio da San Gallo, one o£ the best architects of the later Renaissance. 
^ A pupil of Andrea del Sarto, who went with him to France and settled there. 
' A Florentine exile mentioned by Varchi. 


uous exertions Rosso made against my admission to his Majesty. 
When Messer Giuliano became aware of this, he took me down at 
once to Fontana BiHo/ and brought me into the presence of the King, 
who granted me a whole hour of very gracious audience. Since he 
was then on the point of setting out for Lyons, he told Messer 
Giuliano to take me with him, adding that on the journey we could 
discuss some works of art his Majesty had it in his head to execute. 
Accordingly, I followed the court; and on the way I entered into 
close relations with the Cardinal of Ferrara, who had not at that 
period obtained the hat.' Every evening I used to hold long con- 
versations with the Cardinal, in the course of which his lordship 
advised me to remain at an abbey of his in Lyons, and there to abide 
at ease until the King returned from this campaign, adding that he 
was going on to Grenoble, and that I should enjoy every convenience 
in the abbey. 

When we reached Lyons I was already ill, and my lad Ascanio 
had taken a quartan fever. The French and their court were 
both grown irksome to me, and I counted the hours till I could 
find myself again in Rome. On seeing my anxiety to return home, 
the Cardinal gave me money sufScient for making him a silver bason 
and jug. So we took good horses, and set our faces in the direction 
of Rome, passing the Simplon, and travelling for some while in the 
company of certain Frenchmen; Ascanio troubled by his quartan, 
and I by a slow fever which I found it quite impossible to throw 
off. I had, moreover, got my stomach out of order to such an extent, 
that for the space of four months, as I verily believe, I hardly ate 
one whole loaf of bread in the week; and great was my longing 
to reach Italy, being desirous to die there rather than in France. 


When we had crossed the mountains of the Simplon, we came 
to a river near a place called Indevedro.' It was broad and very 
deep, spanned by a long narrow bridge without ramparts. That 

* Fontainebleau. Cellini always writes it as above. 

^Ippolito d'Este, son of Alfonso, Duke of Ferrara; Archbishop of Milan at the age 
of fifteen; Cardinal in 1539; spent a large part of his life in France. 
' Probably the Doveria in the Valdivedro. 


morning a thick white frost had fallen; and when I reached the 
bridge, riding before the rest, I recognised how dangerous it was, 
and bade my servants and young men dismount and lead their 
horses. So I got across without accident, and rode on talking with 
one of the Frenchmen, whose condition was that of a gentleman. 
The other, who was a scrivener, lagged a little way behind, jeering 
the French gentleman and me because we had been so frightened 
by nothing at all as to give ourselves the trouble of walking. I 
turned round, and seeing him upon the middle of the bridge, begged 
him to come gently, since the place was very dangerous. The fel- 
low, true to his French nature, cried out in French that I was a 
man of poor spirit, and that there was no danger whatsoever. While 
he spoke these words and urged his horse forward, the animal sud- 
denly slipped over the bridge, and fell with legs in air close to a 
huge rock there was there. Now God is very often merciful to 
madmen; so the two beasts, human and equine, plunged together 
into a deep wide pool, where both of them went down below the 
water. On seeing what had happened, I set off running at full 
speed, scrambled with much difficulty on to the rock, and dangling 
over from it, seized the skirt of the scrivener's gown and pulled him 
up, for he was still submerged beneath the surface- He had drunk 
his bellyful of water, and was within an ace of being drowned. I 
then, beholding him out of danger, congratulated the man upon 
my having been the means of rescuing his life. The fellow to this 
answered me in French, that I had done nothing; the important 
things to save were his writings, worth many scores of crowns; 
and these words he seemed to say in anger, dripping wet and splut- 
tering the while. Thereupon, I turned round to our guides, and 
ordered them to help the brute, adding that I would see them paid. 
One of them with great address and trouble set himself to the busi- 
ness, and picked up all the fellow's writings, so that he lost not 
one of them : the other guide refused to trouble himself by rendering 
any assistance. 

I ought here to say that we had made a purse up, and that I per- 
formed the part of paymaster. So, when we reached the place I 
mentioned, and had dined, I drew some coins from the common 
purse and gave them to the guide who helped to draw him from 


the water. Thereupon the fellow called out that I might pay them 
out of my own pocket; he had no intention of giving the man 
more than what had been agreed on for his services as guide. Upon 
this I retorted with insulting language. Then the other guide, who 
had done nothing, came up and demanded to be rewarded also. 
I told him that the one who had borne the cross deserved the recom- 
pense. He cried out that he would presently show me a cross 
which should make me repent. I replied that I would light a candle 
at that cross, which should, I hoped, make him to be the first to 
weep his folly. The village we were in lay on the frontier between 
Venice and the Germans. So the guide ran off to bring the folk 
together, and came, followed by a crowd, with a boar-spear in his 
hand. Mounted on my good steed, I lowered the barrel of my 
arquebuse, and turning to my comrades, cried: "At the first shot I 
shall bring that fellow down; do you likewise your duty, for these 
are highway robbers, who have used this little incident to contrive 
our murder." The innkeeper at whose house we had dined called 
one of the leaders, an imposing old man, and begged him to put 
a stop to the disorder, saying: "This is a most courageous young 
man; you may cut him to pieces, but he will certainly kill a lot of 
you, and perhaps will escape your hands after doing all the mischief 
he is able." So matters calmed down : and the old man, their leader, 
said to me: "Go in peace; you would not have much to boast of 
against us, even if you had a hundred men to back you." I recog- 
nised the truth of his words, and had indeed made up my mind to 
die among them; therefore, when no further insults were cast at me, 
I shook my head and exclaimed: "I should certainly have done my 
utmost to prove I am no statue, but a man of flesh and spirit." 
Then we resumed our journey; and that evening, at the first lodg- 
ing we came to, settled our accounts together. There I parted for 
ever from that beast of a Frenchman, remaining on very friendly 
terms with the other, who was a gentleman. Afterwards I reached 
Ferrara, with my three horses and no other company. 

Having dismounted, I went to court in order to pay my reverence 
to the Duke, and gain permission to depart next morning for Loreto. 
When I had waited until two hours after nightfall, his Excellency 
appeared. I kissed his hands; he received me with much courtesy. 


and ordered that water should be brought for me to wash my hands 
before eating. To this comphment I made a pleasant answer : "Most 
excellent lord, it is now more than four months that I have eaten 
only just enough to keep life together; knowing therefore that I 
could not enjoy the delicacies of your royal table, I will stay and 
talk with you while your Excellency is supping; in this way we 
shall both have more pleasure than if I were to sup with you." Ac- 
cordingly, we entered into conversation, and prolonged it for the next 
three hours. At that time I took my leave, and when I got back to 
the inn, found a most excellent meal ready; for the Duke had sent 
me the plates from his own banquet, together with some famous 
wine. Having now fasted two full hours beyond my usual hour for 
supping, I fell to with hearty appetite; and this was the first time 
since four months that I felt the power or will to eat. 

Leaving Ferrara in the morning, I went to Santa Maria at Loreto; 
and thence, having performed my devotions, pursued the journey to 
Rome. There I found my most faithful Felice, to whom I aban- 
doned my old shop with all its furniture and appurtenances, and 
opened another, much larger and roomier, next to Sugherello, the 
perfumer. I thought for certain that the great King Francis would 
not have remembered me. Therefore I accepted commissions from 
several noblemen; and in the meanwhile began the bason and jug 
ordered by the Cardinal Ferrara. I had a crowd of workmen, and 
many large affairs on hand in gold and silver. 

Now the arrangement I had made with that Ferugian workman' 
was that he should write down all the monies which had been dis- 
bursed on his account, chiefly for clothes and divers other sundries; 
and these, together with the costs of travelling, amounted to about 
seventy crowns. We agreed that he should discharge the debt by 
monthly payments of three crowns; and this he was well able to do, 
since he gained more than eight through me. At the end of two 
months the rascal decamped from my shop, leaving me in the lurch 
with a mass of business on my hands, and saying that he did not 
mean to pay me a farthing more. I was resolved to seek redress, 
' In his Ricordi Cellini calls the man Girolamo Pascucci. 


but allowed myself to be persuaded to do so by the way of justice. 
At first I thought of lopping off an arm of his; and assuredly I should 
have done so, if my friends had not told me that it was a mistake, 
seeing I should lose my money and perhaps Rome too a second time, 
forasmuch as blows cannot be measured, and that with the agree- 
ment I held of his I could at any moment have him taken up. I 
listened to their advice, though I should have liked to conduct the 
affair more freely. As a matter of fact, I sued him before the auditor 
of the Camera, and gained my suit; in consequence of that decree, 
for which I waited several months, I had him thrown into prison. 
At the same time I was overwhelmed with large commissions; 
among others, I had to supply all the ornaments of gold and jewels 
for the wife of Signor Gierolimo Orsino, father of Signor Paolo, who 
is now the son-in-law of our Duke Cosimo.^ These things I had 
nearly finished; yet others of the greatest consequence were always 
coming in. I employed eight work-people, and worked day and night 
together with them, for the sake alike of honour and of gain. 


While I was engaged in prosecuting my affairs with so much 
vigour, there arrived a letter sent post-haste to me by the Cardinal 
of Ferrara, which ran as follows: — 

"Benvenuto, our dear friend, — During these last days the most 
Christian King here made mention of you, and said that he should 
lil{e to have you in his service. Whereto I answered that you had 
promised me, whenever I sent for you to serve his Majesty, that you 
would come at once. His Majesty then answered: 'It is my will\ 
that provision for his journey, according to his merits, should 
be sent him;' and immediately ordered his Admiral to ma\e me 
out an order for one thousand golden crowns upon the treasurer 
of the Exchequer. The Cardinal de' Gaddi, who was present at 
this conversation, advanced immediately , and told his Majesty that 
it was not necessary to make these dispositions, seeing that he had 
sent you money enough, and that you were already on the journey. 
If then, as I thin\ probable, the facts are quite contrary to those 

^ He was Duke of Bracciano, father of Duke Paolo, who married Isabella de' Medici, 
and murdered her before his second marriage with Vittoria Accoramboni. See my 
Renaissance in Italy, vol. vi. 


assertions of Cardinal Gaddi, reply to me without delay upon the 
receipt of this letter; for I will undertake to gather up the fallen 
thread, and have the promised money given you by this magnani- 
mous King." 

Now let the world take notice, and all the folk that dwell on it, 
what power malignant stars with adverse fortune exercise upon us 
human beings! I had not spoken twice in my lifetime to that little 
simpleton of a Cardinal de' Gaddi; nor do I think that he meant 
by this bumptiousness of his to do me any harm, but only, through 
lightheadedness and senseless folly, to make it seem as though he 
also held the affairs of artists, whom the King was wanting, under 
his own personal supervision, just as the Cardinal of Ferrara did. 
But afterwards he was so stupid as not to tell me anything at all 
about the matter; elsewise, it is certain that my wish to shield a silly 
mannikin from reproach, if only for our country's sake, would have 
made me find out some excuse to mend the bungling of his foolish 

Immediately upon the receipt of Cardinal Ferrara's letter, I an- 
swered that about Cardinal de' Gaddi I knew absolutely nothing, 
and that even if he had made overtures of that kind to me, I should 
not have left Italy without informing his most reverend lordship. I 
also said that I had more to do in Rome than at any previous time; 
but that if his most Christian Majesty made sign of wanting me, 
one word of his, communicated by so great a prince as his most rev- 
erend lordship, would suffice to make me set off upon the spot, leav- 
ing all other concerns to take their chance. 

After I had sent my letter, that traitor, the Perugian workman, 
devised a piece of malice against me, which succeeded at once, owing 
to the avarice of Pope Paolo da Farnese, but also far more to that of 
his bastard, who was then called Duke of Castro.' The fellow in 
question informed one of Signor Pier Luigi's secretaries that, having 
been with me as workman several years, he was acquainted with 
all my affairs, on the strength of which he gave his word to Signor 
Pier Luigi that I was worth more than eighty thousand ducats, and 
that the greater part of this property consisted in jewels, which 
jewels belonged to the Church, and that I had stolen them in Castel 

' He had been invested with the Duchy of Castro in 1537. 


Sant' Angelo during the sack of Rome, and that all they had to do 
was to catch me on the spot with secrecy. 

It so happened that I had been at work one morning, more than 
three hours before daybreak, upon the trousseau of the bride I men- 
tioned; then, while my shop was being opened and swept out, I put 
my cape on to go abroad and take the air. Directing my steps along 
the Strada Giulia, I turned into Chiavica, and at this corner Cres- 
pino, the Bargello, with all his constables, made up to me, and said : 
"You are the Pope's prisoner." I answered: "Crespino, you have 
mistaken your man." "No," said Crespino, "you are the artist Ben- 
venuto, and I know you well, and I have to take you to the Castle 
of Sant' Angelo, where lords go, and men of accomplishments, your 
peers." Upon that four of his under-officers rushed on me, and would 
have seized by force a dagger which I wore, and some rings I car- 
ried on my linger; but Crespino rebuked them: "Not a man of you 
shall touch him: it is quite enough if you perform your duty, and 
see that he does not escape me." Then he came up, and begged me 
with words of courtesy to surrender my arms. While I was engaged 
in doing this, it crossed my mind that exactly on that very spot I had 
assassinated Pompeo. They took me straightway to the castle, and 
locked me in an upper chamber in the keep. This was the first 
time that I ever smelt a prison up to the age I then had of thirty- 
seven years. 


Signor Pier Luigi, the Pope's son, had well considered the large 
sum for which I stood accused; so he begged the reversion of it 
from his most holy father, and asked that he might have the money 
made out to himself. The Pope granted this willingly, adding that 
he would assist in its recovery. Consequendy, after having kept 
me eight whole days in prison, they sent me up for examination, 
in order to put an end if possible to the affair. I was summoned into 
one of the great halls of the papal castle, a place of much dignity. 
My examiners were, first, the Governor of Rome, called Messer 
Benedetto Conversini of Pistoja,^ who afterwards became Bishop 
of Jesi; secondly, the Procurator-Fiscal, whose name I have for- 

' Bishop of Forlimpopoli in 1537, and of Jesi in 1540. 


gotten;^ and, thirdly, the judge in criminal cases, Messer Benedetto 
da Cagli. These three men began at first to question me in gentle 
terms, which afterwards they changed to words of considerable harsh- 
ness and menace, apparently because I said to them : "My lords, it is 
more than half-an-hour now since you have been pestering me with 
questions about fables and such things, so that one may truly say you 
are chattering or prattling; by chattering I mean talking without 
reason, by prattling I mean talking nonsense: therefore I beg you 
to tell me what it really is you want of me, and to let me hear from 
your lips reasonable speech, and not jabberings or nonsense." In 
reply to these words of mine, the Governor, who was a Pistojan, 
could no longer disguise his furious temper, and began: "You talk 
very confidently, or rather far too arrogantly; but let me tell you 
that I will bring your pride down lower than a spaniel by the words 
of reason you shall hear from me; these will be neither jabberings 
nor nonsense, as you have it, but shall form a chain of arguments 
to answer which you will be forced to tax the utmost of your wits." 
Then he began to speak as follows : "We know for certain that you 
were in Rome at the time when this unhappy city was subject to 
the calamity o£ the sack; at that time you were in this Castle of 
Sant' Angelo, and were employed as bombardier. Now since you 
are a jeweller and goldsmith by trade. Pope Clement, being pre- 
viously acquainted with you, and having by him no one else of 
your profession, called you into his secret counsels, and made you 
unset all the jewels of his tiaras, mitres, and rings; afterwards, hav- 
ing confidence in you, he ordered you to sew them into his clothes. 
While thus engaged, you sequestered, unknown to his Holiness, a 
portion o£ them, to the value of eighty thousand crowns. This has 
been told us by one of your workmen, to whom you disclosed the 
matter in your braggadocio way. Now, we tell you frankly that you 
must find the jewels, or their value in money; after that we will 
release you." 


When I heard these words, I could not hold from bursting into a 
great roar of laughter; then, having laughed a while, I said: "Thanks 

^ Benedetto Valenti. 


be to God that on this first occasion, when it has pleased His Divine 
Majesty to imprison me, I should not be imprisoned for some folly, 
as the wont is usually with young men. If what you say were the 
truth, I run no risk of having to submit to corporal punishment, 
since the authority of the law was suspended during that season. 
Indeed, I could excuse myself by saying that, like a faithful servant, 
I had kept back treasure to that amount for the sacred and Holy 
Apostolic Church, waiting till I could restore it to a good Pope, or 
else to those who might require it of me; as, for instance, you might,, 
if this were verily the case." When I had spoken so far, the furious. 
Governor would not let me conclude my argument, but exclaimed 
in a burst of rage: "Interpret the affair as you like best, Benvenuto; 
it is enough for us to have found the property which we had lost;, 
be quick about it, if you do not want us to use other measures than 
words." Then they began to rise and leave the chamber; but I 
stopped them, crying out: "My lords, my examination is not over; 
bring that to an end, and go then where you choose." They resumed 
their seats in a very angry temper, making as though they did not 
mean to listen to a word I said, and at the same time half relieved,' 
as though they had discovered all they wanted to know. I then 
began my speech, to this effect: "You are to know, my lords, that 
it is now some twenty years since I first came to Rome, and I have 
never been sent to prison here or elsewhere." On this that catchpole 
of a Governor called out: "And yet you have killed men enough 
here!" I replied: "It is you that say it, and not I; but if some one 
came to kill you, priest as you are, you would defend yourself, and 
if you killed him, the sanctity o£ law would hold you justified. 
Therefore let me continue my defence, if you wish to report the case 
to the Pope, and to judge me fairly. Once more I tell you that I 
have been a sojourner in this marvellous city Rome for nigh on 
twenty years, and here I have exercised my art in matters of vast 
importance. Knowing that this is the seat of Christ, I entertained 
the reasonable belief that when some temporal prince sought to 
inflict on me a mortal injury, I might have recourse to this holy 
chair and to this Vicar of Christ, in confidence that he would surely 
uphold my cause. Ah me! whither am I now to go? What prince 
1 SolUvati. It may mean half-risen from their seats. 


is there who will protect me from this infamous assassination ? Was 
it not your business, before you took me up, to find out what I had 
done with those eighty thousand ducats? Was it not your duty to 
inspect the record of the jewels, which have been carefully inscribed 
by this Apostolic Camera through the last five hundred years? If 
you had discovered anything missing on that record, then you ought 
to have seized all my books together with myself. I tell you for a 
certainty that the registers, on which are written all the jewels of 
the Pope and the regalia, must be perfectly in order; you will not 
find there missing a single article of value which belonged to Pope 
Clement that has not been minutely noted. The one thing of the 
kind which occurs to me is this : When that poor man Pope Clement 
wanted to make terms with those thieves of the Imperial army, who 
had robbed Rome and insulted the Church, a certain Cesare Iscati- 
naro, if I rightly remember his name, came to negotiate with him;^ 
and having nearly concluded the agreement, the Pope in his ex- 
tremity, to show the man some mark of favour, let fall a diamond 
from his finger, which was worth about four thousand crowns, and 
when Iscatinaro stooped to pick it up, the Pope told him to keep it 
for his sake. I was present at these transactions : and if the diamond 
•of which I speak be missing, I have told you where it went; but I 
have the firmest conviction that you will find even this noted upon 
the register. After this you may blush at your leisure for having 
done such cruel injustice to a man like me, who has performed so 
many honourable services for the apostolic chair. I would have you 
know that, but for me, the morning when the Imperial troops en- 
tered the Borgo, they would without let or hindrance have forced 
their way into the castle. It was I who, unrewarded for this act, 
betook myself with vigour to the guns which had been abandoned 
by the cannoneers and soldiers of the ordnance. I put spirit into my 
comrade Raffaello da Montelupo, the sculptor, who had also left his 
post and hid himself all frightened in a corner, without stirring foot 
or finger; I woke his courage up, and he and I alone together slew 
so many of the enemies that the soldiers took another road. I it was 

' Gio. Bartolommeo di Gattinara. Raffaello da Montelupo, in his Autobiography, 
calls him Cattinaro, and relates how "when he came one day into the castle to 
negotiate a treaty, he was wounded in the arm by one of our arquebusiers." This 
•confirms what follows above. 


who shot at Iscatinaro when I saw him talking to Pope Clement 
without the slightest mark of reverence, nay, with the most revolt- 
ing insolence, like the Lutheran and infidel he was> Pope Clement 
upon this had the castle searched to find and hang the man who 
did it. I it was who wounded the Prince of Orange in the head 
down there below the trenches of the castle. Then, too, how many 
ornaments of silver, gold, and jewels, how many models and coins, 
so beautiful and so esteemed, have I not made for Holy Church! 
Is this then the presumptuous priestly recompense you give a man 
who has served and loved you with such loyalty, with such mastery 
of art? Oh, go and report the whole that I have spoken to the Pope; 
go and tell him that his jewels are all in his possession; that I never 
received from the Church anything but wounds and stonings at that 
epoch of the sack; that I never reckoned upon any gain beyond some 
small remuneration from Pope Paolo, which he had promised me. 
Now at last I know what to think of his Holiness and you his Min- 

While I was delivering this speech, they sat and listened in aston- 
ishment. Then exchanging glances one with the other, and making 
signs of much surprise, they left me. All three went together to 
report what I had spoken to the Pope. The Pope felt some shame, 
and gave orders that all the records of the jewels should be diligently 
searched. When they had ascertained that none were missing, they 
left me in the castle without saying a word mo'e about it. Signor 
Pier Luigi felt also that he had acted ill; and to end the affair, they 
set about to contrive my death. 


During the agitations of this time which I have just related, King 
Francis received news of how the Pope was keeping me in prison, 
and with what injustice. He had sent a certain gentleman of his, 
named Monsignor di Morluc, as his ambassador to Rome;' to him 
therefore he now wrote, claiming me from the Pope as the man 
of his Majesty. The Pope was a person of extraordinary sense and 
ability, but in this affair of mine he behaved weakly and unintelli- 

' Jean de Montluc, brother of the celebrated Marshal, Bishop of Valence, a friend 
of Margaret of Navarre, and, like her, a protector of the Huguenots. He negotiated 
the election of the Duke of Anjou to the throne of Poland. 


gently; for he made answer to the King's envoy that his Majesty 
need pay me no attention, since I was a fellow who gave much 
trouble by fighting; therefore he advised his Majesty to leave me 
alone, adding that he kept me in prison for homicides and other 
deviltries which I had played. To this the King sent answer that 
justice in his realm was excellently maintained; for even as his 
Majesty was wont to shower rewards and favours upon men of parts 
and virtue, so did he ever chastise the troublesome. His Holiness 
had let me go, not caring for the service of the said Benvenuto, and 
the King, when he saw him in his realm, most willingly adopted 
him; therefore he now asked for him in the quality of his own man. 
Such a demand was certainly one of the most honourable marks of 
favour which a man of my sort could desire; yet it proved the source 
of infinite annoyance and hurt to me. The Pope was roused to such 
fury by the jealous fear he had lest I should go and tell the whole 
world how infamously I had been treated, that he kept revolving 
ways in which I might be put to death without injury to his own 

The castellan of Sant' Angelo was one of our Florentines, called 
Messer Giorgio, a knight of the Ugolini family.^ This worthy man 
showed me the greatest courtesy, and let me go free about the castle 
on parole. He was well aware how greatly I had been wronged; 
and when I wanted to give security for leave to walk about the castle, 
he replied that though he could not take that, seeing the Pope set 
too much importance upon my affair, yet he would frankly trust 
my word, because he was informed by every one what a worthy man 
I was. So I passed my parole, and he granted me conveniences for 
working at my trade. I then, reflecting that the Pope's anger against 
me must subside, as well because of my innocence as because of the 
favour shown me by the King, kept my shop in Rome open, while 
Ascanio, my prentice, came to the castle and brought me things to 
work at. I could not indeed do much, feeling myself imprisoned 
so unjustly; yet I made a virtue of necessity, and bore my adverse 
fortune with as light a heart as I was able. 

1 had secured the attachment of all the guards and many soldiers 

2 It is only known of this man that he was a Knight of Jerusalem, and had been 
Commendatore of Prato in 15 ii. 


of the castle. Now the Pope used to come at times to sup there, and 
on those occasions no watch was kept, but the place stood open like 
an ordinary palace. Consequently, while the Pope was there, the 
prisoners used to be shut up with great precautions; none such, how- 
ever, were taken with me, who had the license to go where I liked, 
even at those times, about its precincts. Often then those soldiers 
told me that I ought to escape, and that they would aid and abet 
me, knowing as they did how greatly I had been wronged. I an- 
swered that I had given my parole to the castellan, who was such 
a worthy man, and had done me such kind offices. One very brave 
and clever soldier used to say to me: "My Benvenuto, you must 
know that a prisoner is not obliged, and cannot be obliged, to keep 
faith, any more than aught else which befits a free man. Do what I 
tell you; escape from that rascal of a Pope and that bastard his son, 
for both are bent on having your life by villainy." I had, however, 
made my mind up rather to lose my life than to break the promise 
I had given that good man the castellan. So I bore the extreme dis- 
comforts of my situation, and had for companion of misery a friar 
of the Palavisina house, who was a very famous preacher.' 


This man had been arrested as a Lutheran. He was an excellent 
companion; but, from the point of view of his religion, I found him 
the biggest scoundrel in the world, to whom all kinds of vices were 
acceptable. His fine intellectual qualities won my admiration; but 
I hated his dirty vices, and frankly taxed him with them. This friar 
kept perpetually reminding me that I was in no wise bound to ob- 
serve faith with the castellan, since I had become a prisoner. I 
replied to these arguments that he might be speaking the truth as 
a friar, but that as a man he spoke the contrary; for every one who 
called himself a man, and not a monk, was bound to keep his word 
under all circumstances in which he chanced to be. I therefore, 
being a man, and not a monk, was not going to break the simple 
and loyal word which I had given. Seeing then that he could not 
sap my honour by the subtle and ingenious sophistries he so elo- 

• Cellini means Pallavicini. Nothing seems to be known about him, except that 
his imprisonment is mentioned in a letter of Caro's under date 1540. 


quently developed, the friar hit upon another way of tempting me. 
He allowed some days to pass, during which he read me the sermons 
of Fra Jerolimo Savonarola; and these he expounded with such 
lucidity and learning that his comment was even finer than the text. 
I remained in ecstasies of admiration; and there was nothing in the 
world I would not have done for him, except, as I have said, to 
break my promised word. When he saw the effect his talents had 
produced upon my mind, he thought of yet another method. Cau- 
tiously he began to ask what means I should have taken, supposing 
my jailers had locked me up, in order to set the dungeon doors open 
and effect my flight. I then, who wanted to display the sharpness 
of my own wits to so ingenious a man, replied that I was quite sure 
of being able to open the most baffling locks and bars, far more 
those of our prison, to do which would be the same to me as eating 
a bit of new cheese. In order then to gain my secret, the friar now 
made light of these assertions, averring that persons who have gained 
some credit by their abilities, are wont to talk big of things which, 
if they had to put their boasts in action, would speedily discredit 
them, and much to their dishonour. Himself had heard me speak 
so far from the truth, that he was inclined to think I should, when 
pushed to proof, end in a dishonourable failure. Upon this, feeling 
myself stung to the quick by that devil of a friar, I responded that I 
always made a practice of promising in words less than I could 
perform in deeds; what I had said about the keys was the merest 
trifle; in a few words I could make him understand that the matter 
was as I had told it; then, all too heedlessly, I demonstrated the 
facility with which my assertions could be carried into act. He 
affected to pay little attention; but all the same he learned my lesson 
well by heart with keen intelligence. 

As I have said above, the worthy castellan let me roam at pleasure 
over the whole fortress. Not even at night did he lock me in, as was 
the custom with the other prisoners. Moreover, he allowed me to 
employ myself as I liked best, with gold or silver or with wax 
according to my whim. So then I laboured several weeks at the 
bason ordered by Cardinal Ferrara, but the irksomeness of my im- 
prisonment bred in me a disgust for such employment, and I took 
to modelling in wax some little figures of my fancy, for mere recre- 


ation. 0£ the wax which I used, the friar stole a piece; and with 
this he proceeded to get false keys made, upon the method I had 
heedlessly revealed to him. He had chosen for his accomplice a 
registrar named Luigi, a Paduan, who was in the castellan's service. 
When the keys were ordered, the locksmith revealed their plot; and 
the castellan who came at times to see me in my chamber, noticing 
the wax which I was using, recognised it at once and exclaimed : "It 
is true that this poor fellow Benvenuto has suffered a most grievous 
wrong; yet he ought not to have dealt thus with me, for I have ever 
strained my sense of right to show him kindness. Now I shall keep 
him straitly under lock and key, and shall take good care to do him 
no more service." Accordingly, he had me shut up with disagreeable 
circumstances, among the worst of which were the words flung at 
me by some of his devoted servants, who were indeed extremely 
fond of me, but now, on this occasion, cast in my teeth all the kind 
offices the castellan had done me; they came, in fact, to calling me 
ungrateful, light, and disloyal. One of them in particular used those 
injurious terms more insolently than was decent; whereupon I, being 
convinced of my innocence, retorted hotly that I had never broken 
faith, and would maintain these words at the peril of my life, and 
that if he or any of his fellows abused me so unjustly, I would fling 
the lie back in his throat. The man, intolerant of my rebuke, rushed 
to the castellan's room, and brought me the wax with the model 
of the keys. No sooner had I seen the wax than I told him that both 
he and I were in the right; but I begged him to procure for me an 
audience with the castellan, for I meant to explain frankly how 
the matter stood, which was of far more consequence than they 
imagined. The castellan sent for me at once, and I told him the 
whole course of events. This made him arrest the friar, who be- 
trayed the registrar, and the latter ran a risk of being hanged. How- 
ever, the castellan hushed the affair up, although it had reached 
the Pope's ears; he saved his registrar from the gallows, and gave me 
the same freedom as I had before. 


When I saw how rigorously this affair was prosecuted, I began to 
think of my own concerns, and said: "Supposing another of these 


Storms should rise, and the man should lose confidence in me, I 
should then be under no obligation to him, and might wish to use 
my wits a little, which would certainly work their end better than 
those of that rascally friar." So I began to have new sheets of a 
coarse fabric brought me, and did not send the dirty ones away. 
When my servants asked for them, I bade them hold their tongues, 
saying I had given the sheets to some of those poor soldiers; and if 
the matter came to knowledge, the wretched fellows ran risk of the 
galleys. This made my young men and attendants, especially Felice, 
keep the secret of the sheets in all loyalty. I meanwhile set myself 
to emptying a straw mattress, the stuffing of which I burned, having 
a chimney in my prison. Out of the sheets I cut strips, the third 
of a cubit in breadth; and when I had made enough in my opinion 
to clear the great height of the central keep of Sant' Angelo, I told 
my servants that I had given away what I wanted; they must now 
bring me others of a finer fabric, and I would always send back the 
dirty ones. This affair was presently forgotten. 

Now my workpeople and serving-men were obliged to close my 
shop at the order of the Cardinals Santi Quattro' and Cornaro, who 
told me openly that the Pope would not hear of setting me at large, 
and that the great favours shown me by King Francis had done far 
more harm than good. It seems that the last words spoken from the 
, King by Monsignor di Morluc had been to this effect, namely, that 
the Pope ought to hand me over to the ordinary judges of the court; 
if I had done wrong, he could chastise me; but otherwise, it was 
but reason that he should set me at liberty. This message so irritated 
the Pope that he made his mind up to keep me a prisoner for life. 
At the same time, the castellan most certainly did his utmost to 
assist me. 

When my enemies perceived that my shop was closed, they lost no 
opportunity of taunting and reviling those servants and friends of 
mine who came to visit me in prison. It happened on one occasion 
that Ascanio, who came twice a day to visit me, asked to have a 
jacket cut out for him from a blue silk vest of mine I never used. 
I had only worn it once, on the occasion when I walked in procession. 
I replied that these were not the times nor was I in the place to wear 
' Antonio Pucci, a Florentine, Cardinal de' Quattro Santi Coronati. 


such clothes. The young man took my refusal of this miserable vest 
so ill that he told me he wanted to go home to Tagliacozzo. All 
in a rage, I answered that he could not please me better than by 
taking himself oil; and he swore with passion that he would never 
show his face to me again. When these words passed between us, 
we were walking round the keep of the castle. It happened that the 
castellan was also taking the air there; so just when we met his lord- 
ship Ascanio said: "I am going away; farewell for ever!" I added: 
"For ever, is my wish too; and thus in sooth shall it be. I shall tell 
the sentinels not to let you pass again!" Then, turning to the castel- 
lan, I begged him with all my heart to order the guards to keep 
Ascanio out, adding: "This little peasant comes here to add to my 
great trouble; I entreat you, therefore, my lord, not to let him enter 
any more." The castellan was much grieved, because he knew him 
to be a lad of marvellous talents; he was, moreover, so fair a person 
that every one who once set eyes on him seemed bound to love him 
beyond measure. 

The boy went away weeping. That day he had with him a small 
scimitar, which it was at times his wont to carry hidden beneath his 
clothes. Leaving the castle then, and having his face wet with tears, 
he chanced to meet two of my chief enemies, Jeronimo the Perugian,' 
and a certain Michele, goldsmiths both of them. Michele, being 
Jeronimo's friend and Ascanio's enemy, called out: "What is As- 
canio crying for? Perhaps his father is dead; I mean that father in 
the castle!" Ascanio answered on the instant: "He is alive, but you 
shall die this minute." Then, raising his hand, he struck two blows 
with the scimitar, both at the fellow's head; the first felled him to 
earth, the second lopped three fingers off his right hand, though it 
was aimed at his head. He lay there like a dead man. The matter 
was at once reported to the Pope, who cried in a great fury: "Since 
the King wants him to be tried, go and give him three days to 
prepare his defence!" So they came, and executed the commission 
which the Pope had given them. 

The excellent castellan went off upon the spot to his Holiness, and 
informed him that I was no accomplice in the matter, and that I had 
sent Ascanio about his business. So ably did he plead my cause that 
^i. e., Girolamo Pascucd. 


he saved my life from this impending tempest. Ascanio meanwhile 
escaped to Tagliacozzo, to his home there, whence he wrote begging 
a thousand times my pardon, and acknowledging his wrong in add- 
ing troubles to my grave disaster; but protesting that if through 
God's grace I came out from the prison, he meant never to abandon 
me. I let him understand that he must mind his art, and that if God 
set me at large again I would certainly recall him. 


The castellan was subject to a certain sickness, which came upon 
him every year and deprived him of his wits. The sign of its 
approach was that he kept continually talking, or rather jabbering, 
to no purpose. These humours took a different shape each year; one 
time he thought he was an oiljar; another time he thought he was a 
frog, and hopped about as frogs do; another time he thought he was 
dead, and then they had to bury him; not a year passed but he got 
some such hypochondriac notions into his head. At this season he 
imagined that he was a bat, and when he went abroad to take the 
air, he used to scream like bats in a high thin tone; and then he 
would flap his hands and body as though he were about to fly. The 
doctors, when they saw the fit coming on him, and his old servants, 
gave him all the distractions they could think of; and since they 
had noticed that he derived much pleasure from my conversation, 
they were always fetching me to keep him company. At times the 
poor man detained me for four or five stricken hours without ever 
letting me cease talking. He used to keep me at his table, eating 
opposite to him, and never stopped chatting and making me chat; 
but during those discourses I contrived to make a good meal. He, 
poor man, could neither eat nor sleep; so that at last he wore me out. 
I was at the end of my strength; and sometimes when I looked at 
him, I noticed that his eyeballs were rolling in a frightful manner, 
one looking one way and the other in another. 

He took it into his head to ask me whether I had ever had a fancy 
to fly. I answered that it had always been my ambition to do those 
things which offer the greatest difficulties to men, and that I had 
done them; as to flying, the God of Nature had gifted me with a 
body well suited for running and leaping far beyond the common 


average, and that with the talents I possessed for manual art I felt 
sure I had the courage to try flying. He then inquired what methods 
I should use; to which I answered that, taking into consideration all 
flying creatures, and wishing to imitate by art what they derived 
from nature, none was so apt a model as the bat. No sooner had 
the poor man heard the name bat, which recalled the humour he was 
suffering under, than he cried out at the top of his voice: "He says 
true — he says true; the bat's the thing — the bat's the thing!" Then 
he turned to me and said: "Benvenuto, if one gave you the oppor- 
tunity, should you have the heart to fly?" I said if he would set me 
at liberty, I felt quite up to flying down to Prati, after making myself 
a pair of wings out of waxed linen. Thereupon he replied: "I too 
should be prepared to take flight; but since the Pope has bidden 
me guard you as though you were his own eyes, and I know you a 
clever devil who would certainly escape, I shall now have you locked 
up with a hundred keys in order to prevent you sUpping through 
my fingers." I then began to implore him, and remind him that 
I might have fled, but that on account of the word which I had 
given him I would never have betrayed his trust: therefore I begged 
him for the love of God, and by the kindness he had always shown 
me, not to add greater evils to the misery of my present situation. 
While I was pouring out these entreaties, he gave strict orders to 
have me bound and taken and locked up in prison. On seeing that 
it could not be helped, I told him before all his servants: "Lock me 
well up, and keep good watch on me; for I shall certainly contrive 
to escape." So they took and confined me with the utmost care. 


I then began to deliberate upon the best way of making my 
escape. No sooner had I been locked in, than I went about exploring 
my prison; and when I thought I had discovered how to get out of 
it, I pondered the means of descending from the lofty keep, for so 
the great round central tower is called. I took those new sheets of 
mine, which, as I have said already, I had cut in strips and sewn 
together; then I reckoned up the quantity which would be sufficient 
for my purpose. Having made this estimate and put all things in 
order, I looked out a pair of pincers which I had abstracted from a 


Savoyard belonging to the guard of the castle. This man superin- 
tended the casks and cisterns; he also amused himself with carpen- 
tering. Now he possessed several pairs of pincers, among which was 
one both big and heavy. 1 then, thinking it would suit my purpose, 
took it and hid it in my straw mattress. The time had now come 
for me to use it; so I began to try the nails which kept the hinges 
of my door in place.' The door was double, and the clinching of the 
nails could not be seen; so that when I attempted to draw one out, 
I met with the greatest trouble; in the end, however, I succeeded. 
When I had drawn the first nail, I bethought me how to prevent 
its being noticed. For this purpose I mixed some rust, which I had 
scraped from old iron, with a little wax, obtaining exactly the same 
colour as the heads of the long nails which I had extracted. Then 
I set myself to counterfeit these heads and place them on the hold- 
fasts; for each nail I extracted I made a counterfeit in wax. I left 
the hinges attached to their door-posts at top and bottom by means 
of some of the same nails that I had drawn; but I took care to cut 
these and replace them lightly, so that they only just supported 
the irons of the hinges. 

All this I performed with the greatest difBcuIty, because the 
castellan kept dreaming every night that I had escaped, which made 
him send from time to time to inspect my prison. The man who 
came had the title and behaviour of a catch-poll. He was called 
Bozza, and used always to bring with him another of the same sort, 
named Giovanni and nicknamed Pedignone; the latter was a soldier, 
and Bozza a serving-man. Giovanni never entered my prison with- 
out saying something offensive to me. He came from the district of 
Prato, and had been an apothecary in the town there. Every evening 
he minutely examined the holdfasts of the hinges and the whole 
chamber, and I used to say: "Keep a good watch over me, for I am 
resolved by all means to escape." These words bred a great enmity 
between him and me, so that I was obliged to use precautions to 
conceal my tools, that is to say, my pincers and a great big poniard 
and other appurtenances. All these I put away together in my 
mattress, where I also kept the strips of linen I had made. When day 

* The door seems to have been hung upon hinges with plates nailed into the posts. 
Cellini calls these plates bandelle. 


broke, I used immediately to sweep my room out; and though I am 
by nature a lover of cleanliness, at that time I kept myself unusually 
spick and span. After sweeping up, I made my bed as daintily as I 
could, laying flowers upon it, which a Savoyard used to bring me 
nearly every morning. He had the care of the cistern and the casks, 
and also amused himself with carpentering; it was from him I 
stole the pincers which I used in order to draw out the nails from 
the holdfasts of the hinges. 


Well, to return to the subject of my bed; when Bozza and Pedi- 
gnone came, I always told them to give it a wide berth, so as not to 
dirty and spoil it for me. Now and then, just to irritate me, they 
would touch it lightly, upon which I cried: "Ah, dirty cowards! I'll 
lay my hand on one of your swords there, and will do you a mischief 
that will make you wonder. Do you think you are fit to touch the 
bed of a man like me ? When I chastise you I shall not heed my own 
life, for I am certain to take yours. Let me alone then with my 
troubles and my tribulations, and don't give me more annoyance 
than I have already; if not, I shall make you see what a desperate 
man is able to do." These words they reported to the castellan, who 
gave them express orders never to go near my bed, and when they 
came to me, to come without swords, but for the rest to keep a 
watchful guard upon me. 

Having thus secured my bed from meddlers, I felt as though the 
main point was gained; for there lay all things needful to my venture. 
It happened on the evening of a certain feast-day that the castellan 
was seriously indisposed; his humours grew extravagant; he kept 
repeating that he was a bat, and if they heard that Benvenuto had 
flown away, they must let him go to catch me up, since he could fly 
by night most certainly as well or better than myself; for it was 
thus he argued: "Benvenuto is a counterfeit bat, but I am a real one; 
and since he is committed to my care, leave me to act; I shall be 
sure to catch him." He had passed several nights in this frenzy, 
and had worn out all his servants, whereof I received full informa- 
tion through divers channels, but especially from the Savoyard, who 
was my friend at heart. 


On the evening of that feast-day, then, I made my mind up to 
escape, come what might; and first I prayed most devoutly to God, 
imploring His Divine Majesty to protect and succour me in that so 
perilous a venture. Afterwards I set to work at all the things I 
needed, and laboured the whole of the night. It was two hours 
before daybreak when at last I removed those hinges with the 
greatest toil; but the wooden panel itself and the bolt too offered 
such resistance that I could not open the door; so I had to cut into 
the wood; yet in the end I got it open, and shouldering the strips of 
linen which I had rolled up like bundles of flax upon two sticks, I 
went forth and directed my steps towards the latrines of the keep. 
Spying from within two tiles upon the roof, I was able at once to 
clamber up with ease. I wore a white doublet with a pair of white 
hose and a pair of half boots, into which I had stuck the poniard I 
have mentioned. 

After scaling the roof, I took one end of my linen roll and attached 
it to a piece of antique tile which was built into the fortress wall; it 
happened to jut out scarcely four fingers. In order to fix the band, 
I gave it the form of a stirrup. When I had attached it to that piece 
of tile, I turned to God and said: "Lord God, give aid to my good 
cause; you know that it is good; you see that I am aiding myself." 
Then I let myself go gently by degrees, supporting myself with the 
sinews of my arms, until I touched the ground. There was no 
moonshine, but the light of a fair open heaven. When I stood upon 
my feet on solid earth, I looked up at the vast height which I had 
descended with such spirit, and went gladly away, thinking I was 
free. But this was not the case; for the castellan on that side of the 
fortress had built two lofty walls, the space between which he used 
for stable and henyard; the place was barred with thick iron bolts 
outside. I was terribly disgusted to find there was no exit from this 
trap; but while I paced up and down debating what to do, I 
stumbled on a long pole which was covered up with straw. Not 
without great trouble I succeeded in placing it against the wall, and 
then swarmed up it by the force of my arms until I reached the top. 
But since the wall ended in a sharp ridge, I had not strength enough 
to drag the pole up after me. Accordingly I made my mind up to 


use a portion of the second roll of linen which I had there; the other 
was left hanging from the keep of the casde. So I cut a piece off,, 
tied it to the pole, and clambered down the wall, enduring the 
utmost toil and fatigue. I was quite exhausted, and had, moreover,, 
flayed the inside of my hands, which bled freely. This compelled me 
to rest awhile, and I bathed my hands in my own urine. When I 
thought that my strength was recovered, I advanced quickly toward 
the last rampart, which faces toward Prati. There I put my bundle 
of linen lines down upon the ground, meaning to fasten them 
round a battlement, and descend the lesser as I had the greater height. 
But no sooner had I placed the linen, than I became aware behind 
me of a sentinel, who was going the rounds. Seeing my designs 
interrupted and my life in peril, I resolved to face the guard. This 
fellow, when he noticed my bold front, and that I was marching 
on him with weapon in hand, quickened his pace and gave me a 
wide berth. I had left my lines some little way behind; so I turned 
with hasty steps to regain them; and though I came within sight of 
another sentinel, he seemed as though he did not choose to take 
notice of me. Having found my lines and attached them to the 
battlement, I let myself go. On the descent, whether it was that I 
thought I had really come to earth and relaxed my grasp to jump, 
or whether my hands were so tired that they could not keep their 
hold, at any rate I fell, struck my head in falling, and lay stunned for 
more than an hour and a half, so far as I could judge. 

It was just upon daybreak, when the fresh breeze which blows an 
hour before the sun revived me; yet I did not immediately recover 
my senses, for I thought my head had been cut off and fancied that 
I was in purgatory. With time, little by little, my faculties returned, 
and I perceived that I was outside the castle, and in a flash remem- 
bered all my adventures. I was aware of the wound in my head 
before I knew my leg was broken; for I put my hands up, and 
withdrew them covered with blood. Then I searched the spot well, 
and judged and ascertained that I had sustained no injury of con- 
sequence there; but when I wanted to stand up, I discovered that 
my right leg was broken three inches above the heel. Not even this 
dismayed me: I drew forth my poniard with its scabbard; the latter 


had a metal point ending in a large ball, which had caused the 
fracture of my leg; for the bone, coming into violent contact with 
the ball, and not being able to bend, had snapped at that point. 
I threw the sheath away, and with the poniard cut a piece of the 
linen which I had left. Then I bound my leg up as well as I could, 
and crawled on all fours with the poniard in my hand toward the 
city gate. When I reached it, I found it shut; but I noticed a stone 
just beneath the door which did not appear to be very firmly fixed. 
This I attempted to dislodge; after setting my hands to it, and 
feeling it move, it easily gave way, and I drew it out. Through 
the gap thus made I crept into the town. 


I had crawled more than five hundred paces from the place where 
I fell, to the gate by which I entered. No sooner had I got inside 
than some mastiff dogs set upon me and bit me badly. When they 
returned to the attack and worried me, I drew my poniard and 
wounded one of them so sharply that he howled aloud, and all the 
dogs, according to their nature, ran after him. I meanwhile made the 
best way I could on all fours toward the church of the Trespontina. 

On arriving at the opening of the street which leads to Sant' 
Agnolo, I turned off in the direction of San Piero; and now the 
dawn had risen over me, and I felt myself in danger. When there- 
fore I chanced to meet a water-carrier driving his donkey laden with 
full buckets, I called the fellow, and begged him to carry me upon 
his back to the terrace by the steps of San Piero, adding: "I am an 
unfortunate young man, who, while escaping from a window in a 
love-adventure, have fallen and broken my leg. The place from 
which I made my exit is one of great importance; and if I am dis- 
covered, I run risk of being cut to pieces; so for heaven's sake lift me 
quickly, and I will give you a crown of gold." Saying this, I clapped 
my hand to my purse, where I had a good quantity. He took me 
up at once, hitched me on his back, and carried me to the raised 
terrace by the steps to San Piero. There I bade him leave me, 
saying he must run back to his donkey. 

I resumed my march, crawling always on all fours, and making 
for the palace of the Duchess, wife of Duke Ottavio and daughter 


of the Emperor.' She was his natural child, and had been married 
to Duke Alessandro. I chose her house for refuge, because I was 
quite certain that many of my friends, who had come with that 
great princess from Florence, were tarrying there; also because she 
had taken me into favour through something which the castellan 
had said in my behalf. Wishing to be of service to me, he told the 
Pope that I had saved the city more than a thousand crowns of 
damage, caused by heavy rain on the occasion when the Duchess 
made her entrance into Rome. He related how he was in despair, 
and how I put heart into him, and went on to describe how I had 
pointed several large pieces of artillery in the direction where the 
clouds were thickest, and whence a deluge of water was already 
pouring; then, when I began to fire, the rain stopped, and at the 
fourth discharge the sun shone out; and so I was the sole cause of 
the festival succeeding, to the joy of everybody. On hearing this 
narration the Duchess said : "That Benvenuto is one of the artists of 
merit, who enjoyed the goodwill of my late husband, Duke Ales- 
sandro, and I shall always hold them in mind if an opportunity 
comes of doing such men service." She also talked of me to Duke 
Ottavio. For these reasons I meant to go straight to the house of 
her Excellency, which was a very fine palace situated in Borgio 

I should have been quite safe from recapture by the Pope if I 
could have stayed there; but my exploits up to this point had been 
too marvellous for a human being, and God was unwilling to encour- 
age my vainglory; accordingly, for my own good. He chastised me a 
second time worse even than the first. The cause of this was that 
while I was crawling on all fours up those steps, a servant of Cardinal 
Cbrnaro recognised me. His master was then lodging in the palace; 
so the servant ran up to his room and woke him, crying: "Most 
reverend Monsignor, your friend Benvenuto is down there; he has 
escaped from the castle, and is crawling on all fours, streaming with 
blood; to all appearances he has broken a leg, and we don't know 
whither he is going." The Cardinal exclaimed at once: "Run and 
carry him upon your back into my room here." When I arrived, 

' Margaret of Austria, who married Ottaviano Farnese in November 1538, after 
Alessandro's murder. 


he told me to be under no apprehension, and sent for the first 
physicians of Rome to take my case in hand. Among them was 
Maestro Jacomo of Perugia, a most excellent and able surgeon. He 
set the bone with dexterity, then bound the limb up, and bled me 
with his own hand. It happened that my veins were swollen far 
beyond their usual size, and he too wished to make a pretty wide 
incision; accordingly the blood sprang forth so copiously, and spurted 
with such force into his face, that he had to abandon the operation. 
He regarded this as a very bad omen, and could hardly be prevailed 
upon to undertake my cure. Indeed, he often expressed a wish to 
leave me, remembering that he ran no little risk of punishment for 
having treated my case, or rather for having proceeded to the end 
with it. The Cardinal had me placed in a secret chamber, and went 
off immediately to beg me from the Pope. 


During this while all Rome was in an uproar; for they had 
observed the bands of linen fastened to the great keep of the castle, 
and folk were running in crowds to behold so extraordinary a thing. 
The castellan had gone off into one of his worst fits of frenzy; in 
spite of all his servants, he insisted upon taking his flight also from 
the tower, saying that no one could recapture me except himself if he 
were to fly after me. Messer Ruberto Pucci, the father of Messer 
Pandolfo,' having heard of the great event, went in person to inspect 
the place; afterwards he came to the palace, where he met with 
Cardinal Cornaro, who told him exactly what had happened, and 
how I was lodged in one of his own chambers, and already in the 
doctor's hands. These two worthy men went together, and threw 
themselves upon their knees before the Pope; but he, before they 
could get a word out, cried aloud: "I know all that you want of 
me." Messer Ruberto Pucci then began: "Most blessed Father, we 
beg you for Heaven's grace to give us up that unfortunate man; 
surely his great talents entitle him to exceptional treatment; more- 
over, he has displayed such audacity, blent with so much ingenuity, 
that his exploit might seem superhuman. We know not for what 
crimes your Holiness has kept him so long in prison; however, if 

^ See above, p. 114. 


those crimes are too exorbitant, your Holiness is wise and holy, and 
may your will be done unquestioned; still, i£ they are such as can 
be condoned, we entreat you to pardon him for our sake." The 
Pope, when he heard this, felt shame, and answered: "I have kept 
him in prison at the request of some of my people, since he is a litde 
too violent in his behaviour; but recognising his talents, and wishing 
to keep him near our person, we had intended to treat him so well 
that he should have no reason to return to France. I am very sorry 
to hear of his bad accident; tell him to mind his health, and when 
he is recovered, we will make it up to him for all his troubles." 

Those two excellent men returned and told me the good news 
they were bringing from the Pope. Meanwhile the nobility of 
Rome, young, old, and all sorts, came to visit me. The castellan, out 
of his mind as he was, had himself carried to the Pope; and when 
he was in the presence of his Holiness, began to cry out, and to say 
that if he did not send me back to prison, he would do him a great 
wrong. "He escaped under parole which he gave me; woe is me that 
he has flown away when he promised not to fly!" The Pope said, 
laughing: "Go, go; for I will give him back to you without fail." 
The castellan then added, speaking to the Pope: "Send the Gover- 
nor to him to find out who helped him to escape; for if it is one of 
my men, I will hang him from the battlement whence Benvenuto 
leaped." On his departure the Pope called the Governor, and said, 
smiling: "That is a brave fellow, and his exploit is something mar- 
vellous; all the same, when I was a young man, I also descended from 
the fortress at that very spot." In so saying the Pope spoke the 
truth: for he had been imprisoned in the castle for forging a brief 
at the time when he was abbreviator di Parco Majoris? Pope 
Alexander kept him confined for some length of time; and after- 
wards, his offence being of too ugly a nature, had resolved on cutting 
off his head. He postponed the execudon, however, till after Corpus 
Domini; and Farnese, getting wind of the Pope's will, summoned 
Pietro Chiavelluzzi with a lot of horses, and managed to corrupt 
some of the castle guards with money. Accordingly, upon the day 

^ The Collegium Abbreviatorum di Parco Majori consisted of seventy-two members. 
It was established by Pius II. Onofrio Panvinio tells this story of Paul III.'s imprison- 
ment and escape, but places it in the Papacy of Innocent VIII. See Vita Fault HI., in 
continuation of Platina. 


of Corpus Domini, while the Pope was going in procession, Farnese 
got into a basket and was let down by a rope to the ground. At 
that time the outer walls had not been built around the castle; only 
the great central tower existed; so that he had not the same enormous 
difficulty that I met with in escaping; moreover, he had been impris- 
oned justly, and I against all equity. What he wanted was to brag 
before the Governor of having in his youth been spirited and brave; 
and it did not occur to him that he was calling attention to his own 
huge rogueries. He said then : "Go and tell him to reveal his accom- 
plice without apprehension to you, be the man who he may be, since 
I have pardoned him; and this you may assure him without reser- 


So the Governor came to see me. Two days before he had been 
made Bishop of Jesi;' and when he entered he said: "Friend Ben- 
venuto, although my office is wont to frighten men, I come to set 
your mind at rest, and to do this I have full authority from his 
Holiness's own lips, who told me how he also escaped from Sant' 
Angelo, but had many aids and much company, else he would not 
have been able to accomplish it. I swear by the sacraments which I 
carry on my person (for I was consecrated Bishop two days since) 
that the Pope has set you free and pardoned you, and is very sorry 
for your accident. Attend to your health, and take all things for the 
best; for your imprisonment, which you certainly underwent without 
a shadow of guilt, will have been for your perpetual welfare. Hence- 
forward you will tread down poverty, and will have to go back to 
France, wearing out your life in this place and in that. Tell me then 
frankly how the matter went, and who rendered you assistance; 
afterwards take comfort, repose, and recover." I began at the begin- 
ning, and related the whole story exactly as it had happened, giving 
him the most minute countersigns, down to the water-carrier who 
bore me on his back. When the Governor had heard the whole, he 
said: "Of a surety these are too great exploits for one man alone; 
no one but you could have performed them." So he made me reach 
my hand forth, and said: "Be of good courage and comfort your 
'Cellini confuses Jesi with Forlimpopoli. See above, p. 203, note. 


heart, for by this hand which I am holding you are free, and if you 
live, shall live in happiness." While thus conversing with me, he had 
kept a whole heap of great lords and noblemen waiting, who were 
come to visit me, saying one to the other: "Let us go to see this 
man who works miracles." So, when he departed, they stayed by 
me, and one made me offers of kindness, and another made me 

While I was being entertained in this way, the Governor returned 
to the Pope, and reported all that I had said. As chance would have 
it, Signor Pier Luigi, the Pope's son, happened to be present, and all 
the company gave signs of great astonishment. His Holiness 
remarked: "Of a truth this is a marvellous exploit." Then Pier 
Luigi began to speak as follows: "Most blessed Father, if you set 
that man free, he will do something still more marvellous, because 
he has by far too bold a spirit. I will tell you another story about 
him which you do not know. That Benvenuto of yours, before he 
was imprisoned, came to words with a gentleman of Cardinal Santa 
Fiore,^ about some trifle which the latter had said to him. Now 
Benvenuto's retort was so swaggeringly insolent that it amounted 
to throwing down a cartel. The gentleman referred the matter to 
the Cardinal, who said that if he once laid hands on Benvenuto he 
would soon clear his head of such folly. When the fellow heard this, 
he got a little fowling-piece of his ready, with which he is accustomed 
to hit a penny in the middle; accordingly, one day when the Cardinal 
was looking out of a window, Benvenuto's shop being under the 
palace of the Cardinal, he took his gun and pointed it upon the 
Cardinal. The Cardinal, however, had been warned, and presently 
withdrew. Benvenuto, in order that his intention might escape 
notice, aimed at a pigeon which was brooding high up in a hole 
of the palace, and hit it exactly in the head — a feat one would have 
thought incredible. Now let your Holiness do what you think best 
about him; I have discharged my duty by saying what I have. It 
might even come into his head, imagining that he had been wrongly 
imprisoned, to fire upon your Holiness. Indeed he is too truculent, 
by far too confident in his own powers. When he killed Pompeo, he 

*Ascanio Sforza, son of Bosio, Count of Santa Fiore, and grandson of Paul in. 
He got the hat in 1534, at the age of sixteen. 


gave him two stabs with a poniard in the throat, in the midst of 
ten men who were guarding him; then he escaped, to their great 
shame, and yet they were no inconsiderable persons." 


While these words were being spoken, the gentleman of Santa 
Fiore with whom I had that quarrel was present, and confirmed to 
the Pope what had been spoken by his son. The Pope swelled with 
rage, but said nothing. I shall now proceed to give my own version 
of the affair, truly and honestly. 

This gentleman came to me one day, and showed me a little gold 
ring which had been discoloured by quicksilver, saying at the same 
time: "Polish up this ring for me, and be quick about it." I was 
engaged at the moment upon jewel-work of gold and gems of great 
importance: besides, I did not care to be ordered about so haughtily 
by a man I had never seen or spoken to; so I replied that I did not 
happen to have by me the proper tool for cleaning up his ring,' and 
that he had better go to another goldsmith. Without further provo- 
cation he retorted that I was a donkey; whereupon I said that he 
was not speaking the truth; that I was a better man than he in every 
respect, but that if he kept on irritating me I would give him harder 
kicks than any donkey could. He related the matter to the Cardinal, 
and painted me as black as the devil in hell. Two days afterwards 
I shot a wild pigeon in a cleft high up behind the palace. The bird 
was brooding in that cleft, and I had often seen a goldsmith named 
Giovan Francesco della Tacca, from Milan, fire at it; but he never 
hit it. On the day when I shot it, the pigeon scarcely showed its 
head, being suspicious because it had been so often fired at. Now this 
Giovan Francesco and I were rivals in shooting wildfowl; and some 
gentlemen of my acquaintance, who happened to be at my shop, 
called my attention, saying: "Up there is Giovan Francesco della 
Tacca's pigeon, at which he has so often fired; look now, the poor 
creature is so frightened that it hardly ventures to put its head out." 
I raised my eyes, and said: "That morsel of its head is quite enough 
for me to shoot it by, if it only stays till I can point my gun." The 

' Cellini calls it isvivatoio. It is properly avvivatoio, a sort of brass rod with a 
wooden handle. 


gentlemen protested that even the man who invented firearms could 
not hit it. I replied: "I bet a bottle of that excellent Greek wine 
Palombo the host keeps, that if it keeps quiet long enough for me 
to point my good Broccardo (so I used to call my gun), I will hit it 
in that portion of its head which it is showing." So I aimed my 
gun, elevating my arms, and using no other rest, and did what I 
had promised, without thinking of the Cardinal or any other person; 
on the contrary, I held the Cardinal for my very good patron. Let 
the world, then, take notice, when Fortune has the will to ruin a 
man, how many divers ways she takes! The Pope, swelling with 
rage and grumbling, remained revolving what his son had told him. 

ex IV 

Two days afterwards the Cardinal Cornaro went to beg a bishopric 
from the Pope for a gentleman of his called Messer Andrea Centano. 
The Pope, in truth, had promised him a bishopric; and this being 
now vacant, the Cardinal reminded him of his word. The Pope 
acknowledged his obligation, but said that he too wanted a favour 
from his most reverend lordship, which was that he would give up 
Benvenuto to him. On this the Cardinal replied: "Oh, if your Holi- 
ness has pardoned him and set him free at my disposal, what will the 
world say of you and me?" The Pope answered: "I want Benvenuto, 
you want the bishopric; let the world say what it chooses." The good 
Cardinal entreated his Holiness to give him the bishopric, and for 
the rest to think the matter over, and then to act according as his 
Holiness decided. The Pope, feeling a certain amount of shame at 
so wickedly breaking his word, took what seemed a middle course: 
"I will send for Benvenuto, and in order to gratify the whim I have, 
will put him in those rooms which open on my private garden; 
there he can attend to his recovery, and I will not prevent any of his 
friends from coming to visit him. Moreover, I will defray his 
expenses until this caprice of mine has left me." 

The Cardinal came home, and sent the candidate for this bishopric 
on the spot to inform me that the Pope was resolved to have me 
back, but that he meant to keep me in a ground-floor room in his 
private garden, where I could receive the visits of my friends, as I had 
done in his own house. I implored this Messer Andrea to ask the 


Cardinal not to give me up to the Pope, but to let me act on my 
own account. I would have myself wrapped up in a mattress, and 
carried to a safe place outside Rome; for if he gave me up to the 
Pope, he would certainly be sending me to death. It is believed that 
when the Cardinal heard my petition he was not ill-disposed to grant 
it; but Messer Andrea, wanting to secure the bishopric, denounced 
me to the Pope, who sent at once and had me lodged in the ground- 
floor chamber of his private garden. The Cardinal sent me word 
not to eat the food provided for me by the Pope; he would supply 
me with provisions; meanwhile I was to keep my spirits up, for he 
would work in my cause till I was set free. Matters being thus 
arranged, I received daily visits and generous offers from many great 
lords and gentlemen. Food came from the Pope, which I refused to 
touch, only eating that which came from Cardinal Cornaro; and 
thus I remained awhile. 

I had among my friends a young Greek of the age of twenty-five 
years. He was extremely active in all physical exercises, and the best 
swordsman in Rome; rather poor-spirited, however, but loyal to the 
backbone; honest, and ready to believe what people told him. He 
had heard it said that the Pope made known his intention of com- 
pensating me for all I had gone through. It is true that the Pope 
began by saying so, but he ended by saying quite the opposite. I 
then determined to confide in the young Greek, and said to him: 
"Dearest brother, they are plotting my ruin; so now the time has 
come to help me. Do they imagine, when they heap those extraor- 
dinary favours on me, that I am not aware they are done to 
betray me.?" The worthy young man answered: "My Benvenuto, 
they say in Rome that the Pope has bestowed on you an office with 
an income of five hundred crowns; I beseech you therefore not to let 
those suspicions deprive you of so great a windfall." All the same 
I begged him with clasped hands to aid me in escaping from that 
place, saying I knew well that a Pope of that sort, though he could 
do me much good if he chose, was really studying secretly, and to 
save appearances, how he might best destroy me; therefore we must 
be quick and try to save me from his clutches. If my friend would 
get me out of that place by the means I meant to tell him, I should 
always regard him as the saviour of my life, and when occasion came 


would lay it down for him with gladness. The poor young man shed 
tears, and cried: "Oh, my dear brother, though you are bringing 
destruction on your head, I cannot but fulfil your wishes; so explain 
your plan, and I will do whatever you may order, albeit much against 
my will." Accordingly we came to an agreement, and I disclosed to 
him the details of my scheme, which was certain to have succeeded 
without difficulty. When I hoped that he was coming to execute it, 
he came and told me that for my own good he meant to disobey me, 
being convinced of the truth of what he had heard from men close 
to the Pope's person, who understood the real state of my affairs. 
Having nothing else to rely upon, I remained in despair and misery. 
This passed on the day of Corpus Domini 1539. 


After my conversation with the Greek, the whole day wore away, 
and at night there came abundant provisions from the kitchen of the 
Pope; the Cardinal Cornaro also sent good store of viands from his 
kitchen; and some friends of mine being present when they arrived, 
I made them stay to supper, and enjoyed their society, keeping my 
leg in splints beneath the bed-clothes. An hour after nightfall they 
left me; and two of my servants, having made me comfortable for 
the night, went to sleep in the antechamber. I had a dog, black as a 
mulberry, one of those hairy ones, who followed me admirably when 
I went out shooting, and never left my side. During the night he lay 
beneath my bed, and I had to call out at least three times to my 
servant to turn him out, because he howled so fearfully. When the 
servants entered, the dog flew at them and tried to bite them. They 
were frightened, and thought he must be mad, because he went on 
howling. In this way we passed the first four hours of the night. At 
the stroke of four the Bargello came into my room with a band of 
constables. Then the dog sprang forth and flew at them with such 
fury, tearing their capes and hose, that in their fright they fancied 
he was mad. But the Bargello, like an experienced person, told them : 
"It is the nature of good dogs to divine and foretell the mischance 
coming on their masters. Two of you take sticks and beat the dog 
off; while the others strap Benvenuto on this chair; then carry him 


to the place you wot o£." It was, as I have said, the night after 
Corpus Domini, and about four o'clock. 

The officers carried me, well shut up and covered, and four of 
them went in front, making the few passengers who were still 
abroad get out of the way. So they bore me to Torre di Nona, such 
is the name of the place, and put me in the condemned cell. I was 
left upon a wretched mattress under the care of a guard, who kept 
all night mourning over my bad luck, and saying to me: "Alas! 
poor Benvenuto, what have you done to those great folk?" I could 
now form a very good opinion of what was going to happen to me, 
partly by the place in which I found myself, and also by what the 
man had told me.' During a portion of that night I kept racking 
my brains what the cause could be why God thought fit to try me 
so, and not being able to discover it, I was violently agitated in my 
soul. The guard did the best he could to comfort me; but I begged 
him for the love of God to stop talking, seeing I should be better 
able to compose myself alone in quiet. He promised to do as I asked; 
and then I turned my whole heart to God, devoutly entreating Him 
to deign to take me into His kingdom. I had, it is true, murmured 
against my lot, because it seemed to me that, so far as human laws 
go, my departure from the world in this way would be too unjust; 
it is true also that I had committed homicides, but His Vicar had 
called me from my native city and pardoned me by the authority 
he had from Him and from the laws; and what I had done had all 
been done in defence of the body which His Majesty had lent me; 
so I could not admit that I deserved death according to the dispen- 
sation under which man dwells here; but it seemed that what was 
happening to me was the same as what happens to unlucky people 
in the street, when a stone falls from some great height upon their 
head and kills them; this we see clearly to be the influence of the 
stars; not indeed that the stars conspire to do us good or evil, but 
the effect results from their conjunctions, to which we are subordi- 
nated. At the same time I know that I am possessed of free-will, and 
if I could exert the faith of a saint, I am sure that the angels of heaven 
would bear me from this dungeon and relieve me of all my afflic- 

' Cellini thought he was going to have his throat cut. And indeed the Torre di 
Nona was a suspicious place, it being one o£ the worst criminal prisons in Ronie. 


tions; yet inasmuch as God has not deemed me worthy of such 
miracles, I conclude that those celestial influences must be wreaking 
their malignity upon me. In this long struggle of the soul I spent 
some time; then I found comfort, and fell presently asleep. 


When the day dawned, the guard woke me up and said: "Oh, 
unfortunate but worthy man, you have no more time to go on 
sleeping, for one is waiting here to give you evil news." I answered: 
"The sooner I escape from this earthly prison, the happier shall I be; 
especially as I am sure my soul is saved, and that I am going to 
an undeserved death. Christ, the glorious and divine, elects me to 
the company of His disciples and friends, who, like Himself, were 
condemned to die unjustly. I too am sentenced to an unjust death, 
and I thank God with humility for this sign of grace. Why does 
not the man come forward who has to pronounce my doom.?" The 
guard replied : "He is too grieved for you, and sheds tears." Then I 
called him by his name of Messer Benedetto da Cagli,^ and cried: 
"Come forward, Messer Benedetto, my friend, for now, I am resolved 
and in good frame of mind; far greater glory is it for me to die 
unjustly than if I had deserved this fate. Come forward, I beg, and 
let me have a priest, in order that I may speak a couple of words 
with him. I do not indeed stand in need of this, for I have already 
made my heart's confession to my Lord God; yet I should like to 
observe the ordinances of our Holy Mother Church; for though she 
has done me this abominable wrong, I pardon her with all my soul. 
So come, friend Messer Benedetto, and despatch my business before 
I lose control over my better instincts." 

After I had uttered these words, the worthy man told the guard 
to lock the door, because nothing could be done without his presence. 
He then repaired to the house o£ Signor Pier Luigi's wife, who 
happened to be in company with the Duchess of whom I spoke 
above.* Presenting himself before them both, he spoke as follows: 
"My most illustrious mistress, I entreat you for the love of God to 

' It will be remembered that Benedetto da Cagli was one of Cellini's three examiners 
during his first imprisonment in S. Angelo. 

' The wife of Pier Luigi Farnese was Jeronima, daughter of Luigi Orsini, Count of 


tell the Pope, that he must send some one else to pronounce sentence 
upon Benvenuto and perform my office; I renounce the task, and am 
quite decided not to carry it through." Then, sighing, he departed 
with the strongest signs of inward sorrow. The Duchess, who was 
present, frowned and said: "So this is the fine justice dealt out here 
in Rome by God's Vicar! The Duke, my late husband, particularly 
esteemed this man for his good qualities and eminent abilities; he 
was unwilling to let him return to Rome, and would gladly have 
kept him close to his own person." Upon this she retired, muttering 
words of indignation and displeasure. Signor Pier Luigi's wife, who 
was called Signora Jerolima, betook herself to the Pope, and threw 
herself upon her knees before him in the presence of several cardinals. 
She pleaded my cause so warmly that she woke the Pope to shame; 
whereupon he said: "For your sake we will leave him quiet; yet you 
must know that we had no ill-will against him." These words he 
spoke because of the cardinals who were around him, and had lis- 
tened to the eloquence of that brave-spirited lady. 

Meanwhile I abode in extreme discomfort, and my heart kept 
thumping against my ribs. Not less was the discomfort of the men 
appointed to discharge the evil business of my execution; but when 
the hour for dinner was already past, they betook themselves to their 
several affairs, and my meal was also served me. This filled me with 
a glad astonishment, and I exclaimed: "For once truth has been 
stronger than the malice of the stars! I pray God, therefore, that, if it 
be His pleasure. He will save me from this fearful peril. Then I 
fell to eating with the same stout heart for my salvation as I had 
previously prepared for my perdition. I dined well, and afterwards 
remained without seeing or hearing any one until an hour after 
nightfall. At that time the Bargello arrived with a large part of his 
guard, and had me replaced in the chair which brought me on the 
previous evening to the prison. He spoke very kindly to me, bidding 
me be under no apprehension; and bade his constables take good care 
not to strike against my broken leg, but to treat me as though I 
were the apple of their eye. The men obeyed, and brought me to the 
castle whence I had escaped; then, when we had mounted to the 
keep, they left me shut up in a dungeon opening upon a little court 
there is there. 



The castellan, meanwhile, ill and afflicted as he was, had himself 
transported to my prison, and exclaimed: "You see that I have 
recaptured you!" "Yes," said I, "but you see that I escaped, as I told 
you I would. And if I had not been sold by a Venetian Cardinal, 
under Papal guarantee, for the price of a bishopric, the Pope a 
Roman and a Farnese (and both of them have scratched with 
impious hands the face of the most sacred laws), you would not 
have recovered me. But now that they have opened this vile way of 
dealing, do you the worst you can in your turn; I care for nothing 
in the world." The wretched man began shouting at the top of 
his voice: "Ah, woe is me! woe is me! It is all the same to this 
fellow whether he lives or dies, and behold, he is more fiery than 
when he was in health. Put him down there below the garden, and 
do not speak to me of him again, for he is the destined cause of 
my death." 

So I was taken into a gloomy dungeon below the level of a garden, 
which swam with water, and was full of big spiders and many 
venomous worms. They flung me a wretched mattress of course 
hemp, gave me no supper, and locked four doors upon me. In that 
condition I abode until the nineteenth hour of the following day. 
Then I received food, and I requested my jailers to give me some 
of my books to read. None of them spoke a word, but they referred 
my prayer to the unfortunate castellan, who had made inquiries con- 
cerning what I said. Next morning they brought me an Italian Bible 
which belonged to me, and a copy of the Chronicles of Giovanni 
Villani.' When I asked for certain other of my books, I was told that 
I could have no more, and that I had got too many already. 

Thus, then, I continued to exist in misery upon that rotten mat- 
tress, which in three days soaked up water like a sponge. I could 
hardly stir because of my broken leg; and when I had to get out 
of bed to obey a call of nature, I crawled on all fours with extreme 
distress, in order not to foul the place I slept in. For one hour and 
a half each day I got a little glimmering of light, which penetrated 

'This mention of an Italian Bible shows that we are still in the days before the 
(Council of Trent. 


that unhappy cavern through a very narrows aperture. Only for 
so short a space of time could I read; the rest of the day and night 
I abode in darkness, enduring my lot, nor ever without meditations 
upon God and on our human frailty. I thought it .certain that a few 
more days would put an end of my unlucky life in that sad place 
and in that miserable manner. Nevertheless, as well as I was able, I 
comforted my soul by calling to mind how much more painful it 
would have been, on passing from this life, to have suffered that 
unimaginable horror of the hangman's knife. Now, being as I was, 
I should depart with the anodyne of sleepiness, which robbed death 
of half its former terrors. Little by little I felt my vital forces waning, 
until at last my vigorous temperament had become adapted to that 
purgatory. When I felt it quite acclimatised, I resolved to put up 
with all those indescribable discomforts so long as it held out. 


I began the Bible from the commencement, reading and reflecting 
on it so devoutly, and finding in it such deep treasures of delight, 
that, if I had been able, I should have done naught else but study it. 
However, light was wanting; and the thought of all my troubles 
kept recurring and gnawing at me in the darkness, until I often 
made my mind up to put an end somehow to my own life. They did 
not allow me a knife, however, and so it was no easy matter to 
commit suicide. Once, notwithstanding, I took and propped a 
wooden pole I found there, in position like a trap. I meant to make 
it topple over on my head, and it would certainly have dashed my 
brains out; but when I had arranged the whole machine, and was 
approaching to put it in motion, just at the moment of my setting 
my hand to it, I was seized by an invisible power and flung four 
cubits from the spot, in such a terror that I lay half dead. Like that 
I remained from dawn until the nineteenth hour, when they brought 
my food. The jailers must have visited my cell several times without 
my taking notice of them; for when at last I heard them. Captain 
Sandrino Monaldi' had entered, and I heard him saying: "Ah, 
unhappy man! behold the end to which so rare a genius has come!" 
Roused by these words, I opened my eyes, and caught sight of priests 

' A Florentine, banished in 1530 for having been in arms against the Medici. 


with long gowns on their backs, who were saying: "Oh, you told 
us he was dead!" Bozza replied: "Dead I found him, and therefore 
I told you so." Then they lifted me from where I lay, and after shak- 
ing up the mattress, which was now as soppy as a dish of maccaroni, 
they flung it outside the dungeon. The castellan, when these things 
were reported to him, sent me another mattress. Thereafter, when 
I searched my memory to find what could have diverted me from 
that design of suicide, I came to the conclusion that it must have 
been some power divine and my good guardian angel. 

ex IX 

During the following night there appeared to me in dreams a 
marvellous being in the form of a most lovely youth, who cried, as 
though he wanted to reprove me: "Knowest thou who lent thee that 
body, which thou wouldst have spoiled before its time?" I seemed 
to answer that I recognized all things pertaining to me as gifts from 
the God of nature. "So, then," he said, "thou hast contempt for His 
handiwork, through this thy will to spoil it? Commit thyself unto 
His guidance, and lose not hope in His great goodness!" Much more 
he added, in words of marvellous efficacy, the thousandth part of 
which I cannot now remember. 

I began to consider that the angel of my vision spoke the truth. 
So I cast my eyes around the prison, and saw some scraps of rotten 
brick, with the fragments of which, rubbing one against the other, 
1 composed a paste. Then, creeping on all fours, as I was compelled 
to go, I crawled up to an angle of my dungeon door, and gnawed a 
splinter from it with my teeth. Having achieved this feat, I waited 
till the light came on my prison; that was from the hour of twenty 
and a half to twenty-one and a half. When it arrived, I began to 
write, the best I could, on some blank pages in my Bible, and 
rebuked the regents of my intellectual self for being too impatient to 
endure this life; they replied to my body with excuses drawn from 
all that they had suffered; and the body gave them hope of better 
fortune. To this effect, then, by way of dialogue, I wrote as follows: — 

Benvenuto in the body. 
AfHicted regents of my soul! 

Ah, cruel ye! have ye such hate of life? 


The Spirits of his soul. 

If Heaven against you roll, 

Who stands for us? who saves us in the strife? 
Let us, O let us go toward better life! 


Nay, go not yet awhile! 

Ye shall be happier and lighter far — 

Heaven gives this hope — than ye were ever yet! 

The Spirits. 

We will remain some little while. 

If only by great God you promised are 
Such grace that no worse woes on us be set. 

After this I recovered strength; and when I had heartened up 
myself, I continued reading in the Bible, and my eyes became so 
used to that darkness that I could now read for three hours instead 
of the bare hour and a half I was able to employ before. 

With profound astonishment I dwelt upon the force of God's 
Spirit in those men of great simplicity, who believed so fervently 
that He would bring all their heart's desire to pass. I then proceeded 
to reckon in my own case too on God's assistance, both because of 
His divine power and mercy, and also because of my own innocence; 
and at all hours, sometimes in prayer and sometimes in communion 
with God, I abode in those high thoughts of Him. There flowed 
into my soul so powerful a delight from these reflections upon God, 
that I took no further thought for all the anguish I had suffered, 
but rather spent the day in singing psalms and divers other com- 
positions on the theme of His divinity. 

I was greatly troubled, however, by one particular annoyance: my 
nails had grown so long that I could not touch my body without 
wounding it; I could not dress myself but what they turned inside 
or out, to my great torment. Moreover, my teeth began to perish in 
my mouth. I became aware of this because the dead teeth being 
pushed out by the living ones, my gums were gradually perforated, 
and the points of the roots pierced through the tops of their cases. 
When I was aware of this, I used to pull one out, as though it were 


a weapon from a scabbard, without any pain or loss of blood. Very 
many of them did I lose in this way. Nevertheless, I accommodated 
myself to these new troubles also; at times I sang, at times I prayed, 
arid at times I wrote by means of the paste of brick-dust I have 
described above. At this time I began composing a Capitolo in 
praise of my prison, relating in it all the accidents which had befallen 
me.' This poem I mean to insert in its proper place. 


The good castellan used frequently to send messengers to find out 
secretly what I was doing. So it happened on the last day of July 
that I was rejoicing greatly by myself alone while I bethought me 
of the festival they keep in Rome upon the ist of August; and I was 
saying to myself: "In former years I kept the feast among the 
pleasures and the frailties of the world; this year I shall keep it in 
communion with God. Oh, how far more happy am I thus than I 
was then!" The persons who heard me speak these words reported 
them to the castellan. He was greatly annoyed, and exclaimed : "Ah, 
God! that fellow lives and triumphs in his infinite distress, while I 
lack all things in the midst of comfort, and am dying only on 
account of him! Go quickly, and fling him into that deepest of the 
subterranean dungeons where the preacher Foiano was starved to 
death.'' Perhaps when he finds himself in such ill plight he will 
begin to droop his crest." 

Captain Sandrino Monaldi came at once into my prison with about 
twenty of the castellan's servants. They found me on my knees; 
and I did not turn at their approach, but went on paying my orisons 
before a God the Father, surrounded with angels, and a Christ 
arising victorious from the grave, which I had sketched upon the 

1 Capitolo is the technical name for a copy of verses in terza rima on a chosen 
theme. Poems of this kind, mostly burlesque or satirical, were very popular in Cellini's 
age. They used to be written on trifling or obscene subjects in a mock-heroic style. 
Berni stamped the character of high art upon the species, which had long been in use 
among the unlettered vulgar. See for further particulars Symonds' Renaissance in 
Italy, vol. V. chap. xiv. 

^ Fra Benedetto da Foiano had incurred the wrath of Pope Clement VII. by preach- 
ing against the Medici in Florence. He was sent to Rome and imprisoned in a noisome 
dungeon of S. Angelo in the year 1530, where Clement made him perish miserably by 
diminishing his food and water daily till he died. See Varchi's Storia Fiorentina, lib. 
xii. chap. 4. 


wall with a little piece of charcoal I had found covered up with 
earth. This was after I had lain four months upon my back in bed 
with my leg broken, and had so often dreamed that angels came 
and ministered to me, that at the end of those four months the limb 
became as sound as though it never had been fractured. So then 
these fellows entered, all in armour, as fearful of me as though I 
were a poison-breathing dragon. The captain spoke as follows: 
"You must be aware that there are many of us here, and our entrance 
has made a tumult in this place, yet you do not turn round." When 
I heard these words, I was well able to conceive what greater harm 
might happen to me, but being used and hardened to misfortune, I 
said to them: "Unto this God who supports me, to Him in heaven I 
have turned my soul, my contemplation, and all my vital spirits; to 
you I have turned precisely what belongs to you. What there is of 
good in me, you are not worthy to behold, nor can you touch it. 
Do then to that which is under your control all the evil you are 
able." The captain, in some alarm, and not knowing what I might 
be on the point of doing, said to four of his tallest fellows : "Put all 
your arms aside." When they had done so, he added: "Now upon 
the instant leap on him, and secure him well. Do you think he is 
the devil, that so many of us should be afraid of him? Hold him 
tight now, that he may not escape you." Seized by them with force 
and roughly handled, and anticipating something far worse than 
what afterwards happened, I lifted my eyes to Christ and said: 
"Oh, just God, Thou paidest all our debts upon that high-raised 
cross of Thine; wherefore then must my innocence be made to pay 
the debts of whom I do not even know ? Nevertheless, Thy will be 
done." Meanwhile the men were carrying me away with a great 
lighted torch; and I thought that they were about to throw me 
down the oubliette of Sammabo. This was the name given to a 
fearful place which had swallowed many men alive; for when they 
are cast into it, they fall to the bottom of a deep pit in the founda- 
tions of the castle. This did not, however, happen to me; wherefore 
I thought that I had made a very good bargain when they placed 
me in that hideous dungeon I have spoken of, where Fra Foiano 
died of hunger, and left me there without doing me further injury. 
When I was alone, I began to sing a De projundis clamavi, a 


Miserere, and In te Domine speravi. During the whole o£ that first 
day of August I kept festival with God, my heart rejoicing ever in 
the strength of hope and faith. On the second day they drew me 
from that hole, and took me back again to the prison where I had 
drawn those representations of God. On arriving there, the sight 
of them filled me with such sweetness and such gladness that I wept 
abundantly. On every day that followed, the castellan sent to know 
what I was doing and saying. The Pope, who had heard the whole 
history (and I must add that the doctors had already given the 
castellan over), spoke as follows: "Before my castellan dies I will 
let him put that Benvenuto to death in any way he likes, for he is 
the cause of his death, and so the good man shall not die unre- 
venged." On hearing these words from the mouth of Duke Pier 
Luigi, the castellan replied: "So, then, the Pope has given me Ben- 
venuto, and wishes me to take my vengeance on him ? Dismiss the 
matter from your mind, and leave me to act." If the heart of the 
Pope was ill-disposed against me, that of the castellan was now at 
the commencement savage and cruel in the extreme. At this junc- 
ture the invisible being who had diverted me from my intention of 
suicide, came to me, being still invisible, but with a clear voice, and 
shook me, and made me rise, and said to me: "Ah me! my Ben- 
venuto, quick, quick, betake thyself to God with thy accustomed 
prayers, and cry out loudly, loudly!" In a sudden consternation I 
fell upon my knees, and recited several of my prayers in a loud 
voice; after this I said Qui habitat in adjutorio; then I communed 
a space with God; and in an instant the same clear and open voice 
said to me: "Go to rest, and have no further fear!" The meaning of 
this was, that the castellan, after giving the most cruel orders for 
my death, suddenly countermanded them, and said: "Is not this 
Benvenuto the man whom I have so warmly defended, whom I 
know of a surety to be innocent, and who has been so greatly 
wronged ? Oh, how will God have mercy on me and my sins if I do 
not pardon those who have done me the greatest injuries? Oh, why 
should I injure a man both worthy and innocent, who has only done 
me services and honour? Go to! instead of killing him, I give him 
life and liberty: and in my will I'll have it written that none shall 
demand of him the heavy debt for his expenses here which he would 


elsewise have to pay." This the Pope heard, and took it very ill 


I meanwhile continued to pray as usual, and to write my Capitolo, 
and every night I was visited with the gladdest and most pleasant 
dreams that could be possibly imagined. It seemed to me while 
dreaming that I was always in the visible company of that being 
whose voice and touch, while he was still invisible, I had so often 
felt. To him I made but one request, and this I urged most earnestly, 
namely, that he would bring me where I could behold the sun. I told 
him that this was the sole desire I had, and that if I could but see 
the sun once only, I should die contented. All the disagreeable 
circumstances of my prison had become, as it were, to me friendly 
and companionable; not one of them gave me annoyance. Never- 
theless, I ought to say that the castellan's parasites, who were waiting 
for him to hang me from the battlement whence I had made my 
escape, when they saw that he had changed his mind to the exact 
opposite of what he previously threatened, were unable to endure the 
disappointment. Accordingly, they kept continually trying to inspire 
me with the fear of imminent death by means of various terrifying 
hints. But, as I have already said, I had become so well acquainted 
with troubles of this sort that I was incapable of fear, and nothing 
any longer could disturb me; only I had that one great longing to 
behold the sphere of the sun, if only in a dream. 

Thus then, while I spent many hours a day in prayer with deep 
emotion of the spirit toward Christ, I used always to say : "Ah, very 
Son of God! I pray Thee by Thy birth, by Thy death upon the cross, 
and by Thy glorious resurrection, that Thou wilt deign to let me 
see the sun, if not otherwise, at least in dreams. But if Thou wilt 
grant me to behold it with these mortal eyes of mine, I engage myself 
to come and visit Thee at Thy holy sepulchre." This vow and these 
my greatest prayers to God I made upon the 2nd of October in the 
year 1539. Upon the following morning, which was the 3rd of 
October, I woke at daybreak, perhaps an hour before the rising of 
the sun. Dragging myself from the miserable lair in which I lay, 
I put some clothes on, for it had begun to be cold; then I prayed 


more devoutly than ever I had done in the past, fervently imploring 
Christ that He would at least grant me the favour of knowing by 
divine inspiration what sin I was so sorely expiating; and since His 
Divine Majesty had not deemed me worthy of beholding the sun 
even in a dream I besought Him to let me know the cause of my 


I had barely uttered these words, when that invisible being, like 
a whirlwind, caught me up and bore me away into a large room, 
where he made himself visible to my eyes in human form, appearing 
like a young man whose beard is just growing, with a face of inde- 
scribable beauty, but austere, not wanton. He bade me look around 
the room, and said : "The crowd of men thou seest in this place are 
all those who up to this day have been born and afterwards have 
died upon the earth." Thereupon I asked him why he brought me 
hither, and he answered: "Come with me and thou shalt soon 
behold." In my hand I had a poniard, and upon my back a coat 
of mail; and so he led me through that vast hall, pointing out the 
people who were walking by innumerable thousands up and down, 
this way and that. He led me onward, and went forth in front of 
me through a little low door into a place which looked like a 
narrow street; and when he drew me after him into the street, at 
the moment of leaving the hall, behold I was disarmed and clothed 
in a white shirt, with nothing on my head, and I was walking on 
the right hand of my companion. Finding myself in this condition, 
I was seized with wonder, because I did not recognise the street; 
and when I lifted my eyes, I discerned that the splendour of the sun 
was striking on a wall, as it were a house-front, just above my head. 
Then I said: "Oh, my friend! what must I do in order to be able 
to ascend so high that I may gaze upon the sphere of the sun him- 
self?" He pointed out some huge stairs which were on my right 
hand, and said to me : "Go up thither by thyself." Quitting his side, 
I ascended the stairs backwards, and gradually began to come within 
the region of the sunlight. Then I hastened my steps, and went on, 
always walking backwards as I have described, until I discovered the 
whole sphere of the sun. The strength of his rays, as is their wont, 


first made me close my eyes; but becoming aware of my misdoing, 
I opened them wide, and gazing steadfastly at the sun, exclaimed: 
"Oh, my sun, for whom I have so passionately yearned 1 Albeit your 
rays may blind me, I do not wish to look on anything again but 
this!" So I stayed awhile with my eyes fixed steadily on him; and 
after a brief space I beheld in one moment the whole might of those 
great burning rays fling themselves upon the left side of the sun; so 
that the orb remained quite clear without its rays, and I was able 
to contemplate it with vast delight. It seemed to me something 
marvellous that the rays should be removed in that manner. Then 
I reflected what divine grace it was which God had granted me that 
morning, and cried aloud: "Oh, wonderful Thy power! oh, glorious 
Thy virtue! How far greater is the grace which Thou art granting 
me than that which I expected!" The sun without his rays appeared 
to me to be a bath of the purest molten gold, neither more nor less. 
While I stood contemplating this wondrous thing, I noticed that 
the middle of the sphere began to swell, and the swollen surface 
grew, and suddenly a Christ upon the cross formed itself out of the 
same substance as the sun. He bore the aspect of divine benignity, 
with such fair grace that the mind of man could not conceive the 
thousandth part of it; and while I gazed in ecstasy, I shouted: "A 
miracle! a miracle! O God! O clemency Divine! O immeasurable 
Goodness! what is it Thou hast deigned this day to show me!" 
While I was gazing and exclaiming thus, the Christ moved toward 
that part where his rays were settled, and the middle of the sun 
once more bulged out as it had done before; the boss expanded, 
and suddenly transformed itself into the shape of a most beautiful 
Madonna, who appeared to be sitting enthroned on high, holding 
her child in her arms with an attitude of the greatest charm and a 
smile upon her face. On each side of her was an angel, whose beauty 
far surpasses man's imagination. I also saw within the rondure of 
the sun, upon the right hand, a figure robed like a priest; this turned 
its back to me, and kept its face directed to the Madonna and the 
Christ. All these things I beheld, actual, clear, and vivid, and kept 
returning thanks to the glory of God as loud as I was able. The 
marvellous apparition remained before me little more than half a 


quarter of an hour: then it dissolved, and I was carried back to my 
dark lair. 

I began at once to shout aloud: "The virtue of God hath deigned 
to show me all His glory, the which perchance no mortal eye hath 
ever seen before. Therefore I know surely that I am free and 
fortunate and in the grace of God; but you miscreants shall be mis- 
creants still, accursed, and in the wrath of God. Mark this, for I am 
certain of it, that on the day of All Saints, the day upon which I 
was born in 1500, on the first of November, at four hours after night- 
fall, on that day which is coming you will be forced to lead me from 
this gloomy dungeon; less than this you will not be able to do, be- 
cause I have seen it with these eyes of mine and in that throne of 
God. The priest who kept his face turned to God and his back to 
me, that priest was S. Peter, pleading my cause, for the shame he 
felt that such foul wrongs should be done to Christians in his own 
house. You may go and tell it to whom you like; for none on earth 
has the power to do me harm henceforward; and tell that lord who 
keeps me here, that if he will give me wax or paper and the means 
of portraying this glory of God which was revealed to me, most 
assuredly shall I convince him of that which now perhaps he holds 
in doubt." 


The physicians gave the castellan no hope of his recovery, yet he 
remained with a clear intellect, and the humours which used to 
afflict him every year had passed away. He devoted himself entirely 
to the care of his soul, and his conscience seemed to smite him, 
because he felt that I had suffered and was suffering a grievous 
wrong. The Pope received information from him of the extraor- 
dinary things which I related; in answer to which his Holiness 
sent word — as one who had no faith either in God or aught beside — 
that I was mad, and that he must do his best to mend his health. 
When the castellan received this message, he sent to cheer me up, 
and furnished me with writing materials and wax, and certain little 
wooden instruments employed in working wax, adding many words 
of courtesy, which were reported by one of his servants who bore 


me good-will. This man was totally the opposite of that rascally 
gang who had wished to see me hanged, I took the paper and the 
wax, and began to work; and while I was working I wrote the 
following sonnet addressed to the castellan: — 

"If I, my lord, could show to you the truth, 
Of that Eternal Light to me by Heaven 
In this low life revealed, you sure had given 
More heed to mine than to a monarch's sooth. 

Ah! could the Pastor of Christ's flock in ruth 

Believe how God this soul with sight hath shriven 
Of glory unto which no wight hath striven 
Ere he escaped earth's cave of care uncouth; 

The gates of Justice, holy and austere. 

Would roll asunder, and rude impious Rage 

Fall chained with shrieks that should assail the skies. 

Had I but light, ah me! my art should rear 
A monument of Heaven's high equipage! 
Nor should my misery bear so grim a guise." 


On the following day, when the servant of the castellan who was 
my friend brought me my food, I gave him this sonnet copied out in 
writing. Without informing the other ill-disposed servants who 
were my enemies, he handed it to the castellan. At that time this 
worthy man would gladly have granted me my liberty, because 
he fancied that the great wrong done to me was a main cause of 
his death. He took the sonnet, and having read it more than once, 
exclaimed: "These are neither the words nor the thoughts of a mad- 
man, but rather of a sound and worthy fellow." Without delay he 
ordered his secretary to take it to the Pope, and place it in his own 
hands, adding a request for my deliverance. 

While the secretary was on his way with my sonnet to the Pope, 
the castellan sent me lights for day and night, together with all the 
conveniences one could wish for in that place. The result of this 
was that I began to recover from my physical depression, which had 
reached a very serious degree. 


The Pope read the sonnet several times. Then he sent word to the 
castellan that he meant presently to do what would be pleasing to 
him. Certainly the Pope had no unwillingness to release me then; 
but Signor Pier Luigi, his son, as it were in the Pope's despite, kept 
me there by force. 

The death of the castellan was drawing near; and while I was 
engaged in drawing and modelling that miracle which I had seen, 
upon the morning of All Saints' day he sent his nephew, Piero 
Ugolini, to show me certain jewels. No sooner had I set eyes on them 
than I exclaimed: "This is the countersign of my deliverance!" Then 
the young man, who was not a person of much intelligence, began 
to say: "Never think of that, Benvenuto!" I replied: "Take your 
gems away, for I am so treated here that I have no light to see by 
except what this murky cavern gives, and that is not enough to test 
the quality of precious stones. But, as regards my deliverance from 
this dungeon, the day will not end before you come to fetch me 
out. It shall and must be so, and you will not be able to prevent it." 
The man departed, and had me locked in; but after he had remained 
away two hours by the clock, he returned without armed men, bring- 
ing only a couple of lads to assist my movements; so after this fashion 
he conducted me to the spacious rooms which I had previously occu- 
pied (that is to say, in 1538), where I obtained all the conveniences 
I asked for. 


After the lapse of a few days, the castellan, who now believed that 
I was at large and free, succumbed to his disease and departed this 
life. In his room remained his brother, Messer Antonio UgoUni, 
who had informed the deceased governor that I was duly released. 
From what I learned, this Messer Antonio received commission from 
the Pope to let me occupy that commodious prison until he had 
decided what to do with me. 

Messer Durante of Brescia, whom I have previously mentioned, 
engaged the soldier (formerly druggist of Prato) to administer some 
deadly liquor in my food;' the poison was to work slowly, producing 

'For Messer Durante, see above, p. 180. For the druggist of Prato employed as 
a warder in S. Angelo, see above, p. 216. 


its effect at the end of four or five months. They resolved on mixing 
pounded diamond with my victuals. Now the diamond is not a 
poison in any true sense of the word, but its incomparable hardness 
enables it, unlike ordinary stones, to retain very acute angles. When 
every other stone is pounded, that extreme sharpness of edge is lost; 
their fragments becoming blunt and rounded. The diamond alone 
preserves its trenchant qualities; wherefore, if it chances to enter the 
stomach together with food, the peristaltic motion^ needful to diges- 
tion brings it into contact with the coats of the stomach and the 
bowels, where it sticks, and by the action of fresh food forcing it 
farther inwards, after some time perforates the organs. This even- 
tually causes death. Any other sort of stone or glass mingled with 
the food has not the power to attach itself, but passes onward with 
the victuals. Now Messer Durante entrusted a diamond of trifling 
value to one of the guards; and it is said that a certain Lione, a 
goldsmith of Arezzo, my great enemy, was commissioned to pound 
it.' The man happened to be very poor, and the diamond was worth 
perhaps some scores of crowns. He told the guard that the dust he 
gave him back was the diamond in question properly ground down. 
The morning when I took it, they mixed it with all I had to eat; it 
was a Friday, and I had it in salad, sauce, and pottage. That morn- 
ing I ate heartily, for I had fasted on the previous evening; and this 
day was a festival. It is true that I felt the victuals scrunch beneath 
my teeth; but I was not thinking about knaveries of this sort. When 
I had finished, some scraps of salad remained upon my plate, and 
certain very fine and glittering splinters caught my eye among these 
remnants. I collected them, and took them to the window, which 
let a flood of light into the room; and while I was examining them, 
I remembered that the food I ate that morning had scrunched more 
than usual. On applying my senses strictly to the matter, the verdict 
of my eyesight was that they were certainly fragments of pounded 
diamond. Upon this I gave myself up without doubt as dead, and 
in my sorrow had recourse with pious heart to holy prayers. I had 

^In quel girare che e' fanno e' cibi. I have for the sake of clearness used the 
technical phrase above. 

^ The name of Leone Leoni is otherwise known as a goldsmith and bronze-caster. 
He made the tomb for Giangiacomo de' Medici, II Medighino, in the Cathedral of 


resolved the question, and thought that I was doomed. For the 
space of a whole hour I prayed fervently to God, returning thanks 
to Him for so merciful a death. Since my stars had sentenced me 
to die, I thought it no bad bargain to escape from life so easily. I 
was resigned, and blessed the world and all the years which I had 
passed in it. Now I was returning to a better kingdom with the 
grace of God, the which I thought I had most certainly acquired. 

While I stood revolving these thoughts in my mind, I held in my 
hand some flimsy particles of the reputed diamond, which of a 
truth I firmly believed to be such. Now hope is immortal in the 
human breast; therefore I felt myself, as it were, lured onward by a 
gleam of idle expectation. Accordingly, I took up a little knife and 
a few of those particles, and placed them on an iron bar of my 
prison. Then I brought the knife's point with a slow strong grind- 
ing pressure to bear upon the stone, and felt it crumble. Examining 
the substance with my eyes, I saw that it was so. In a moment new 
hope took possession of my soul, and I exclaimed: "Here I do not 
find my true foe, Messer Durante, but a piece of bad soft stone, 
which cannot do me any harm whatever!" Previously I had been 
resolved to remain quiet and to die in peace; now I revolved other 
plans; but first I rendered thanks to God and blessed poverty; for 
though poverty is oftentimes the cause of bringing men to death, on 
this occasion it had been the very cause of my salvation. I mean 
in this way: Messer Durante, my enemy, or whoever it was, gave 
a diamond to Lione to pound for me of the worth of more than a 
hundred crowns; poverty induced him to keep this for himself, and 
to pound for me a greenish beryl of the value of two carlins, think- 
ing perhaps, because it also was a stone, that it would work the same 
effect as the diamond. 


At this time the Bishop of Pavia, brother of the Count of San 
Secondo, and commonly called Monsignor de' Rossi of Parma, hap- 
pened to be imprisoned in the castle for some troublesome affairs 
at Pavia.' Knowing him to be my friend, I thrust my head out of the 

* Gio. Girolamo de' Rossi, known in literature as a poet and historian of secondary 


hole in my cell, and called him with a loud voice, crying that those 
thieves had given me a pounded diamond with the intention of kill- 
ing me. I also sent some of the splinters which I had preserved, by 
the hand of one of his servants, for him to see. I did not disclose my 
discovery that the stone was not a diamond, but told him that they 
had most assuredly poisoned me, after the death of that most worthy 
man the castellan. During the short space of time I had to live, I 
begged him to allow me one loaf a day from his own stores, seeing 
that I had resolved to eat nothing which came from them. To this 
request he answered that he would supply me with victuals. 

Messer Antonio, who was certainly not cognisant of the plot 
against my life, stirred up a great noise, and demanded to see the 
pounded stone, being also persuaded that it was a diamond; but 
on reflection that the Pope was probably at the bottom of the 
affair, he passed it over lightly after giving his attention to the inci- 

Henceforth I ate the victuals sent me by the Bishop, and continued 
writing my Capitolo on the prison, into which I inserted daily all the 
new events which happened to me, point by point. But Messer An- 
tonio also sent me food; and he did this by the hand of that Giovanni 
of Prato, the druggist, then soldier in the castle, whom I have pre- 
viously mentioned. He was a deadly foe of mine, and was the man 
who had administered the powdered diamond. So I told him that 
I would partake of nothing he brought me unless he tasted it before 
my eyes.^ The man replied that Popes have their meat tasted. I 
answered: "Noblemen are bound to taste the meat for Popes; in like 
measure, you, soldier, druggist, peasant from Prato, are bound to 
taste the meat for a Florentine of my station." He retorted with 
coarse words, which I was not slow to pay back in kind. 

Now Messer Antonio felt a certain shame for his behaviour; he 
had it also in his mind to make me pay the costs which the late cas- 
tellan, poor man, remitted in my favour. So he hunted out another 
of his servants, who was my friend, and sent me food by this man's 
hands. The meat was tasted for me now with good grace, and no 
need for altercation. The servant in question told me that the Pope 
was being pestered every day by Monsignor di Morluc, who kept 

^ Me ne jaceva la credenza. 


asking for my extradition on the part of the French King. The 
Pope, however, showed Uttle disposition to give me up; and Cardinal 
Farnese, formerly my friend and patron, had declared that I ought 
not to reckon on issuing from that prison for some length of time.' 
I replied that I should get out in spite of them all. The excellent 
young fellow besought me to keep quiet, and not to let such words 
of mine be heard, for they might do me some grave injury; having 
firm confidence in God, it was my duty to await His mercy, remain- 
ing in the meanwhile tranquil. I answered that the power and good- 
ness of God are not bound to stand in awe before the malign forces 
of iniquity. 


A few days had passed when the Cardinal of Ferrara arrived in 
Rome. He went to pay his respects to the Pope, and the Pope de- 
tained him up to supper-time. Now the Pope was a man of great 
talent for affairs, and he wanted to talk at his ease with the Cardinal 
about French politics. Everybody knows that folk, when they are 
feasting together, say things which they would otherwise retain. 
This therefore happened. The great King Francis was most frank 
and liberal in all his dealings, and the Cardinal was well acquainted 
with his temper. Therefore the latter could indulge the Pope beyond 
his boldest expectations. This raised his Holiness to a high pitch 
of merriment and gladness, all the more because he was accustomed 
to drink freely once a week, and went indeed to vomit after his 
indulgence. When, therefore, the Cardinal observed that the Pope 
was well disposed, and ripe to grant favours, he begged for me at 
the King's demand, pressing the matter hotly, and proving that his 
Majesty had it much at heart. Upon this the Pope laughed aloud; 
he felt the moment for his vomit at hand; the excessive quantity of 
wine which he had drunk was also operating; so he said: "On the 
spot, this instant, you shall take him to your house." Then, having 
given express orders to this purpose, he rose from table. The Car- 
dinal immediately sent for me, before Signer Pier Luigi could get 
wind of the affair; for it was certain that he would not have allowed 
me to be loosed from prison. 

' This was the Cardinal Alessandro, son of Pier Luigi Farnese. 


The Pope's mandatary came together with two great gentlemen of 
the Cardinal's, and when four o'clock of the night was passed, they 
removed me from my prison, and brought me into the presence of 
the Cardinal, who received me with indescribable kindness. I was 
well lodged, and left to enjoy the comforts of my situation. 

Messer Antonio, the old castellan's brother, and his successor in 
the office, insisted on extracting from me the costs for food and other 
fees and perquisites claimed by sheriffs and such fry, paying no 
heed to his predecessor's will in my behalf. This affair cost me 
several scores of crowns; but I paid them, because the Cardinal told 
me to be well upon my guard if I wanted to preserve my life, adding 
that had he not extracted me that evening from the prison, I should 
never have got out. Indeed, he had already been informed that the 
Pope greatly regretted having let me go. 


I am now obliged to take a step backwards, in order to resume the 
thread of some events which will be found in my Capitolo. While 
I was sojourning those few days in the chamber of the Cardinal, 
and afterwards in the Pope's private garden, there came among my 
other friends to visit me a cashier of Messer Bindo Altoviti, who 
was called Bernardo Galluzzi. I had entrusted to him a sum of 
several hundred crowns, and the young man sought me out in the 
Pope's garden, expressing his wish to give back this money to the 
uttermost farthing. I answered that I did not know where to place 
my property, either with a dearer friend or in a place that seemed 
to me more safe. He showed the strongest possible repugnance to 
keeping it, and I was, as it were, obliged to force him. Now that 
I had left the castle for the last time, I discovered that poor Ber- 
nardo Galluzzi was ruined, whereby I lost my money. Now while 
I was still imprisoned in that dungeon, I had a terrible dream, in 
which it seemed to me that words of the greatest consequence were 
written with a pen upon my forehead; the being who did this to 
me repeated at least three times that I should hold my tongue and 
not report the words to any one. When I awoke I felt that my 
forehead had been meddled with. In my Capitolo upon the prison 


I have related many incidents of this sort. Among others, it was told 
me (I not knowing what I then prophesied) how everything which 
afterwards happened to Signor Pier Luigi would take place, so 
clearly and so circumstantially that I am under the persuasion it was 
an angel from heaven who informed me. I will not omit to relate 
another circumstance also, which is perhaps the most remarkable 
which has ever happened to any one. I do so in order to justify 
the divinity of God and of His secrets, who deigned to grant me 
that great favour; for ever since the time of my strange vision until 
now an aureole of glory (marvellous to relate) has rested on my 
head. This is visible to every sort of men to whom I have chosen 
to point it out; but those have been very few. This halo can be ob- 
served above my shadow in the morning from the rising of the sun 
for about two hours, and far better when the grass is drenched with 
dew. It is also visible at evening about sunset. I became aware of 
it in France at Paris; for the air in those parts is so much freer from 
mist, that one can see it there far better manifested than in Italy, 
mists being far more frequent among us. However, I am always able 
to see it and to show it to others, but not so well as in the country I 
have mentioned. 

Now I will set forth the Capitolo I wrote in prison, and in praise 
of the said prison; after that I will follow the course of the good 
and evil things which have happened to me from time to time; and 
I mean also to relate what happens in the future. 


Whoso would know the power of God's dominion, 
And how a man resembles that high good. 
Must lie in prison, is my firm opinion: 

On grievous thoughts and cares of home must brood. 
Oppressed with carking pains in flesh and bone. 
Far from his native land full many a rood. 

* Cellini's Capitolo in Praise of the Prison is clearly made up o£ pieces written, as 
described above, in the dungeon of S. Angelo, and of passages which he afterwards 
composed to bring these pieces into a coherent whole. He has not displayed much 
literary skill in the redaction, and I have been at pains to preserve the roughness of 
the original. 


If you would fain by worthy deeds be known. 
Seek to be prisoned without cause, lie long, 
And find no friend to listen to your moan. 

See that men rob you of your all by wrong; 

Add perils to your life; be used with force, 
Hopeless of help, by brutal foes and strong. 

Be driven at length to some mad desperate course; 
Burst from your dungeon, leap the castle wall; 
Recaptured, find the prison ten times worse. 

Now listen, Luca, to the best of all! 

Your leg's been broken; you've been bought and sold; 
Your dungeon's dripping; you've no cloak or shawl. 

Never one friendly word; your victuals cold 

Are brought with sorry news by some base groom 
Of Prato— soldier now — druggist of old. 

Mark well how Glory steeps her sons in gloom! 
You have no seat to sit on, save the stool: 
Yet were you active from your mother's womb. 

The knave who serves hath orders strict and cool 
To list no word you utter, give you naught. 
Scarcely to ope the door; such is their rule. 

These toys hath Glory for her nursling wrought! 
No paper, pens, ink, lire, or tools of steel, 
To exercise the quick brain's teeming thought. 

Alack that I so little can reveal! 

Fancy one hundred for each separate ill: 
Full space and place I've left for prison weal! 

But now my former purpose to fulfil. 

And sing the dungeon's praise with honour due — 
For this angelic tongues were scant of skill. 

Here never languish honest men and true. 

Except by placemen's fraud, misgovernment, 
Jealousies, anger, or some spiteful crew. 


To tell the truth whereon my mind is bent, 

Here man knows God, nor ever stints to pray, 
Feeling his soul with hell's fierce anguish rent. 

Let one be famed as bad as mortal may. 

Send him in jail two sorry years to pine. 
He'll come forth holy, wise, beloved alway. 

Here soul, flesh, clothes their substance gross refine; 
Each bulky lout grows light like gossamere; 
Celestial thrones before purged eyeballs shine. 

I'll tell thee a great marvel! Friend, give ear! 
The fancy took me on one day to write: 
Learn now what shifts one may be put to here. 

My cell I search, prick brows and hair upright. 
Then turn me toward a cranny in the door. 
And with my teeth a splinter disunite; 

Next find a piece of brick upon the floor. 
Crumble a part thereof to powder small, 
And form a paste by sprinkling water o'er.^ 

Then, then came Poesy with fiery call 

Into my carcass, by the way methought 

Whence bread goes forth — there was none else at all. 

Now to return unto my primal thought: 

Who wills to know what weal awaits him, must 
First learn the ill that God for him hath wrought. 

The jail contains all arts in act and trust; 

Should you but hanker after surgeon's skill, 

'Twill draw the spoiled blood from your veins adust. 

Next there is something in itself that will 

Make you right eloquent, a bold brave spark, 
Big with high-soaring thoughts for good and ill. 

Blessed is the man who lies in dungeon dark. 

Languishing many a month, then takes his flight 
Of war, truce, peace he knows, and tells the mark. 

'The Italian is acqua morta; probably a slang phrase for urine. 


Needs be that all things turn to his dehght; 

The jail has crammed his brains so full of wit, 
They'll dance no morris to upset the wight. 

Perchance thou'lt urge: "Think how thy life did flit; 
Nor is it true the jail can teach thee lore, 
To fill thy breast and heart with strength of it!" 

Nay, for myself I'll ever praise it more: 

Yet would I like one law passed — that the man 
Whose acts deserve it should not scape this score. 

Whoso hath gotten the poor folk in ban, 

I'd make him learn those lessons of the jail; 
For then he'd know all a good ruler can: 

He'd act like men who weigh by reason's scale. 
Nor dare to swerve from truth and right aside, 
Nor would confusion in the realm prevail. 

While I was bound in prison to abide, 

Foison of priests, friars, soldiers I could see; 
But those who best deserved it least I spied. 

Ah! could you know what rage came over me, 

When for such rogues the jail relaxed her hold! 
This makes one weep that one was born to be I 

I'll add no more. Now I'm become fine gold, 

Such gold as none flings lightly to the wind, 
Fit for the best work eyes shall e'er behold. 

Another point hath passed into my mind. 

Which I've not told thee, Luca; where I wrote 
Was in the book of one our kith and kind.' 

There down the margins I was wont to note 

Each torment grim that crushed me like a vice: 
The paste my hurrying thoughts could hardly float. 

To make an O, I dipped the splinter thrice 

In that thick mud; worse woe could scarcely grind 
Spirits in hell debarred from Paradise. 
' Un nostra parente. He says above that he wrote the Capitolo on the leaves of 
his Bible. 


Seeing I'm not the first by fraud confined, 

This I'll omit; and once more seek the cell 
Wherein I rack for rage both heart and mind. 

I praise it more than other tongues will tell; 
And, for advice to such as do not know, 
Swear that without it none can labour well. 

Yet oh! for one like Him I learned but now. 
Who'd cry to me as by Bethesda's shore: 
Take thy clothes, Benvenuto, rise and go! 

Credo I'd sing, Salve reginas pour 

And Paternosters; alms I'd then bestow 

Morn after morn on blind folk, lame, and poor. 

Ah me! how many a time my cheek must grow 
Blanched by those lilies! Shall I then forswear 
Florence and France through them for evermore?* 

If to the hospital I come, and fair 

Find the Annunziata limned, I'll fly: 

Else shall I show myself a brute beast there.^ 

These words flout not Her worshipped sanctity. 

Nor those Her lilies, glorious, holy, pure, '^ 

The which illumine earth and heaven high! 

But for I find at every coign obscure 

Base lilies which spread hooks where flowers should blow 
Needs must I fear lest these to ruin lure.' 

To think how many walk like me in woe! 

Born what, how slaved to serve that hateful sign! 
Souls lively, graceful, like to gods below! 

I saw that lethal heraldry decline 

From heaven like lightning among people vain; 
Then on the stone I saw strange lustre shine. 

* Here he begins to play upon the lilies, which were arms of the Farnesi, of 
Florence, and of France. 

^ Gabriel holds the lily in Italian paintings when he salutes the Virgin Mary with 
Afe Virgo! 

^ That is, he finds everywhere in Italy the arms of the Farnesi. 


The castle's bell must break ere I with strain 

Thence issued; and these things Who speaketh true 
In heaven on earth, to me made wondrous plain.' 

Next I beheld a bier of sombre hue 

Adorned with broken lilies; crosses, tears; 
And on their beds a lost woe-stricken crew.' 

I saw the Death who racks our souls with fears; 

This man and that she menaced, while she cried: 
"I clip the folk who harm thee with these shears!" 

That worthy one then on my brow wrote wide 

With Peter's pen words which — for he bade shun 
To speak them thrice — within my breast I hide." 

Him I beheld who drives and checks the sun, 

Clad with its splendour 'mid his court on high, 
Seld-seen by mortal eyes, if e'er by one.'" 

Then did a solitary sparrow cry 

Loud from the keep; hearing which note, I said: 
"He tells that I shall live and you must die!" 

I sang, and wrote my hard case, head by head. 
Asking from God pardon and aid in need. 
For now I felt mine eyes outworn and dead. 

Ne'er lion, tiger, wolf, or bear knew greed 

Hungrier than that man felt for human blood; 
Nor viper with more venomous fang did feed." 

The cruel chief was he of robbers' brood, 

Worst of the worst among a gang of knaves; 
Hist! I'll speak soft lest I be understood! 

Say, have ye seen catchpolls, the famished slaves, 
In act a poor man's homestead to distrain, 
Smashing down Christs, Madonnas, with their staves? 

' Allusion to his prevision of the castellan's death. 

' Allusion to his prevision of Pier Luigi Farnese's murder. 

' Allusion to the angel who visited him in prison. 

'" Allusion to his vision of the sun in the dungeon. 

" An invective against Pier Luigi Farnese. 


So on the first of August did that train 

Dislodge me to a tomb more foul, more cold: — 
"November damns and dooms each rogue to pain!" " 

I at mine ears a trumpet had which told 

Truth; and each word to them I did repeat, 
Reckless, if but grief's load from me were rolled. 

They, when they saw their final hope retreat, 
Gave me a diamond, pounded, no fair ring, 
Deeming that I must die if I should eat. 

That villain churl whose office 'twas to bring 

My food, I bade taste first; but meanwhile thought: 
"Not here I find my foe Durante's sting!" 

Yet erst my mind unto high God I brought 
Beseeching Him to pardon all my sin. 
And spoke a Miserere sorrow-fraught. 

Then when I gained some respite from that din 
Of troubles, and had given my soul to God, 
Contented better realms and state to win, 

I saw along the path which saints have trod, 

From heaven descending, glad, with glorious palm, 
An angel: clear he cried, "Upon earth's sod 

Live longer thou! Through Him who heard thy psalm, 
Those foes shall perish, each and all, in strife. 
While thou remainest happy, free, and calm. 

Blessed by our Sire in heaven on earth for life!" 

'^ Allusion to the prophetic words he flung at the officers who took him to Foiano's 


I REMAINED for some time in the Cardinal of Ferrara's pal- 
ace, very well regarded in general by everybody, and much 
more visited even than I had previously been. Everybody was 
astonished that I should have come out of prison and have been 
able to live through such indescribable afflictions;' and while I was 
recovering my breath and endeavouring to resume the habit of my 
art, I had great pleasure in re-writing the Capitolo. Afterwards, with 
a view to re-establishing my strength, I determined to take a journey 
of a few days for change of air. My good friend the Cardinal gave 
me permission and lent me horses; and I had two young Romans 
for my companions, one of them a craftsman in my trade, the other 
only a comrade in our journey. We left Rome, and took the road 
to Tagliacozzo, intending to visit my pupil Ascanio, who lived there. 
On our arrival, I found the lad, together with his father, brothers, 
sisters, and stepmother. I was entertained by them two days with 
indescribable kindness; then I turned my face towards Rome, taking 
Ascanio with me. On the road we fell to conversing about our art, 
which made me die of impatience to get back and recommence my 

Having reached Rome, I got myself at once in readiness to work, 
and was fortunate enough to find again a silver basin which I had 
begun for the Cardinal before I was imprisoned. Together with 
this basin I had begun a very beautiful Httle jug; but this had been 
stolen, with a great quantity of other valuable articles. I set Pagolo, 
whom I have previously mentioned, to work upon the basin. At the 
same time I recommenced the jug, which was designed with round 
figures and bas-reliefs. The basin was executed in a similar style, 
with round figures and fishes in bas-relief. The whole had such rich- 

^This assertion is well supported by contemporary letters of Caro and Alamanni. 



ness and good keeping, that every one who beheld it expressed 
astonishment at the force of the design and beauty of invention, and 
also at the delicacy^ with which these young men worked. 

The Cardinal came at least twice a day to see me, bringing with 
him Messer Luigi Alamanni and Messer Gabriel Cesano;^ and here 
we used to pass an hour or two pleasantly together. Notwithstand- 
ing I had very much to do, he kept giving me fresh commissions. 
Among others, I had to make his pontifical seal of the size of the 
hand of a boy of twelve. On it I engraved in intaglio two little his- 
tories, the one of San Giovanni preaching in the wilderness, the other 
of Sant' Ambrogio expelling the Arians^ on horseback with a lash 
in his hand. The fire and correctness of design of this piece, and 
its nicety of workmanship, made every one say that I had surpassed 
the great Lautizio, who ranked alone in this branch of the profes- 
sion. The Cardinal was so proud of it that he used to compare it 
complacently with the other seals of the Roman cardinals, which 
were nearly all from the hand of Lautizio. 


In addition to these things the Cardinal ordered me to make the 
model for a salt-cellar; but he said he should like me to leave the 
beaten track pursued by such as fabricated these things. Messer 
Luigi, apropos of this salt-cellar, made an eloquent description of 
his own idea; Messer Gabriello Cesano also spoke exceedingly well 
to the same purpose. The Cardinal, who was a very kindly listener, 
showed extreme satisfaction with the designs which these two able 
men of letters had described in words. Then he turned to me and 
said: "My Benvenuto, the design of Messer Luigi and that of Messer 
Gabriello please me both so well that I know not how to choose 
between them; therefore I leave the choice to you, who will have 
to execute the work." I replied as follows: "It is apparent, my lords, 
of what vast consequence are the sons of kings and emperors, and 
what a marvellous brightness of divinity appears in them; neverthe- 
less, if you ask some poor humble shepherd which he loves best, those 
royal children or his sons, he will certainly tell you that he loves his 

^ PuUtezza. This indicates precision, neatness, cleanness of execution. 

'The name of Cesano is well known in the literary correspondence of those times. 

* It will be remembered that the Cardinal was Archbishop of Milan. 


own sons best. Now I too have a great affection for the children 
which I bring forth from my art; consequently the first which I will 
show you, most reverend monsignor my good master, shall be of 
my own making and invention. There are many things beautiful 
enough in words which do not match together well when executed 
by an artist." Then I turned to the two scholars and said: "You have 
spoken, I will do." Upon this Messer Luigi Alamanni smiled, and 
added a great many witty things, with the greatest charm of man- 
ner, in my praise; they became him well, for he was handsome of 
face and figure, and had a gentle voice. Messer Gabriello Cesano 
was quite the opposite, as ugly and displeasing as the other was 
agreeable; accordingly he spoke as he looked. 

Messer Luigi had suggested that I should fashion a Venus with 
Cupid, surrounded by a crowd of pretty emblems, all in proper keep- 
ing with the subject. Messer Gabriello proposed that I should model 
an Amphitrite, the wife of Neptune, together with those Tritons of 
the sea, and many such-like fancies, good enough to describe in 
words, but not to execute in metal. 

I first laid down an oval framework, considerably longer than half 
a cubit — almost two-thirds, in fact; and upon this ground, wishing 
to suggest the interminglement of land and ocean, I modelled two 
figures, considerably taller than a palm in height, which were seated 
with their legs interlaced, suggesting those lengthier branches of the 
sea which run up into the continents. The sea was a man, and in his 
hand I placed a ship, elaborately wrought in all its details, and well 
adapted to hold a quantity of salt. Beneath him I grouped the four 
sea-horses, and in his right hand he held his trident. The earth I 
fashioned like a woman, with all the beauty of form, the grace, and 
charm of which my art was capable. She had a richly decorated 
temple firmly based upon the ground at one side; and here her hand 
rested. This I intended to receive the pepper. In her other hand I 
put a cornucopia, overflowing with all the natural treasures I could 
think of. Below this goddess, in the part which represented earth, 
I collected the fairest animals that haunt our globe. In the quarter 
presided over by the deity of ocean, I fashioned such choice kinds 
of fishes and shells as could be properly displayed in that small 
space. What remained of the oval I filled in with luxuriant orna- 


Then I waited for the Cardinal; and when he came, attended by 
the two accomplished gentlemen, I produced the model I had made 
in wax. On beholding it, Messer Gabriel Cesano was the first to lift 
his voice up, and to cry : "This is a piece which it will take the lives 
of ten men to finish: do not expect, most reverend monsignor, if 
you order it, to get it in your lifetime. Benvenuto, it seems, has 
chosen to display his children in a vision, but not to give them to the 
touch, as we did when we spoke of things that could be carried 
out, while he has shown a thing beyond the bounds of possibility." 
Messer Alamanni took my side; but the Cardinal said he did not 
care to undertake so important an affair. Then I turned to them and 
said: "Most reverend monsignor, and you, gentlemen, fulfilled with 
learning; I tell you that I hope to complete this piece for whosoever 
shall be destined to possess it;' and each one of you shall live to 
see it executed a hundred times more richly than the model. Indeed, 
I hope that time will be left me to produce far greater things 
than this." The Cardinal replied in heat: "Unless you make it for 
the King, to whom I mean to take you, I do not think that you will 
make it for another man alive." Then he showed me letters in which 
the King, under one heading, bade him return as soon as possible, 
bringing Benvenuto with him. At this I raised my hands to heaven, 
exclaiming: "Oh, when will that moment come, and quickly?" 
The Cardinal bade me put myself in readiness, and arrange the 
affairs I had in Rome. He gave me ten days for these prepara- 


When the time came to travel, he gave me a fine and excellent 
horse. The animal was called Tornon, because it was a gift from 
the Cardinal Tornon.^ My apprentices, Pagolo and Ascanio, were 
also furnished with good mounts. 

The Cardinal divided his household, which was very numerous, 
into two sections. The first, and the more distinguished, he took 
with him, following the route of Romagna, with the object of visit- 
ing Madonna del Loreto, and then making for Ferrara, his own 
home. The other section he sent upon the road to Florence. This was 

' A chi I'ard avere. For whomsoever it is going to belong to. 

'This was the famous Francois de Tournon, made Cardinal in 1530, and employed 
as minister by Francois I. 


the larger train; it counted a great multitude, including the flower 
of his horse. He told me that if I wished to make the journey with- 
out peril, I had better go with him, otherwise I ran some risk of 
my life. I expressed my inclination to his most reverend lordship 
to travel in his suite. But, having done so, since the will of Heaven 
must be accomplished, it pleased God to remind me of my poor 
sister, who had suffered greatly from the news of my misfortunes. 
I also remembered my cousins, who were nuns in Viterbo, the one 
abbess and the other camerlinga,^ and who had therefore that rich 
convent under their control. They too had endured sore tribulation 
for my sake, and to their fervent prayers I firmly believed that I 
owed the grace of my deliverance by God. Accordingly, when these 
things came into my mind, I decided for the route to Florence. I 
might have travelled free of expense with the Cardinal or with that 
other train of his, but I chose to take my own way by myself. 
Eventually I joined company with a very famous clockmaker, called 
Maestro Cherubino, my esteemed friend. Thrown together by acci- 
dent, we performed the journey with much enjoyment on both sides. 
I had left Rome on Monday in Passion Week, together with Pagolo 
and Ascanio.* At Monte Ruosi we joined the company which I have 
mentioned. Since I had expressed my intention of following the 
Cardinal, I did not anticipate that any of my enemies would be upon 
the watch to harm me. Yet I ran a narrow risk of coming to grief 
at Monte Ruosi; for a band of men had been sent forward, well 
armed, to do me mischief there. It was so ordained by God that, 
while we were at dinner, these fellows, on the news that I was not 
travelling in the Cardinal's suite, made preparation to attack me. 
Just at that moment the Cardinal's retinue arrived, and I was glad 
enough to travel with their escort safely to Viterbo. From that place 
onward I had no apprehension of danger, especially as I made a 
point of travelling a few miles in front, and the best men of the 
retinue kept a good watch over me.^ I arrived by God's grace safe 
and sound at Viterbo, where my cousins and all the convent re- 
ceived me with the greatest kindness. 

^ This official in a convent was the same as cellarer or superintendent of the cellar 
and provisions. ^This was March 22, 1540. ^Tenevano molto conto di me. 
This is perhaps equivalent to held me in high esteem. But Cellini uses the same 
phrase with the meaning I have given above, in Book I, chap, Ixxxvi, 



After leaving Viterbo with the comrades I have mentioned, we 
pursued our journey on horseback, sometimes in front and some- 
times beliind the Cardinal's household. This brought us upon 
Maundy Thursday at twenty-two o'clock within one stage of Siena. 
At this place there happened to be some return-horses; and the 
people of the post were waiting for an opportunity to hire them at 
a small fee to any traveller who would take them back to the post- 
station in Siena. When I was aware of this, I dismounted from my 
horse Tornon, saddled one of the beasts with my pad and stirrups, 
and gave a giulio to the groom in waiting.' 

I left my horse under the care of my young men to bring after me, 
and rode on in front, wishing to arrive half-an-hour earlier in Siena, 
where I had some friends to visit and some business to transact. Al- 
though I went at a smart pace, I did not override the post-horse. 
When I reached Siena, I engaged good rooms at the inn for five per- 
sons, and told the groom of the house to take the horse back to the 
post, which was outside the Camollia gate; I forgot, however, to 
remove my stirrups and my pad. 

That evening of Holy Thursday we passed together with much 
gaiety; and next morning, which was Good Friday, I remembered 
my stirrups and my pad. On my sending for them, the postmaster 
replied that he did not mean to give them up, because I had over- 
ridden his horse. We exchanged messages several times, and he kept 
saying that he meant to keep them, adding expressions of intolerable 
insult. The host where I was lodging told me: "You will get off 
well if he does nothing worse than to detain your gear; for you 
must know that he is the most brutal fellow that ever disgraced 
our city, and has two sons, soldiers of great courage, who are 
even more brutal than he is. I advise you then to purchase what 
you want, and to pursue your journey without moving farther in 
this matter." 

I bought a new pair of stirrups, although I still hoped to regain 
my good pad by persuasion; and since I was very well mounted, 

' The word I have translated by "pad" above is cucino in the original. It seems 
to have been a sort of cushion flung upon the saddle, and to which the stirrups were 


and well armed with shirt and sleeves of mail, and carried an ex- 
cellent arquebuse upon my saddle-bow, I was not afraid of the 
brutality and violence which that mad beast was said to be possessed 
of. I had also accustomed my young men to carry shirts of mail, 
and had great confidence in the Roman, who, while we were in 
Rome together, had never left it off, so far as I could see; Ascanio 
too, although he was but a stripling, was in the habit of wearing one. 
Besides, as it was Good Friday, I imagined that the madnesses of 
madmen might be giving themselves a holiday. When we came to 
the Camollfa gate, I at once recognised the postmaster by the indica- 
tions given me; for he was blind of the left eye. Riding up to him 
then, and leaving my young men and companions at a little distance, 
I courteously addressed him: "Master of the post, if I assure you that 
I did not override your horse, why are you unwilling to give me 
back my pad and stirrups?" The reply he made was precisely as 
mad and brutal as had been foretold me. This roused me to ex- 
claim: "How then! are you not a Christian? or do you want upon 
Good Friday to force us both into a scandal?" He answered that 
Good Friday or the Devil's Friday was all the same to him, and that 
if I did not take myself away, he would fell me to the ground with 
a spontoon which he had taken up — me and the arquebuse I had 
my hand on. Upon hearing these truculent words, an old gentleman 
of Siena joined us; he was dressed like a citizen, and was returning 
from the religious functions proper to that day. It seems that he had 
gathered the sense of my arguments before he came up to where 
we stood; and this impelled him to rebuke the postmaster with 
warmth, taking my side, and reprimanding the man's two sons for 
not doing their duty to passing strangers; so that their manners 
were an offence to God and a disgrace to the city of Siena. The 
two young fellows wagged their heads without saying a word, and 
withdrew inside the house. Their father, stung to fury by the 
scolding of that respectable gentleman, poured out a volley of abusive 
blasphemies, and levelled his spontoon, swearing he would murder 
me. When I saw him determined to do some act of bestial violence, 
I pointed the muzzle of my arquebuse, with the objea only of keep- 


ing him at a distance. Doubly enraged by this, he flung himself upon 
me. Though I had prepared the arquebuse for my defence, I had 
not yet levelled it exactly at him; indeed it was pointed too high. 
It went off of itself; and the ball, striking the arch of the door and 
glancing backwards, wounded him in the throat, so that he fell 
dead to earth. Upon this the two young men came running out; one 
caught up a partisan from the rack which stood there, the other 
seized the spontoon of his father. Springing upon my followers, 
the one who had the spontoon smote Pagolo the Roman first above 
the left nipple. The other attacked a Milanese who was in our com- 
pany, and had the ways and manners of a perfect fool. This man 
screamed out that he had nothing in the world to do with me, and 
parried the point of the partisan with a little stick he held; but this 
availed him naught : in spite of his words and fencing, he received a 
flesh wound in the mouth. Messer Cherubino wore the habit of a 
priest; for though he was a clockmaker by trade, he held benefices 
of some value from the Pope. Ascanio, who was well armed, stood 
his ground without trying to escape, as the Milanese had done; so 
these two came off unhurt. I had set spurs to my horse, and while 
he was galloping, had charged and got my arquebuse in readiness 
again; but now I turned back, burning with fury, and meaning to 
play my part this time in earnest. I thought that my young men had 
been killed, and was resolved to die with them. The horse had not 
gone many paces when I met them riding toward me, and asked 
if they were hurt. Ascanio answered that Pagolo was wounded to 
the death. Then I said: "O Pagolo, my son, did the spontoon then 
pierce through your armour?" "No," he replied, "for I put my shirt 
of mail in the valise this morning." "So then, I suppose, one wears 
chain-mail in Rome to swagger before ladies, but where there is 
danger, and one wants it, one keeps it locked up in a portmanteau ? 
You deserve what you have got, and you are now the cause of send- 
ing me back to die here too." While I was uttering these words, I 
kept riding briskly onward; but both the young men implored me 
for the love of God to save myself and them, and not to rush on 
certain death. Just then I met Messer Cherubino and the wounded 


Milanese. The former cried out that no one was badly wounded; 
the blow given to Pagolo had only grazed the skin;^ but the old 
postmaster was stretched out dead; his sons with other folk were 
getting ready for attack, and we must almost certainly be cut to 
pieces: "Accordingly, Benvenuto, since fortune has saved us from 
this first tempest, do not tempt her again, for things may not go 
so favourably a second time." To this I replied : "If you are satisfied 
to have it thus, so also am I;" and turning to Pagolo and Ascanio, 
I said: "Strike spurs to your horses, and let us gallop to Staggia 
without stopping;^ there we shall be in safety." The wounded Mi- 
lanese groaned out: "A pox upon our peccadilloes! the sole cause 
of my misfortune was that I sinned by taking a little broth this 
morning, having nothing else to break my fast with." In spite of 
the great peril we were in, we could not help laughing a little at 
the donkey and his silly speeches. Then we set spurs to our horses, 
and left Messer Cherubino and the Milanese to follow at their 

While we were making our escape, the sons of the dead man ran 
to the Duke of Melfi, and begged for some light horsemen to catch 
us up and take us prisoners.' The Duke upon being informed that 
we were the Cardinal of Ferrara's men, refused to give them troops 
or leave to follow. We meanwhile arrived at Staggia, where we 
were in safety. There we sent for a doctor, the best who could be had 
in such a place; and on his examining Pagolo, we discovered that 
the wound was only skin-deep; so I felt sure^ that he would escape 
without mischief. Then we ordered dinner; and at this juncture 
there arrived Messer Cherubino and that Milanese simpleton, who 
kept always muttering: "A plague upon your quarrels," and com- 
plaining that he was excommunicated because he had not been able 
to say a single Paternoster on that holy morning. He was very ugly, 
and his mouth, which nature had made large, had been expanded 

^The Italian is peculiar: il colpo di Pagolo era ito tanto ritto che non era isfandato. 
^ Staggia is the next post on the way to Florence. 

' The Duke of Melfi, or Amalfi, was at this time Alfonso Piccolomini, acting as 
captain-general of the Sienese in the interests of Charles V. 

^ Cognobbi. The subject to this verb may be either Cellini or the doctor. 


at least three inches by his wound; so that what with his ludicrous 
Milanese jargon and his silly way of talking, he gave us so much 
matter for mirth, that, instead of bemoaning our ill-luck, we could 
not hold from laughing at every word he uttered. When the doctor 
wanted to sew up his wound, and had already made three stitches 
with his needle, the fellow told him to hold hard a while, since he 
did not want him out of malice to sew his whole mouth up. Then 
he took up a spoon, and said he wished to have his mouth left open 
enough to take that spoon in, in order that he might return alive to 
his own folk. These things he said with such odd waggings of the 
head, that we never stopped from laughing, and so pursued our jour- 
ney mirthfully to Florence. 

We dismounted at the house of my poor sister, who, together with 
her husband, overwhelmed us with kind attentions. Messer Cheru- 
bino and the Milanese went about their business. In Florence we 
remained four days, during which Pagolo got well. It was lucky 
for us that whenever we talked about that Milanese donkey, we 
laughed as much as our misfortunes made us weep, so that we kept 
laughing and crying both at the same moment. 

Pagolo recovered, as I have said, with ease; and then we travelled 
toward Ferrara, where we found our lord the Cardinal had not 
yet arrived. He had already heard of all our accidents, and said, 
when he expressed hi^ concern for them : "I pray to God that I may 
be allowed to bring you alive to the King, according to my promise." 
In Ferrara he sent me to reside at a palace of his, a very handsome 
place called Belfiore, close under the city walls. There he provided 
me with all things necessary for my work. A little later, he ar- 
ranged to leave for France without me; and observing that I was 
very ill pleased with this, he said to me: "Benvenuto, I am acting for 
your welfare; before I take you out of Italy, I want you to know 
exactly what you will have to do when you come to France. Mean- 
while, push on my basin and the jug with all the speed you can. I 
shall leave orders with my factor to give you everything that you 
may want." 

He then departed, and I remained sorely dissatisfied, and more 
than once I was upon the point of taking myself off without license. 
The only thing which kept me back was that he had procured my 


freedom from Pope Paolo; for the rest, I was ill-contented and put 
to considerable losses. However, I clothed my mind with the grati- 
tude due to that great benefit, and disposed myself to be patient and 
to await the termination of the business. So I set myself to work 
with my two men, and made great progress with the jug and basin. 
The air was unwholesome where we lodged, and toward summer 
we all of us suffered somewhat in our health. During our indispo- 
sition we went about inspecting the domain; it was very large, and 
left in a wild state for about a mile of open ground, haunted too 
by multitudes of peacocks, which bred and nested there like wild- 
fowl. This put it into my head to charge my gun with a noiseless 
kind of powder; then I tracked some of the young birds, and every 
other day killed one, which furnished us with abundance of meat, 
of such excellent quality that we shook our sickness off. For several 
months following we went on working merrily, and got the jug and 
basin forward; but it was a task that required much time. 


At that period the Duke of Ferrara came to terms with Pope Paul 
about some old matters in dispute between them relating to Modena 
and certain other cities. The Church having a strong claim to them, 
the Duke was forced to purchase peace by paying down an enor- 
mous sum of money; I think that it exceeded three hundred thou- 
sand ducats of the Camera. There was an old treasurer in the service 
of the Duke, who had been brought up by his father, Duke Alfonso, 
and was called Messer Girolamo Giliolo. He could not endure to see 
so much money going to the Pope, and went about the streets crying: 
"Duke Alfonso, his father, would sooner have attacked and taken 
Rome with this money than have shown it to the Pope." Nothing 
would induce him to disburse it; at last, however, the Duke com- 
pelled him to make the payments, which caused the old man such 
anguish that he sickened of a dangerous colic and was brought to 
death's door. During this man's illness the Duke sent for me, and 
bade me take his portrait; this I did upon a circular piece of black 
stone about the size of a little trencher. The Duke took so much 
pleasure in my work and conversation, that he not unfrequently 


posed through four or five hours at a stretch for his own portrait, 
and sometimes invited me to supper. It took me eight days to com- 
plete his likeness; then he ordered me to design the reverse. On it 
I modelled Peace, giving her the form of a woman with a torch in 
her hand, setting fire to a trophy of arms; I portrayed her in an atti- 
tude of gladness, with very thin drapery, and below her feet lay 
Fury in despair, downcast and sad, and loaded with chains. I de- 
voted much study and attention to this work, and it won me the 
greatest honour. The Duke was never tired of expressing his satis- 
faction, and gave me inscriptions for both sides of the medal. That 
on the reverse ran as follows: Pretiosa in conspectu Domini; it meant 
that his peace with the Pope had been dearly bought. 


While I was still engaged upon the reverse of this medal, the Car- 
dinal sent me letters bidding me prepare for my journey, since the 
King had asked after me. His next communication would contain 
full details respecting all that he had promised. Accordingly, I had 
my jug and basin packed up, after showing them to the Duke. Now 
a Ferrarese gendeman named Alberto Bendedio was the Cardinal's 
agent, and he had been twelve years confined to his house, without 
once leaving it, by reason of some physical infirmity. One day he 
sent in a vast hurry for me, saying I must take the post at once, in 
order to present myself before the King of France, who had eagerly 
been asking for me, under the impression that I was in France. By 
way of apology, the Cardinal told him that I was staying, slightly 
indisposed, in his abbey at Lyons, but that he would have me brought 
immediately to his Majesty. Therefore I must lose no time, but 
travel with the post. 

Now Messer Alberto was a man of sterling worth, but proud, and 
illness had made his haughty temper insupportable. As I have just 
said, he bade me to get ready on the spot and take the journey by 
the common post. I said that it was not the custom to pursue my 
profession in the post, and that if I had to go, it was my intention 
to make easy stages and to take with me the workmen Ascanio and 
Pagolo, whom I had brought from Rome. Moreover, I wanted a 


servant on horseback to be at my orders, and money sufficient for my 
costs upon the way. The infirm old man repUed, upon a tone of 
mighty haughtiness, that the sons of dukes were wont to travel as 
I had described, and in no other fashion. I retorted that the sons of 
my art travelled in the way I had informed him, and that not being a 
duke's son, I knew nothing about the customs of such folk; if he 
treated me to language with which my ears were unfamiliar, I would 
not go at all; the Cardinal having broken faith with me, and such 
scurvy words having been spoken, I should make my mind up once 
for all to take no further trouble with the Ferrarese. Then I turned 
my back, and, he threatening, I grumbling, took my leave. 

I next went to the Duke with my medal, which was finished. He 
received me with the highest marks of honour and esteem. It seems 
that he had given orders to Messer Girolamo Giliolo to reward me 
for my labour with a diamond ring worth two hundred crowns, 
which was to be presented by Fiaschino, his chamberlain. Accord- 
ingly, this fellow, on the evening after I had brought the medal, at 
one hour past nightfall, handed me a ring with a diamond of showy 
appearance, and spoke as follows on the part of his master: "Take 
this diamond as a remembrance of his Excellency, to adorn the 
unique artist's hand which has produced a masterpiece of so singular 
merit." When day broke, I examined the ring, and found the stone 
to be a miserable thin diamond, worth about ten crowns. I felt 
sure that the Duke had not meant to accompany such magnificent 
compliments with so trifling a gift, but that he must have intended 
to reward me handsomely. Being then convinced that the trick pro- 
ceeded from his rogue of a treasurer, I gave the ring to a friend of 
mine, begging him to return it to the chamberlain, Fiaschino, as he 
best could. The man I chose was Bernardo Saliti, who executed his 
commission admirably. Fiaschino came at once to see me, and de- 
clared, with vehement expostulations, that the Duke would take it 
very ill if I refused a present he had meant so kindly; perhaps I 
should have to repent of my waywardness. I answered that the ring 
his Excellency had given me was worth about ten crowns, and that 
the work I had done for him was worth more than two hundred. 
Wishing, however, to show his Excellency how highly I esteemed his 
courtesy, I should be happy if he bestowed on me only one of those 


rings for the cramp, which come from England and are worth ten- 
jjence.' I would treasure that so long as I lived in remembrance of 
his Excellency, together with the honourable message he had sent 
me; for I considered that the splendid favours of his Excellency had 
amply recompensed my pains, whereas that paltry stone insulted 
them. This speech annoyed the Duke so much that he sent for his 
treasurer, and scolded him more sharply than he had ever done be- 
fore. At the same time he gave me orders, under pain of his dis- 
pleasure, not to leave Ferrara without duly informing him; and com- 
manded the treasurer to present me with a diamond up to three 
hundred crowns in value. The miserly official found a stone rising 
a trifle above sixty crowns, and let it be heard that it was worth 
upwards of two hundred. 


Meanwhile Messer Alberto returned to reason, and provided me 
with all I had demanded. My mind was made up to quit Ferrara 
without fail that very day; but the Duke's attentive chamberlain 
arranged with Messer Alberto that I should get no horses then. I 
had loaded a mule with my baggage, including the case which held 
the Cardinal's jug and basin. Just then a Ferrarese nobleman named 
Messer Alfonso de' Trotti arrived.'' He was far advanced in years, 
and a person of excessive affectation; a great dilettante of the arts, 
but one of those men who are very difficult to satisfy, and who, if 
they chance to stumble on something which suits their taste, exalt it 
so in their own fancy that they never expect to see the like of it again. 
Well, this Messer Alfonso arrived, and Messer Alberto said to him: 
"I am sorry that you are come so late; the jug and basin we are 
sending to the Cardinal in France have been already packed." He 
answered that it did not signify to him; and beckoning to his serv- 
ant, sent him home to fetch a jug in white Faenzo clay, the work- 
manship of which was very exquisite. During the time the servant 
took to go and return, Messer Alfonso said to Messer Alberto: "I 
will tell you why I do not care any longer to look at vases; it is that 

^ Anello del granchio, a metal ring o£ lead and copper, such as are now worn in 
Italy under the name of anello di salute. 

^ This man was a member of a very noble Ferrarese family, and much esteemed for 
his official talents. 


I once beheld a piece of silver, antique, of such beauty and such 
finish that the human imagination cannot possibly conceive its rarity. 
Therefore I would rather not inspect any objects of the kind, for fear 
of spoiling the unique impression I retain of that. I must tell you 
that a gentleman of great quality and accomplishments, who went 
to Rome upon matters of business, had this antique vase shown to 
him in secret. By adroitly using a large sum of money, he bribed 
the person in whose hands it was, and brought it with him to these 
parts; but he keeps it jealously from all eyes, in order that the Duke 
may not get wind of it, fearing he should in some way be deprived 
of his treasure." While spinning out this lengthy yarn, Messer 
Alfonso did not look at me, because we were not previously ac- 
quainted. But when that precious clay model appeared, he displayed 
it with such airs of ostentation, pomp, and mountebank ceremony, 
that, after inspecting it, I turned to Messer Alberto and said: "I am 
indeed lucky to have had the privilege to see it!"' Messer Alfonso, 
quite affronted, let some contemptuous words escape him, and ex- 
claimed : "Who are you, then, you who do not know what you are 
saying?" I replied: "Listen for a moment, and afterwards judge 
which of us knows best what he is saying." Then turning to Messer 
Alberto, who was a man of great gravity and talent, I began : "This 
is a copy from a little silver goblet, of such and such a weight, which 
I made at such and such a time for that charlatan Maestro Jacopo, 
the surgeon from Carpi. He came to Rome and spent six months 
there, during which he bedaubed some scores of noblemen and un- 
fortunate gentlefolk with his dirty salves, extracting many thousands 
of ducats from their pockets. At that time I made for him this vase 
and one of a different pattern. He paid me very badly; and at the 
present moment in Rome all the miserable people who used his oint- 
ment are crippled and in a deplorable state of health.'' It is indeed 
great glory for me that my works are held in such repute among you 
wealthy lords; but I can assure you that during these many years 
past I have been progressing in my art with all my might, and I 
think that the vase I am taking with me into France is far more 

^ Pur beato che to I' ho vedutol LeclancW translates thus: "Par Dieu! il y a long- 
temps que je I' ai vul" I think Cellini probably meant to hint that he had seen it 

*See above, book i., p. 51, for this story. 


worthy of cardinals and kings than that piece belonging to your little 
quack doctor." 

After I had made this speech, Messer Alfonso seemed dying with 
desire to see the jug and basin, but I refused to open the box. We 
remained some while disputing the matter, when he said that he 
would go to the Duke and get an order from his Excellency to have 
it shown him. Then Messer Alberto Bendedio, in the high and 
mighty manner which belonged to him, exclaimed: "Before you 
leave this room, Messer Alfonso, you shall see it, without employing 
the Duke's influence." On hearing these words I took my leave, and 
left Ascanio and Pagolo to show it. They told me afterwards that he 
had spoken enthusiastically in my praise. After this he wanted to 
become better acquainted with me; but I was wearying to leave 
Ferrara and get away from all its folk. The only advantages I had 
enjoyed there were the society of Cardinal Salviati and the Cardinal 
of Ravenna, and the friendship of some ingenious musicians;* no 
one else had been to me of any good; for the Ferrarese are a very 
avaricious people, greedy of their neighbours' money, however they 
may lay their hands on it; they are all the same in this respect. 

At the hour of twenty-two Fiaschino arrived, and gave me the dia- 
mond of sixty crowns, of which I spoke above. He told me, with a 
hang-dog look and a few brief words, that I might wear it for his 
Excellency's sake. I replied: "I will do so." Then putting my foot in 
the stirrup in his presence, I set off upon my travels without further 
leave-taking. The man noted down my act and words, and reported 
them to the Duke, who was highly incensed, and showed a strong 
inclination to make me retrace my steps. 


That evening I rode more than ten miles, always at a trot; and 
when, upon the next day, I found myself outside the Ferrarese do- 
main, I felt excessively relieved; indeed I had met with nothing to 
my liking there, except those peacocks which restored my health. 
We journeyed by the Monsanese, avoiding the city of Milan on ac- 

' Cardinal Giovanni Salviati was Archbishop of Ferrara; Cardinal Benedetto Accolti, 
Archbishop of Ravenna, was then staying at Ferrara; the court was famous for its 
excellent orchestra and theatrical display of all kinds. 


count of the apprehension I have spoken of;' so that we arrived safe 
and sound at Lyons. Counting Pagolo and Ascanio and a servant, 
we were four men, with four very good horses. At Lyons we waited 
several days for the muleteer, who carried the silver cup and basin, 
as well as our other baggage; our lodging was in an abbey of the 
Cardinal's. When the muleteer arrived, we loaded all our goods 
upon a little cart, and then set off toward Paris. On the road we met 
with some annoyances, but not of any great moment. 

We found the Court of the King at Fontana Belio;^ there we pre- 
sented ourselves to the Cardinal, who provided us at once with lodg- 
ings, and that evening we were comfortable. On the following day 
the cart turned up; so we unpacked our things, and when the Car- 
dinal heard this he told the King, who expressed a wish to see me 
at once. I went to his Majesty with the cup and basin; then, upon 
entering his presence, I kissed his knee, and he received me very 
graciously. I thanked his Majesty for freeing me from prison, saying 
that all princes unique for generosity upon this earth, as was his 
Majesty, lay under special obligations to set free men of talent, and 
particularly those that were innocent, as I was; such benefits, I added, 
were inscribed upon the book of God before any other good actions. 
The King, while I was delivering this speech, continued listening 
till the end with the utmost courtesy, dropping a few words such as 
only he could utter. Then he took the vase and basin, and exclaimed: 
"Of a truth I hardly think the ancients can have seen a piece so 
beautiful as this. I well remember to have inspected all the best 
works, and by the greatest masters of all Italy, but I never set my 
eyes on anything which stirred me to such admiration." These 
words the King addressed in French to the Cardinal of Ferrara, with 
many others of even warmer praise. Then he turned to me and said 
in Italian: "Benvenuto, amuse yourself for a few days, make good 
cheer, and spend your time in pleasure; in the meanwhile we will 
think of giving you the wherewithal to execute some fine works 
of art for us." 

' The Monsanese is the Mont Cenis. Cellini forgets that he has not mentioned this 
apprehension which made him turn aside from Milan. It may have been the fear 
of plague, or perhaps of some enemy. 

^It is thus that Cellini always writes Fontainebleau. 


The Cardinal of Ferrara saw that the King had been vastly pleased 
by my arrival; he also judged that the trifles which I showed him of 
my handicraft had encouraged him to hope for the execution of some 
considerable things he had in mind. At this time, however, we were 
following the court with the weariest trouble and fatigue; the reason 
of this was that the train of the King drags itself along with never 
less than 12,000 horse behind it; this calculation is the very lowest; 
for when the court is complete in times of peace, there are some 
18,000, which makes 12,000 less than the average. Consequently we 
had to journey after it through places where sometimes there were 
scarcely two houses to be found; and then we set up canvas tents like 
gipsies, and suffered at times very great discomfort. I therefore kept 
urging the Cardinal to put the King in mind of employing me in 
some locality where I could stop and work. The Cardinal answered 
that it was far better to wait until the King should think of it him- 
self, and that I ought to show myself at times to his Majesty while 
he was at table. This I did then; and one morning, at his dinner, 
the King called me. He began to talk to me in Italian, saying he 
had it in his mind to execute several great works, and that he would 
soon give orders where I was to labour, and provide me with all 
necessaries. These communications he mingled with discourse on 
divers pleasant matters. The Cardinal of Ferrara was there, because 
he almost always ate in the morning at the King's table. He had 
heard our conversation, and when the King rose, he spoke in my 
favour to this purport, as I afterwards was informed: "Sacred 
Majesty, this man Benvenuto is very eager to get to work again; it 
seems almost a sin to let an artist of his abilities waste his time." The 
King replied that he had spoken well, and told him to arrange with 
me all things for my support according to my wishes. 

Upon the evening of the day when he received this commission, 
the Cardinal sent for me after supper, and told me that his Majesty 
was resolved to let me begin working, but that he wanted me first 
to come to an understanding about my appointments. To this the 
Cardinal added : "It seems to me that if his Majesty allows you three 
hundred crowns a year, you will be able to keep yourself very well 


indeed; furthermore, I advise you to leave yourself in my hands, for 
every day offers the opportunity of doing some service in this great 
kingdom, and I shall exert myself with vigour in your interest." 
Then I began to speak as follows: "When your most reverend lord- 
ship left me in Ferrara, you gave me a promise, which I had never 
asked for, not to bring me out of Italy before I clearly understood 
the terms on which I should be placed here with his Majesty. Instead 
of sending to communicate these details, your most reverend lord- 
ship urgently ordered me to come by the post, as if an art like mine 
was carried on post-haste. Had you written to tell me of three 
hundred crowns, as you have now spoken, I would not have stirred 
a foot for twice that sum. Nevertheless, I thank God and your most 
reverend lordship for all things, seeing God has employed you £>s 
the instrument for my great good in procuring my liberation from 
imprisonment. Therefore I assure your lordship that all the troubles 
you are now causing me fall a thousand times short of the great 
good which you have done me. With all my heart I thank you, and 
take good leave of you; wherever I may be, so long as I have life, I 
will pray God for you." The Cardinal was greatly irritated, and 
cried out in a rage: "Go where you choose; it is impossible to help 
people against their will." Some of his good-for-nothing courtiers 
who were present said: "That fellow sets great store on himself, for 
he is refusing three hundred ducats a year." Another, who was a 
man of talent, replied: "The King will never find his equal, and our 
Cardinal wants to cheapen him, as though he were a load of wood." 
This was Messer Luigi Alamanni who spoke to the above effect, as 
I was afterwards informed. All this happened on the last day of 
October, in Dauphine, at a castle the name of which I do not 


On leaving the Cardinal I repaired to my lodging, which was 
three miles distant, in company with a secretary of the Cardinal 
returning to the same quarters. On the road, this man never stopped 
asking me what I meant to do with myself, and what my own terms 
regarding the appointment would have been. I gave him only one 
word back for answer which was that— I knew all. When we came 


to our quarters, I found Pagolo and Ascanio there; and seeing me 
much troubled, they implored me to tell them what was the matter. 
To the poor young men, who were all dismayed, I said for answer: 
"To-morrow I shall give you money amply sufficient for your 
journey home. I mean myself to go about a most important business 
without you, which for a long time I have had it in my mind to do." 
Our room adjoined that of the secretary; and I think it not improb- 
able that he wrote to the Cardinal, and informed him of my pur- 
pose. However, I never knew anything for certain about this. The 
night passed without sleep, and I kept wearying for the day, in 
order to carry out my resolution. 

No sooner did it dawn than I ordered out the horses, made my 
preparations in a moment, and gave the two young men everything 
which I had brought with me, and fifty ducats of gold in addition. 
I reserved the same sum for myself, together with the diamond the 
Duke had given me; I only kept two shirts and some well-worn 
riding-clothes which I had upon my back. I found it almost impos- 
sible to get free of the two young men, who insisted upon going 
with me, whatever happened. At last I was obliged to treat them 
with contempt, and use this language: "One of you has his first 
beard, and the other is just getting it; and both of you have learned 
as much from me as I could teach in my poor art, so that you are 
now the first craftsmen among the youths of Italy. Are you not 
ashamed to have no courage to quit this go-cart, but must always 
creep about in leading-strings? The thing is too disgraceful! Or if 
I were to send you away without money, what would you say then ? 
Come, take yourselves out of my sight, and may God bless you a 
thousand times. Farewell!" 

I turned my horse and left them weeping. Then I took my way 
along a very fair road through a forest, hoping to make at least 
forty miles that day, and reach the most out-of-the-way place I 
could. I had already ridden about two miles, and during that short 
time had resolved never to revisit any of those parts where I was 
known. I also determined to abandon my art so soon as I had made 
a Christ three cubits in height, reproducing, so far as I was able, that 
infinite beauty which He had Himself revealed to me. So then, 
being thoroughly resolved, I turned my face toward the Holy 


Sepulchre.' Just when I thought I had got so far that nobody could 
find me, I heard horses galloping after. They filled me with some 
uneasiness, because that district is infested with a race of brigands, 
who bear the name of Venturers, and are apt to murder men upon 
the road. Though numbers of them are hanged every day, it seems 
as though they did not care. However, when the riders approached, 
I found they were a messenger from the King and my lad Ascanio. 
The former came up to me and said: "From the King I order you 
to come immediately to his presence." I replied : "You have been sent 
by the Cardinal, and for this reason I will not come." The man said 
that since gentle usage would not bring me, he had authority to 
raise the folk, and they would take me bound hand and foot like a 
prisoner. Ascanio, for his part, did all he could to persuade me, 
reminding me that when the King sent a man to prison, he kept 
him there five years at least before he let him out again. This word 
about the prison, when I remembered what I had endured in Rome, 
struck such terror into me, that I wheeled my horse round briskly 
and followed the King's messenger. He kept perpetually chattering 
in French through all our journey, up to the very precincts of the 
court, at one time bullying, now saying one thing, then another, till 
I felt inclined to deny God and the world. 


On our way to the lodgings of the King we passed before those of 
the Cardinal of Ferrara. Standing at his door, he called to me and 
said: "Our most Christian monarch has of his own accord assigned 
you the same appointments which his Majesty allowed the painter 
Lionardo da Vinci, that is, a salary of seven hundred crowns; in 
addition, he will pay you for all the works you do for him; also for 
your journey hither he gives you five hundred golden crowns, which 
will be paid you before you quit this place." At the end of this 
announcement, I replied that those were offers worthy of the great 
King he was. The messenger, not knowing anything about me, and 
hearing what splendid offers had been made me by the King, begged 
my pardon over and over again. Pagolo and Ascanio exclaimed: 
"It is God who has helped us to get back into so honoured a go-cart!" 
' See above, p, 240, for Cellini's vow in the Castle of S. Angelo. 


On the day following I went to thank the King, who ordered me 
to make the models of twelve silver statues, which were to stand as 
candelabra round his table. He wanted them to represent six gods 
and six goddesses, and to have exactly the same height as his Majesty, 
which was a trifle under four cubits. Having dictated this commis- 
sion, he turned to his treasurer, and asked whether he had paid me 
the five hundred crowns. The official said that he had received no 
orders to that effect. The King took this very ill, for he had requested 
the Cardinal to speak to him about it. Furthermore, he told me to 
go to Paris and seek out a place to live in, fitted for the execution of 
such work; he would see that I obtained it. 

I got the live hundred crowns of gold, and took up my quarters 
at Paris in a house of the Cardinal of Ferrara. There I began, in 
God's name, to work, and fashioned four little waxen models, about 
two-thirds of a cubit each in height. They were Jupiter, Juno, Apollo, 
and Vulcan. In this while the King returned to Paris; whereupon 
I went to him at once, taking my models with me, and my" two 
prentices, Ascanio and Pagolo. On perceiving that the King was 
pleased with my work, and being commissioned to execute the 
Jupiter in silver of the height above described, I introduced the two 
young men, and said that I had brought them with me out of Italy 
to serve his Majesty; for inasmuch as they had been brought up by 
me, I could at the beginning get more help from them than from 
the Paris workmen. To this the King replied that I might name a 
salary which I thought sufficient for their maintenance. I said that 
a hundred crowns of gold apiece would be quite proper, and that 
I would make them earn their wages well. This agreement was 
concluded. Then I said that I had found a place which seemed to 
me exactly suited to my industry; it was his Majesty's own property, 
and called the Little Nello. The Provost of Paris was then in 
possession of it from his Majesty; but since the Provost made no 
use of the castle, his Majesty perhaps might grant it me to employ 
in his service.' He replied upon the instant: "That place is my own 
house, and I know well that the man I gave it to does not inhabit or 
use it. So you shall have it for the work you have to do." He then 

' This was the castle of Le Petit Nesle, on the site of which now stands the Palace 
of the Institute. The Provost of Paris was then Jean d'Estouteville, lord of Villebon. 


told his lieutenant to install me in the Nello. This officer made some 
resistance, pleading that he could not carry out the order. The King 
answered in anger that he meant to bestow his property on whom he 
pleased, and on a man who would serve him, seeing that he got 
nothing from the other; therefore he would hear no more about it. 
The lieutenant then submitted that some small force would have 
to be employed in order to effect an entrance. To which the King 
answered: "Go, then, and if a small force is not enough, use a 
great one." 

The officer took me immediately to the casde, and there put me 
in possession, not, however, without violence; after that he warned 
me to take very good care that I was not murdered. I installed 
myself, enrolled serving-men, and bought a quantity of pikes and 
partisans; but I remained for several days exposed to grievous annoy- 
ances, for the Provost was a great nobleman of Paris, and all the 
other gentlefolk took part against me; they attacked me with such 
insults that I could hardly hold my own against them. I must not 
omit to mention that I entered the service of his Majesty in the year 
1540, which was exacdy the year in which I reached the age of 


The affronts and insults I received made me have recourse to the 
King, begging his Majesty to establish me in some other place. He 
answered: "Who are you, and what is your name?" I remained in 
great confusion, and could not comprehend what he meant. Holding 
my tongue thus, the King repeated the same words a second time 
angrily. Then I said my name was Benvenuto. "If, then, you are 
the Benvenuto of whom I have heard," replied the King, "act 
according to your wont, for you have my full leave to do so." I told 
his Majesty that all I wanted was to keep his favour; for the rest, 
I knew of nothing that could harm me. He gave a little laugh, and 
said: "Go your ways, then; you shall never want my favour." Upon 
this he told his first secretary, Monsignor di Villerois, to see me 
provided and accommodated with all I needed.' 

This Villerois was an intimate friend of the Provost, to whom the 
■ M. Nicholas de Neufville, lord of Villeroy. 


castle had been given. It was built in a triangle, right up against 
the city walls, and was of some antiquity, but had no garrison. The 
building was of considerable size. Monsignor di Villerois counselled 
me to look about for something else, and by all means to leave this 
place alone, seeing that its owner was a man of vast power, who 
would most assuredly have me killed. I answered that I had come 
from Italy to France only in order to serve that illustrious King; 
and as for dying, I knew for certain that die I must; a little earlier 
or a httle later was a matter of supreme indifference to me. 

Now Villerois was a man of the highest talent, exceptionally 
distinguished in all points, and possessed of vast wealth. There was 
nothing he would not gladly have done to harm me, but he made 
no open demonstration of his mind. He was grave, and of a noble 
presence, and spoke slowly, at his ease. To another gentleman, 
Monsignor di Marmagna, the treasurer of Languedoc, he left the 
duty of molesting me.^ The first thing which this man did was to 
look out the best apartments in the castle, and to have them fitted up 
for himself. I told him that the King had given me the place to serve 
him in, and that I did not choose it should be occupied by any but 
myself and my attendants. The fellow, who was haughty, bold, and 
spirited, replied that he meant to do just what he liked; that I should 
run my head against a wall if I presumed to oppose him, and that 
Villerois had given him authority to do what he was doing. I told 
him that, by the King's authority given to me, neither he nor 
Villerois could do it. When I said that he gave vent to offensive 
language in French, whereat I retorted in my own tongue that he 
lied. Stung with rage, he clapped his hand upon a little dagger 
which he had; then I set my hand also to a large dirk which I always 
wore for my defence, and cried out: "If you dare to draw, I'll kill 
you on the spot." He had two servants to back him, and I had my 
two lads. For a moment or two Marmagna stood in doubt, not 
knowing exactly what to do, but rather inclined to mischief, and 
muttering: "I will never put up with such insults." Seeing then 
that the affair was taking a bad turn, I took a sudden resolution, and 
cried to Pagolo and Ascanio: "When you see me draw my dirk, 
throw yourselves upon those serving-men, and kill them if you can; 
* Francois I'Allemand, Seigneur de Marmagne. 


I mean to kill tliis fellow at the first stroke, and then we will decamp 
together, with God's grace." Marmagna, when he understood my 
purpose, was glad enough to get alive out of the castle. 

All these things, toning them down a trifle, I wrote to the Cardinal 
of Ferrara, who related them at once to the King. The King, deeply 
irritated, committed me to the care of another officer of his body- 
guard who was named Monsignor lo Iscontro d'Orbech.' By him I 
was accommodated with all that I required in the most gracious 
way imaginable. 


After fitting up my own lodgings in the castle and the workshop 
with all conveniences for carrying on my business, and putting my 
household upon a most respectable footing, I began at once to con- 
struct three models exactly of the size which the silver statues were 
to be. These were Jupiter, Vulcan and Mars. I moulded them in 
clay, and set them well up on irons; then I went to the King, who 
disbursed three hundred pounds weight of silver, if I remember 
rightly, for the commencement of the undertaking. While I was 
getting these things ready, we brought the little vase and oval basin 
to completion, which had been several months in hand. Then I had 
them richly gilt, and they showed like the finest piece of plate which 
had been seen in France. 

Afterwards I took them to the Cardinal, who thanked me greatly; 
and, without requesting my attendance, carried and presented them 
to the King. He was delighted with the gift, and praised me as no 
artist was ever praised before. In return, he bestowed upon the 
Cardinal an abbey worth seven thousand crowns a year, and 
expressed his intention of rewarding me too. The Cardinal, how- 
ever, prevented him, telling his Majesty that he was going ahead 
too fast, since I had as yet produced nothing for him. The King, 
who was exceedingly generous, replied: "For that very reason will 
I put heart and hope into him." The Cardinal, ashamed at his own 
meanness, said: "Sire, I beg you to leave that to me; I will allow 
him a pension of at least three hundred crowns when I have taken 
possession of the abbey." He never gave me anything; and it 
2 Le Vicomte d'Orbec. It seems that by Iscontro Cellini meant Viscount. 


would be tedious to relate all the knavish tricks of this prelate. I 
prefer to dwell on matters of greater moment. 


When I returned to Paris, the great favour shown me by the King 
made me a mark for all men's admiration. I received the silver and 
began my statue of Jupiter. Many journeymen were now in my 
employ; and the work went onward briskly day and night; so that, 
by the time I had finished the clay models of Jupiter, Vulcan, and 
Mars, and had begun to get the silver statue forward, my workshop 
made already a grand show. 

The King now came to Paris, and I went to pay him my respects. 
No sooner had his Majesty set eyes upon me than he called me cheer- 
fully, and asked if I had something fine to exhibit at my lodging, for 
he would come to inspect it. I related all I had been doing; upon 
which he was seized with a strong desire to come. Accordingly, 
after his dinner, he set off with Madame de Tampes, the Cardinal of 
Lorraine, and some other of his greatest nobles, among whom were 
the King of Navarre, his cousin, and the Queen, his sister; the 
Dauphin and Dauphiness also attended him; so that upon that day 
the very flower of the French court came to visit me.' I had been 
some time at home, and was hard at work. When the King arrived 
at the door of the castle, and heard our hammers going, he bade his 
company keep silence. Everybody in my house was busily employed, 
so that the unexpected entrance of his Majesty took me by surprise. 
The first thing he saw on coming into the great hall was myself 
with a huge plate of silver in my hand, which I was beating for the 
body of my Jupiter; one of my men was finishing the head, another 
the legs; and it is easy to imagine what a din we made between us. 
It happened that a little French lad was working at my side, who 
had just been guilty of some trifling blunder. I gave the lad a kick, 
and, as my good luck would have it, caught him with my foot 
exactly in the fork between his legs, and sent him spinning several 
yards, so that he came stumbling up against the King precisely at 

'These personages were Madame d'Etampes, the King's mistress; John of Lorraine, 
son of Duke Reni5e II., who was made Cardinal in 1518; Henri d'Albret II. and 
Marguerite de Valois, his wife; the Dauphin, afterwards Henri II., and his wife, the 
celebrated Caterina de' Medici, daughter of Lorenzo, Duke of Urbino. 


the moment when his Majesty arrived. The King was vastly amused, 
but I felt covered with confusion. He began to ask me what I was 
engaged upon, and told me to go on working; then he said that he 
would much rather have me not employ my strength on manual 
labour, but take as many men as I wanted, and make them do the 
rough work; he should like me to keep myself in health, in order 
that he might enjoy my services through many years to come. I 
replied to his Majesty that the moment I left off working I should 
fall ill; also that my art itself would suffer, and not attain the mark 
I aimed at for his Majesty. Thinking that I spoke thus only to brag, 
and not because it was the truth, he made the Cardinal of Lorraine 
repeat what he had said; but I explained my reasons so fully and 
clearly, that the Cardinal perceived my drift; he then advised the 
King to let me labour as much or little as I liked. 


Being very well satisfied with what he had seen, the King returned 
to his palace, after bestowing on me too many marks of favour to be 
here recorded. On the following day he sent for me at his dinner- 
hour. The Cardinal of Ferrara was there at meat with him. When 
I arrived, the King had reached his second course; he began at once 
to speak to me, saying, with a pleasant cheer, that having now so 
fine a basin and jug of my workmanship, he wanted an equally 
handsome salt-cellar to match them; and begged me to make a 
design, and to lose no time about it. I replied: "Your Majesty shall 
see a model of the sort even sooner than you have commanded; for 
while I was making the basin, I thought there ought to be a salt- 
cellar to match it; therefore I have already designed one, and if it is 
your pleasure, I will at once exhibit my conception." The King 
turned with a lively movement of surprise and pleasure to the lords 
in his company — they were the King of Navarre, the Cardinal of 
Lorraine, and the Cardinal of Ferrara — exclaiming as he did so: 
"Upon my word, this is a man to be loved and cherished by every 
one who knows him." Then he told me that he would very gladly 
see my model. 

I set off, and returned in a few minutes; for I had only to cross 
the river, that is, the Seine. I carried with me the wax model which 


I had made in Rome at the Cardinal of Ferrara's request. When I 
appeared again before the King and uncovered my piece, he cried 
out in astonishment: "This is a hundred times more divine a thing 
than I had ever dreamed of. What a miracle of a man! He ought 
never to stop working." Then he turned to me with a beaming 
countenance, and told me that he greatly liked the piece, and 
wished me to execute it in gold. The Cardinal of Ferrara looked 
me in the face, and let me understand that he recognised the model 
as the same which I had made for him in Rome. I replied that I 
had already told him I should carry it out for one who was worthy 
of it. The Cardinal, remembering my words, and nettled by the 
revenge he thought that I was taking on him, remarked to the King: 
"Sire, this is an enormous undertaking; I am only afraid that we 
shall never see it finished. These able artists who have great con- 
ceptions in their brain are ready enough to put the same in execution 
without duly considering when they are to be accomplished. I 
therefore, if I gave commission for things of such magnitude, should 
like to know when I was likely to get them." The King replied 
that if a man was so scrupulous about the termination of a work, 
he would never begin anything at all; these words he uttered with 
a certain look, which implied that such enterprises were not for 
folk of little spirit. I then began to say my say: "Princes who put 
heart and courage in their servants, as your Majesty does by deed 
and word, render undertakings of the greatest magnitude quite easy. 
Now that God has sent ma so magnificent a patron, I hope to 
perform for him a multitude of great and splendid master-pieces." 
"I believe it," said the King, and rose from table. Then he called me 
into his chamber, and asked me how much gold was wanted for 
the salt-cellar. "A thousand crowns," I answered. He called his 
treasurer at once, who was the Viscount of Orbec, and ordered him 
that very day to disburse to me a thousand crowns of good weight 
and old gold. 

When I left his Majesty, I went for the two notaries who had 
helped me in procuring silver for the Jupiter and many other things. 
Crossing the Seine, I then took a small hand-basket, which one of my 
cousins, a nun, had given me on my journey through Florence. It 
made for my good fortune that I took this basket and not a bag. 


So then, thinking I could do the business by daylight, for it was still 
early, and not caring to interrupt my workmen, and being indisposed 
to take a servant with me, I set off alone. When I reached the house 
of the treasurer, I found that he had the money laid out before him, 
and was selecting the best pieces as the King had ordered. It seemed 
to me, however, that that thief of a treasurer was doing all he could 
to postpone the payment of the money; nor were the pieces counted 
out until three hours after nightfall. 

I meanwhile was not wanting in despatch, for I sent word to 
several of my journeymen that they should come and attend me, 
since the matter was one of serious importance. When I found that 
they did not arrive, I asked the messenger if he had done my errand. 
The rascal of a groom whom I had sent replied that he had done so, 
but that they had answered that they could not come; he, however, 
would gladly carry the money for me. I answered that I meant to 
carry the money myself. By this time the contract was drawn up 
and signed. On the money being counted, I put it all into my little 
basket, and then thrust my arm through the two handles. Since I 
did this with some difficulty, the gold was well shut in, and I carried 
it more conveniently than if the vehicle had been a bag. I was well 
armed with shirt and sleeves of mail, and having my sword and 
dagger at my side, made off along the street as quick as my two legs 
would carry me. 


Just as I left the house, I observed some servants whispering 
among themselves, who also went off at a round pace in another 
direction from the one I took. Walking with all haste, I passed the 
bridge of the Exchange,' and went up along a wall beside the river 
which led to my lodging in the castle. I had just come to the 
Augustines — now this was a very perilous passage, and though it was 
only five hundred paces distant from my dwelling, yet the lodging in 
the castle being quite as far removed inside, no one could have 
heard my voice if I had shouted — when I saw four men with four 
swords in their hands advancing to attack me.^ My resolution was 

' The Pont du Change, replaced by the Pont Neuf. 

^The excitement of his recollection makes Cellini more than usually incoherent 
about this episode. The translator has to collect the whole sense of the passage. 


taken in an instant. I covered the basket with my cape, drew my 
sword, and seeing that they were pushing hotly forward, cried aloud: 
"With soldiers there is only the cape and sword to gain; and these, 
before I give them up, I hope you'll get not much to your advantage." 
Then crossing my sword boldly with them, I more than once spread 
out my arms, in order that, if the ruffians were put on by the servants 
who had seen me take my money, they might be led to judge I was 
not carrying it. The encounter was soon over; for they retired step 
by step, saying among themselves in their own language: "This is a 
brave Italian, and certainly not the man we are after; or if he be the 
man, he cannot be carrying anything." I spoke Italian, and kept 
harrying them with thrust and slash so hotly that I narrowly missed 
killing one or the other. My skill in using the sword made them 
think I was a soldier rather than a fellow of some other calling. They 
drew together and began to fall back, muttering all the while beneath 
their breath in their own tongue. I meanwhile continued always 
calling out, but not too loudly, that those who wanted my cape and 
blade would have to get them with some trouble. Then I quickened 
pace, while they still followed slowly at my heels; this augmented 
my fear, for I thought I might be falling into an ambuscade, which 
would have cut me off in front as well as rear. Accordingly, when 
I was at the distance of a hundred paces from my home, I ran with 
all my might, and shouted at the top of my voice: "To arms, to arms! 
out with you, out with you! I am being murdered." In a moment 
four of my young men came running, with four pikes in their hands. 
They wanted to pursue the ruffians, who could still be seen; but I 
stopped them, calling back so as to let the villains hear: "Those 
cowards yonder, four against one man alone, had not pluck enough 
to capture a thousand golden crowns in metal, which have almost 
broken this arm of mine. Let us haste inside and put the money 
away; then I will take my big two-handed sword, and go with you 
whithersoever you like." We went inside to secure the gold; and my 
lads, while expressing deep concern for the peril I had run, gently 
chided me, and said: "You risk yourself too much alone; the time 
will come when you will make us all bemoan your loss." A thousand 
words and exclamations were exchanged between us; my adversaries 
took to flight; and we all sat down and supped together with mirth 


and gladness, laughing over those great blows which fortune strikes, 
for good as well as evil, and which, what time they do not hit the 
mark, are just the same as though they had not happened.' It is very 
true that one says to oneself: "You will have had a lesson for next 
time." But that is not the case; for fortune always comes upon us in 
new ways, quite unforeseen by our imagination, 


On the morning which followed these events, I made the first step 
in my work upon the great salt<ellar, pressing this and my other 
pieces forward with incessant industry. My workpeople at this time, 
who were pretty numerous, included both sculptors and goldsmiths. 
They belonged to several nations, Italian, French, and German; for 
I took the best I could find, and changed them often, retaining only 
those who knew their business well. These select craftsmen I worked 
to the bone with perpetual labour. They wanted to rival me; but I 
had a better constitution. Consequently, in their inability to bear up 
against such a continuous strain, they took to eating and drinking 
copiously, some of the Germans in particular, who were more skilled 
than their comrades, and wanted to march apace with me, sank 
under these excesses, and perished. 

While I was at work upon the Jupiter, I noticed that I had plenty 
of silver to spare. So I took in hand, without consulting the King, to 
make a great two-handled vase, about one cubit and a half in height. 
I also conceived the notion of casting the large model of my Jupiter 
in bronze. Having up to this date done nothing of the sort, I con- 
ferred with certain old men experienced in that art at Paris, and 
described to them the methods in use with us in Italy. They told 
me they had never gone that way about the business; but that if I 
gave them leave to act upon their own principles, they would bring 
the bronze out as clean and perfect as the clay. I chose to strike an 
agreement, throwing on them the responsibility, and promising 
several crowns above the price they bargained for. Thereupon they 
put the work in progress; but I soon saw that they were going the 
wrong way about it, and began on my own account a head of Julius 
Caesar, bust and armour, much larger than the life, which I modelled 

'Cellini's philosophy is summed up in the proverb: "A miss is as good as a mile." 


from a reduced copy of a splendid antique portrait I had brought 
with me from Rome. I also undertook another head of the same size, 
studied from a very handsome girl, whom I kept for my own 
pleasures. I called this Fontainebleau, after the place selected by 
the King for his particular delight. 

We constructed an admirable little furnace for the casting of the 
bronze, got all things ready, and baked our moulds; those French 
masters undertaking the Jupiter, while I looked after my two heads. 
Then I said: "I do not think you will succeed with your Jupiter, 
because you have not provided sufficient vents beneath for the air to 
circulate; therefore you are but losing your time and trouble." They 
replied that, if their work proved a failure, they would pay back the 
money I had given on account, and recoup me for current expenses; 
but they bade me give good heed to my own proceedings,' for the fine 
heads I meant to cast in my Italian fashion would never succeed. 

At this dispute between us there were present the treasurers and 
other gentlefolk commissioned by the King to superintend my pro- 
ceedings. Everything which passed by word or act was duly reported 
to his Majesty. The two old men who had undertaken to cast my 
Jupiter postponed the experiment, saying they would like to arrange 
the moulds of my two heads. They argued that, according to my 
method, no success could be expected, and it was a pity to waste 
such fine models. When the King was informed of this, he sent 
word that they should give their minds to learning, and not try to 
teach their master. 

So then they put their own piece into the furnace with much 
laughter; while I, maintaining a firm carriage, showing neither 
mirth nor anger (though I felt it), placed my two heads, one on each 
side of the Jupiter. The metal came all right to melting, and we let 
it in with joy and gladness; it filled the mould of the Jupiter most 
admirably, and at the same time my two heads. This furnished them 
with matter for rejoicing and me with satisfaction; for I was not 
sorry to have predicted wrongly of their work, and they made as 
though they were delighted to have been mistaken about mine. 
Then, as the custom in France is, they asked to drink, in high good 

'Ma che to guardassi bene, che. Ere. This is perhaps: but they bade me note well 


spirits. I was very willing, and ordered a handsome collation tor 
their entertainment. When this was over, they requested me to pay 
the money due to them and the surplus I had promised. I replied: 
"You have been laughing over what, I fear, may make you weep. On 
reflection, it seems to me that too much metal flowed into your 
mould. Therefore I shall wait until to-morrow before I disburse 
more money." The poor fellows swallowed my words and chewed 
the cud of them; then they went home without further argument. 

At daybreak they began, quite quietly, to break into the pit of the 
furnace. They could not uncover their large mould until they had 
extracted my two heads; these were in excellent condition, and they 
placed them where they could be well seen. When they came to 
Jupiter, and had dug but scarcely two cubits, they sent up such a 
yell, they and their four workmen, that it woke me up. Fancying 
it was a shout of triumph, I set off running, for my bedroom was at 
the distance of more than five hundred paces. On reaching the spot, 
I found them looking like the guardians of Christ's sepulchre in a 
picture, downcast and terrified. Casting a hasty glance upon my 
two heads, and seeing they were all right, I tempered my annoyance 
with the pleasure that sight gave me. Then they began to make 
excuses, crying: " Our bad luck!" I retorted: "Your luck has been 
most excellent, but what has been indeed bad is your deficiency of 
knowledge; had I only seen you put the souP into your mould, I 
could have taught you with one word how to cast the figure without 
fault. This would have brought me great honour and you much 
profit. I shall be able to make good my reputation; but you will now 
lose both your honour and your profit. Let then this lesson teach 
you another time to work, and not to poke fun at your masters." 

They prayed me to have pity on them, confessing I was right, but 
pleading that, unless I helped them, the costs they had to bear and 
the loss they had sustained would turn them and their families upon 
the streets a-begging. I answered that if the King's treasurers obliged 
them to pay according to their contract, I would defray the cost out 
of my own purse, because I saw that they had honestly and heartily 

^I have here translated the Italian anima literally by the English word soul. It is 
a technical expression, signifying the block, somewhat smaller than the mould, which 
bronze-founders insert in order to obtain a hollow, and not a solid cast from the 
mould which gives form to their liquid metal. 


performed their task according to their knowledge. This way o£ 
mine in dealing with them raised the good-will of the King's 
treasurers and other officers toward me to a pitch which cannot be 
described. The whole affair was written to his Majesty, who being 
without a paragon for generosity, gave directions that all I ordered 
in this matter should be done. 


About this time the illustrious soldier Piero Strozzi arrived in 
France, and reminded the King that he had promised him letters of 
naturalisation. These were accordingly made out; and at the same 
time the King said: "Let them be also given to Benvenuto, mon ami, 
and take them immediately to his house, and let him have them 
without the payment of any fees." Those of the great Strozzi' cost 
him several hundred ducats: mine were brought me by one of the 
King's chief secretaries, Messer Antonio Massone.^ This gentleman 
presented them with many expressions of kindness from his Majesty, 
saying: "The King makes you a gift of these, in order that you may 
be encouraged to serve him; they are letters of naturalisation." Then 
he told me how they had been given to Piero Strozzi at his particular 
request, and only after a long time of waiting, as a special mark of 
favour; the King had sent mine of his own accord, and such an act 
of grace had never been heard of in that realm before. When I 
heard these words, I thanked his Majesty with heartiness; but I 
begged the secretary to have the kindness to tell me what letters of 
naturalisation meant. He was a man accomplished and polite, who 
spoke Italian excellently. At first my question made him laugh; then 
he recovered his gravity, and told me in my own language what the 
papers signified, adding that they conferred one of the highest dig- 
nities a foreigner could obtain: "indeed, it is a far greater honour 
than to be made a nobleman of Venice." 

When he left me, he returned and told his Majesty, who laughed 
awhile, and then said: "Now I wish him to know my object in 
sending those letters of naturalisation. Go and install him lord of 

' Piero was the son of Filippo Strozzi, and the general who lost the battle of Monte- 
murlo, so disastrous to the Florentine exiles, in 1537. 

^ Antoine le Mafon, secretary to Margaret of Navarre. He translated the Decameron 
at her instance into French. 


the castle of the Little Nello, where he lives, and which is a part of 
my demesne. He will know what that means better than he under- 
stood about the letters of naturalisation." A messenger brought me 
the patent, upon which I wanted to give him a gratuity. He refused 
to accept it, saying that his Majesty had so ordered. These letters of 
naturalisation, together with the patent for the castle, I brought with 
me when I returned to Italy; wherever I go and wherever I may end 
my days, I shall endeavour to preserve them.' 


I shall now proceed with the narration of my life. I had on hand 
the following works already mentioned, namely, the silver Jupiter, 
the golden salt-cellar, the great silver vase, and the two bronze heads. 
I also began to cast the pedestal for Jupiter, which I wrought very 
richly in bronze, covered with ornaments, among which was a bas- 
relief, representing the rape of Ganymede, and on the other side Leda 
and the Swan. On casting this piece it came out admirably. I also 
made another pedestal of the same sort for the statue of Juno, intend- 
ing to begin that too, if the King gave me silver for the purpose. By 
working briskly I had put together the silver Jupiter and the golden 
salt-cellar; the vase was far advanced; the two bronze heads were 
finished. I had also made several litde things for the Cardinal of 
Ferrara, and a small silver vase of rich workmanship, which I meant 
to present to Madame d'Etampes. Several Italian noblemen, to wit, 
Signor Piero Strozzi, the Count of Anguillara, the Count of 
Pitigliano, the Count of Mirandola, and many others, gave me 
employment also.' 

For my great King, as I have said, I had been working strenu- 
ously, and the third day after he returned to Paris, he came to my 
house, attended by a crowd of his chief nobles. He marvelled to 
find how many pieces I had advanced, and with what excellent 
results. His mistress, Madame d'Etampes, being with him, they 
began to talk of Fontainebleau. She told his Majesty he ought to 

' The letter of naturalisation exists. See Bianchi, p. 583. For the grant of the castle, 
see ibid., p. 585. 

■ Anguillara and Pitigliano were fiefs of two separate branches of the Orsini family. 
The house of Pico lost their lordship of Mirandola in 1536, when Galeotto Pico 
took refuge with his sons in France. His descendants renewed their hold upon the 
fief, which was erected into a duchy in 161 9. 


commission me to execute something beautiful for the decoration of 
his favourite residence. He answered on the instant: "You say well, 
and here upon the spot I will make up my mind what I mean him 
to do." Then he turned to me, and asked me what I thought would 
be appropriate for that beautiful fountain.^ I suggested several ideas, 
and his Majesty expressed his own opinion. Afterwards he said that 
he was going to spend fifteen or twenty days at San Germano del 
Aia,' a place twelve leagues distant from Paris; during his absence he 
wished me to make a model for that fair fountain of his in the 
richest style I could invent, seeing he delighted in that residence 
more than in anything else in his whole realm. Accordingly he 
commanded and besought me to do my utmost to produce something 
really beautiful; and I promised that I would do so. 

When the King saw so many finished things before him, he 
exclaimed to Madame d'Etampes: "I never had an artist who pleased 
me more, nor one who deserved better to be well rewarded; we must 
contrive to keep him with us. He spends freely, is a boon com- 
panion, and works hard; we must therefore take good thought for 
him. Only think, madam, all the times that he has come to me or 
that I have come to him, he has never once asked for anything; one 
can see that his heart is entirely devoted to his work. We ought to 
make a point of doing something for him quickly, else we run a 
risk of losing him." Madame d'Etampes answered: "I will be sure 
to remind you." Then they departed, and in addition to the things 
I had begun, I now took the model of the fountain in hand, at which 
I worked assiduously. 


At the end of a month and a half the King returned to Paris; 

and I, who had been working day and night, went to present myself 

before him, taking my model, so well blocked out that my intention 

could be clearly understood. Just about that time, the devilries of 

war between the Emperor and King had been stirred up again, so 

that I found him much harassed by anxieties.' I spoke, however, 

^ Per quella Mia fonte. Here, and below, Cellini mixes up Fontainebleau and the 
spring which gave its name to the place. 
' S. Germain-en-Laye is not so far from Paris as Cellini thought. 
* Cellini refers to the renewal of hostilities in May 1542. 


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



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

The King began by asking me what I meant to represent by the 
fine fancy I had embodied in this design, saying that he had under- 
stood the door without explanation, but that he could not take the 
conception of my fountain, although it seemed to him most beauti- 
ful; at the same time, he knew well that I was not like those foolish 
folk who turn out something with a kind of grace, but put no 
intention into their performances. I then addressed myself to the 
task of exposition; for having succeeded in pleasing him with my 
work, I wanted him to be no less pleased with my discourse. "Let 
me inform your sacred Majesty," I thus began, "that the whole of 
this model is so exactly made to scale, that if it should come to 
being executed in the large, none of its grace and lightness will be 
sacrificed. The figure in the middle is meant to stand fifty-four feet 
above the level of the ground." At this announcement the King 
made a sign of surprise. "It is, moreover, intended to represent the 
god Mars. The other figures embody those arts and sciences in which 
your Majesty takes pleasure, and which you so generously patronise. 


This one, upon the right hand, is designed for Learning; you will 
observe that the accompanying emblems indicate Philosophy, and 
her attendant branches of knowledge. By the next I wished to 
personify the whole Art of Design, including Sculpture, Painting, 
and Architecture. The third is Music, which cannot be omitted from 
the sphere of intellectual culture. That other, with so gracious and 
benign a mien, stands for Generosity, lacking which the mental 
gifts bestowed on us by God will not be brought to view. I have 
attempted to portray your Majesty, your very self, in the great 
central statue; for you are truly a god Mars, the only brave upon this 
globe, and all your bravery you use with justice and with piety in 
the defence of your own glory." Scarcely had he allowed me to 
finish this oration, when he broke forth with a strong voice: "Verily 
I have found a man here after my own heart." Then he called the 
treasurers who were appointed for my supplies, and told them to 
disburse whatever I required, let the cost be what it might. Next, 
he laid his hand upon my shoulder, saying: "Mon ami (which is the 
same as my friend), I know not whether the pleasure be greater for 
the prince who finds a man after his own heart, or for the artist 
who finds a prince willing to furnish him with means for carry- 
ing out his great ideas." I answered that, if I was really the man 
his Majesty described, my good fortune was by far the greater. 
He answered laughingly: "Let us agree, then, that our luck is 
equal!" Then I departed in the highest spirits, and went back to 
my work. 


My ill-luck willed that I was not wide-awake enough to play the 
like comedy with Madame d'Etampes. That evening, when she 
heard the whole course of events from the King's own lips, it bred 
such poisonous fury in her breast that she exclaimed with anger: 
"If Benvenuto had shown me those line things of his, he would have 
given me some reason to be mindful of him at the proper moment." 
The King sought to excuse me, but he made no impression on her 
temper. Being informed of what had passed, I waited fifteen days, 
during which they made a tour through Normandy, visiting Rouen 
and Dieppe; then, when they returned to S. Germain-en-Laye, I took 


the handsome little vase which I had made at the request of Madame 
d'Etampes, hoping, if I gave it her, to recover the favour I had lost. 
With this in my hand, then, I announced my presence to her nurse, 
and showed the gift which I had brought her mistress; the woman 
received me with demonstrations of good-will, and said that she 
would speak a word to Madame, who was still engaged upon her 
toilette; I should be admitted on the instant, when she had dis- 
charged her embassy. The nurse made her report in full to Madame, 
who retorted scornfully: "Tell him to wait." On hearing this, I 
clothed myself with patience, which of all things I find the most 
difficult. Nevertheless, I kept myself under control until the hour 
for dinner was past. Then, seeing that time dragged on, and being 
maddened by hunger, I could no longer hold out, but flung off, 
sending her most devoutly to the devil. 

I next betook myself to the Cardinal of Lorraine, and made him 
a present of the vase, only petitioning his Eminence to maintain me 
in the King's good graces. He said there was no need for this; and 
if there were need he would gladly speak for me. Then he called 
his treasurer, and whispered a few words in his ear. The treasurer 
waited till I took my leave of the Cardinal; after which he said to 
me: "Benvenuto, come with me, and I will give you a glass of good 
wine to drink." I answered, not understanding what he meant: 
"For Heaven's sake, Mr. Treasurer, let me have but one glass of 
wine and a mouthful of bread; for I am really fainting for want of 
food. I have fasted since early this morning up to the present 
moment, at the door of Madame d'Etampes; I went to give her that 
fine piece of silver-gilt plate, and took pains that she would be 
informed of my intention; but she, with the mere petty will to vex 
me, bade me wait; now I am famished, and feel my forces failing; 
and, as God willed it, I have bestowed my gift and labour upon one 
who is far more worthy of them. I only crave of you something to 
drink; for being rather too bilious by nature, fast upsets me so that 
I run the risk now of falling from exhaustion to the earth." While 
I was pumping out these words with difficulty, they brought some 
admirable wine and other delicacies for a hearty meal. I refreshed 
myself, and having recovered my vital spirits, found that my exas- 
peration had departed from me. 


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


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

Well, then, Messer Guido came to Paris; and not long after mak- 
ing his acquaintance, I took him to my castle, and there assigned him 
his own suite of apartments. We enjoyed our lives together in that 
place for several years. The Bishop of Pavia, that is to say, Mon- 

' Son of Giuliano Guidi and Costanza, a daughter of Domenico Ghirlandajo. 
Francois I. sent for him some time before 1542, appointed him his own physician, 
and professor of medicine in the Royal College. He returned to Florence in 1548. 

^ Qui mi faccia memoria di quel bene. This is obscure. Quel bene may mean the 
happiness of his friendship. 


signore de' Rossi, brother of the Count of San Secondo, also arrived.^ 
This gentleman I removed from his hotel, and took him to my 
castle, assigning him in like manner his own suite of apartments, 
where he sojourned many months with serving-men and horses. 
On another occasion I lodged Messer Luigi Alamanni and his sons 
for some months. It was indeed God's grace to me that I should thus, 
in my poor station, be able to render services to men of great position 
and acquirements. 

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


I had a tennis<ourt in my castle, from which I drew considerable 
profit. The building also contained some little dwellings inhabited 
by different sorts of men, among whom was a printer of books of 
much excellence in his own trade. Nearly the whole of his premises 
lay inside the castle, and he was the man who printed Messer Guido's 
first fine book on medicine.' Wanting to make use of his lodging, 
I turned him out, but not without some trouble. There was also a 
manufacturer of saltpetre; and when I wished to assign his apart- 
ments to some of my German workmen, the fellow refused to leave 
the place. I asked him over and over again in gentle terms to give 
me up my rooms, because I wanted to employ them for my work- 
people in the service of the King. The more moderately I spoke, the 
more arrogantly did the brute reply; till at last I gave him three days' 
notice to quit. He laughed me in the face, and said that he would 

' We have already met with him in the Castle of S. Angelo. His brother, the Count, 
was general in the French army. This brought the Bishop to Paris, whence he 
returned to Italy in 1545. 

' Chirurgia e Graco in Latinum Con versa, Vido Vidio Florentino interprets, &c. 
Excudebat Petrus Gallerius Luteciie Parisionim, prid. Cal. Mai. 1544. So this printer 
was Pierre Sauthier. 


begin to think of it at the end of three years. I had not then learned 
that he was under the protection of Madame d'Etampes; but had it 
not been that the terms on which I stood toward that lady made me 
a little more circumspect than I was wont to be, I should have 
ousted him at once; now, however, I thought it best to keep my 
temper for three days. When the term was over, I said nothing, but 
took Germans, Italians, and Frenchmen, bearing arms, and many 
hand-labourers whom I had in my employ, and in a short while 
gutted all his house and flung his property outside my castle. I 
resorted to these somewhat rigorous measures because he had told 
me that no Italian whom he knew of had the power or spirit to 
remove one ring of iron from its place in his house. Well, after the 
deed was done, he came to find me, and I said to him: "I am the 
least of all Italians in Italy, and yet I have done nothing to you in 
comparison with what I have the heart to do, and will do if you 
utter a single further word," adding other terms of menace and 
abuse. The man, dumbfounded and affrighted, got his furniture 
together as well as he was able; then he ran off to Madame 
d'Etampes, and painted a picture of me like the very fiend. She 
being my great enemy, painted my portrait still blacker to the King, 
with all her greater eloquence and all her greater weight of influence. 
As I was afterwards informed, his Majesty twice showed signs of 
irritation and was minded to use me roughly: but Henry the Dau- 
phin, his son, now King of France, who had received some affronts 
from that imperious woman, together with the Queen of Navarre, 
sister to King Francis, espoused my cause so cleverly that he passed 
the matter over with a laugh. So with God's assistance I escaped 
from a great danger. 


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


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

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

' Primaticcio, together with Rosso, introduced Italian painting into France. Vasari 
says he came to Paris in 1541. He died in 1570. He was, like many other o£ the 
Lombard artists, an excellent master of stucco. 



It happened that just at this period an action was brought against 
me in Paris by the second lodger I had ousted from my castle, who 
pretended that on that occasion I had stolen a large quantity of his 
effects. This lawsuit tormented me beyond measure, and took up so 
much of my time that I often thought of decamping in despair 
from the country. Now the French are in the habit of making much 
capital out of any action they commence against a foreigner, or 
against such persons as they notice to be indolent in litigation. No 
sooner do they observe that they are getting some advantage in the 
suit, than they find the means to sell it; some have even been known 
to give a lawsuit in dowry with their daughters to men who make 
a business out of such transactions. They have another ugly custom, 
which is that the Normans, nearly all of them, traffic in false evi- 
dence; so that the men who buy up lawsuits, engage at once the 
services of four or six of these false witnesses, according to their need; 
their adversary, if he neglect to produce as many on the other side, 
being perhaps unacquainted with the custom, is certain to have the 
verdict given against him. 

All this happened in my case, and thinking it a most disgraceful 
breach of justice, I made my appearance in the great hall of Paris, 
to defend my right. There I saw a judge, lieutenant for the King 
in civil causes, enthroned upon a high tribunal. He was tall, stout, 
and fat, and of an extremely severe countenance. All round him on 
each side stood a crowd of solicitors and advocates, ranged upon the 
right hand and the left. Others were coming, one by one, to explain 
their several causes to the judge. From time to time, too, I noticed 
that the attorneys at the side of the tribunal talked all at once: and 
much admiration was roused in me by that extraordinary man, the 
very image of Pluto, who listened with marked attention first to 
one and then to the other, answering each with learning and sagac- 
ity. I have always delighted in watching and experiencing every 
kind of skill; so I would not have lost this spectacle for much. It 
happened that the hall being very large, and filled with a multitude 
of folk, they were strict in excluding every one who had no business 
there, and kept the door shut with a guard to hold it. Sometimes 


the guardian, in his effort to prevent the entrance of some improper 
person, interrupted the judge by the great noise he made, and the 
judge in anger turned to chide him. This happened frequently, so 
that my attention was directed to the fact. On one occasion, when 
two gentlemen were pushing their way in as spectators, and the 
porter was opposing them with violence, the judge raised his voice, 
and spoke the following words precisely as I heard them: "Keep 
peace, Satan, begone, and hold your tongue." These words in the 
French tongue sound as follows: Phe pfie, Satan, Phe, Phe, ale, phel^ 
Now I had learned the French tongue well; and on hearing this 
sentence, the meaning of that phrase used by Dante came into my 
memory, when he and his master Virgil entered the doors of Hell. 
Dante and the painter Giotto were together in France, and par- 
ticularly in the city of Paris, where, owing to the circumstances I 
have just described, the hall of justice may be truly called a hell. 
Dante then, who also understood French well, made use of the 
phrase in question, and it has struck me as singular that this inter- 
pretation has never yet been put upon the passage; indeed, it con- 
firms my opinion that the commentators make him say things 
which never came into his head. 


Well, then, to return to my affairs. When certain decisions of the 

court were sent me by those lawyers, and I perceived that my cause 

had been unjustly lost, I had recourse for my defence to a great 

dagger which I carried; for I have always taken pleasure in keeping 

fine weapons. The first man I attacked was the plaintiff who had 

sued me; and one evening I wounded him in the legs and arms so 

severely, taking care, however, not to kill him, that I deprived him 

of the use of both his legs. Then I sought out the other fellow who 

had brought the suit, and used him also in such wise that he 

dropped it. 

^Paix, paix, Satan, allez, paix. The line in Dante to which Cellini alludes is the 
first of the seventh canto of the Inferno. His suggestion is both curious and ingenious; 
but we have no reason to think that French judges used the same imprecations, when 
interrupted, in the thirteenth as they did in the sixteenth century, or that what Cellini 
heard on this occasion was more than an accidental similarity of sounds, striking his 
quick ear and awakening his lively memory. 


Returning thanks to God for this and every other dispensation, 
and hoping to be left awhile without worries, I bade the young men 
of my household, especially the Italians, for God's sake to attend each 
diligently to the work I set him, and to help me till such time as I 
could finish the things I had in hand. I thought they might soon 
be completed, and then I meant to return to Italy, being no longer 
able to put up with the rogueries of those Frenchmen; the good 
King too, if he once grew angry, might bring me into mischief for 
many of my acts in self-defence. I will describe who these Italians 
were; the first, and the one I liked best, was Ascanio, from Taglia- 
cozzo in the kingdom of Naples; the second was Pagolo, a Roman 
of such humble origin that he did not know his own father. These 
were the two men who had been with me in Rome, and whom I 
had taken with me on the journey. Another Roman had also come 
on purpose to enter my service; he too bore the name of Pagolo, and 
was the son of a poor nobleman of the family of the Macaroni; he 
had small acquirements in our art, but was an excellent and cou- 
rageous swordsman. I had another from Ferrara called Bartolommeo 
Chioccia. There was also another from Florence named Pagolo 
Micceri; his brother, nicknamed "II Gatta," was a clever clerk, but 
had spent too much money in managing the property of Tommaso 
Guadagni, a very wealthy merchant. This Gatta put in order for 
me the books in which I wrote the accounts of his most Christian 
Majesty and my other employers. Now Pagolo Micceri, having 
learned how to keep them from his brother, went on doing this 
work for me in return for a liberal salary. He appeared, so far as 
I could judge, to be a very honest lad, for I noticed him to be devout, 
and when I heard him sometimes muttering psalms, and sometimes 
telling his beads, I reckoned much upon his feigned virtue. 

Accordingly I called the fellow apart and said to him, "Pagolo, 
my dearest brother, you know what a good place you have with me, 
and how you had formerly nothing to depend on; besides, you are 
a Florentine. I have also the greater confidence in you because I 
observe that you are pious and religious, which is a thing that 
pleases me. I beg you therefore to assist me, for I cannot put the 
same trust in any of your companions: so then I shall ask you to 
keep watch over two matters of the highest importance, which might 


prove a source of much annoyance to me. In the first place, I want 
you to guard my property from being stolen, and not touch it your- 
self. In the next place, you know that poor young girl, Caterina; I 
keep her principally for my art's sake, since I cannot do without a 
model; but being a man also, I have used her for my pleasures, and 
it is possible that she may bear me a child. Now I do not want to 
maintain another man's bastards, nor will I sit down under such an 
insult. If any one in this house had the audacity to attempt anything 
of the sort, and I were to become aware of it, I verily believe that 
I should kill both her and him. Accordingly, dear brother, I entreat 
you to be my helper; should you notice anything, tell it me at once; 
for I am sure to send her and her mother and her fellow to the 
gallows. Be you the first upon your watch against falling into this 
snare." The rascal made a sign of the cross from his head to his 
feet and cried out: "O blessed Jesus! God preserve me from ever 
thinking of such a thing I In the first place, I am not given to those 
evil ways; in the next place, do you imagine I am ignorant of your 
great benefits toward me?" When I heard these words, which he 
uttered with all appearance of simplicity and affection for me, I 
believed that matters stood precisely as he asserted. 


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

' Matteo del Nassaro, a native o£ Verona, was employed in France as engraver, 
die-caster, and musician. 


premises. Go then with mind at rest to take your pleasure and 
divert your spirits. Some other day another man will take my place 
as guardian here." 

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

^ See Boccaccio, Decam., Gior. ii. Nov. ii. 

' Qual modo s'intendeva contro tiatura, cioi in soidnmia. 


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


The more I sought for rest, the more I was annoyed with all 
sorts of embarrassments. Being thus daily exposed to divers perse- 
cutions, I pondered which of two courses I ought to take; whether to 
decamp and leave France to the devil, or else to fight this battle 
through as I had done the rest, and see to what end God had made 
me. For a long while I kept anxiously revolving the matter. At 
last I resolved to make off, dreading to tempt my evil fortune, lest 
this should bring me to the gallows. My dispositions were all fixed; 
I had made arrangements for putting away the property I could not 
carry, and ior charging the Ughter articles, to the best of my ability, 
upon myself and servants; yet it was with great and heavy reluctance 
that I looked forward to such a departure. 

I had shut myself up alone in a little study. My young men were 
advising me to fly; but I told them that it would be well for me to 
meditate this step in soUtude, although I very much inclined to their 
opinion. Indeed, I reasoned that if I could escape imprisonment and 
let the storm pass over, I should be able to explain matters to the 
King by letter, setting forth the trap which had been laid to ruin 
me by the malice of my enemies. And as I have said above, my mind 
was made up to this point; when, just as I rose to act on the decision, 
some power took me by the shoulder and turned me round, and I 
heard a voice which cried with vehemence: "Benvenuto, do as thou 
art wont, and fear not!" Then, on the instant, I changed the whole 
course of my plans, and said to my Italians: "Take your good arms 
and come with me; obey me to the letter; have no other thought, 
for I am now determined to put in my appearance. If I were to 
leave Paris, you would vanish the next day in smoke; so do as I 
command, and follow me." They all began together with one heart 
and voice to say : "Since we are here, and draw our livelihood from 
him, it is our duty to go with him and bear him out so long as we 
have Hfe to execute what he proposes. He has hit the mark better 
than we did in this matter; for on the instant when he leaves the 
place, his enemies will send us to the devil. Let us keep well in 


mind what great works we have begun here, and what vast impor- 
tance they possess; we should not know how to finish them without 
him, and his enemies would say that he had taken flight because he 
shrank before such undertakings." Many other things bearing 
weightily upon the subject were said among them. But it was the 
young Roman, Macaroni, who first put heart into the company; and 
he also raised recruits from the Germans and the Frenchmen, who 
felt well disposed toward me. 

We were ten men, all counted. I set out, firmly resolved not to 
let myself be taken and imprisoned alive. When we appeared before 
the judges for criminal aiiairs, I found Caterina and her mother 
waiting; and on the moment of my arrival, the two women were 
laughing with their advocate. I pushed my way in, and called boldly 
for the judge, who was seated, blown out big and fat, upon a tribunal 
high above the rest. On catching sight of me, he threatened with his 
head, and spoke in a subdued voice: "Although your name is Ben- 
venuto, this time you are an ill-comer." I understood his speech, and 
called out the second time: "Despatch my business quickly. Tell me 
what I have come to do here." Then the judge turned to Caterina, 
and said: "Caterina, relate all that happened between you and Ben- 
venuto." She answered that I had used her after the Italian fashion. 
The judge turned to me and said: "You hear what Caterina deposes, 
Benvenuto." I replied : "If I have consorted with her after the Italian 
fashion, I have only done the same as you folk of other nations do." 
He demurred: "She means that you improperly abused her." I 
retorted that, so far from being the Italian fashion, it must be some 
French habit, seeing she knew all about it, while I was ignorant; and 
I commanded her to explain precisely how I had consorted with her. 
Then the impudent baggage entered into plain and circumstantial 
details regarding all the filth she lyingly accused me of. I made her 
repeat her deposition three times in succession. When she had 
finished, I cried out with a loud voice: "Lord judge, lieutenant of the 
Most Christian King, I call on you for justice. Well I know that by 
the laws of his Most Christian Majesty both agent and patient in 
this kind of crime are punished with the stake. The woman con- 
fesses her guilt; I admit nothing whatsoever of the sort with regard 


to her; her go-between of a mother is here, who deserves to be 
burned for either one or the other offence. Therefore I appeal to 
you for justice." These words I repeated over and over again at the 
top of my voice, continually calling out: "To the stake with her 
and her mother!" I also threatened the judge that, if he did not send 
her to prison there before me, I would go to the King at once, and 
tell him how his lieutenant in criminal affairs of justice had wronged 
me. When they heard what a tumult I was making, my adversaries 
lowered their voices, but I lifted mine the more. The little hussy and 
her mother fell to weeping, while I shouted to the judge: "Fire, fire! 
to the stake with them!" The coward on the bench, finding that the 
matter was not going as he intended, began to use soft words and 
excuse the weakness of the female sex. Thereupon I felt that I had 
won the victory in a nasty encounter; and, muttering threats between 
my teeth, I took myself off, not without great inward satisfaction. 
Indeed, I would gladly have paid five hundred crowns down to 
have avoided that appearance in court. However, after escaping 
from the tempest, I thanked God with all my heart, and returned in 
gladness with my young men to the castle. 


When adverse fortune, or, if we prefer to call it, our malignant 
planet, undertakes to persecute a man, it never lacks new ways of 
injuring him. So now, when I thought I had emerged from this 
tempestuous sea of troubles, and hoped my evil star would leave me 
quiet for a moment, it began to set two schemes in motion against 
me before I had recovered my breath from that great struggle. 
Within three days two things happened, each of which brought my 
life into extreme hazard. One of these occurred in this way: I went 
to Fontainebleau to consult with the King; for he had written me a 
letter saying he wanted me to stamp the coins of his whole realm, 
and enclosing some little drawings to explain his wishes in the 
matter; at the same time he left me free to execute them as I liked; 
upon which I made new designs according to my own conception, 
and according to the ideal of art. When I reached Fontainebleau, 
one of the treasurers commissioned by the King to defray my 


expenses (he was called Monsignor della Fa') addressed me in these 
words: "Benvenuto, the painter Bologna has obtained commission 
from the King to execute your great Colossus, and all the orders 
previously given as on your behalf have been transferred to him.^ 
We are all indignant; and it seems to us that that countryman of 
yours has acted towards you in a most unwarrantable manner. The 
work was assigned you bn the strength of your models and studies. 
He is robbing you of it, only through the favour of Madame 
d'Etampes; and though several months have passed since he received 
the order, he has not yet made any sign of commencing it." I 
answered in surprise: "How is it possible that I should have heard 
nothing at all about this?" He then informed me that the man 
had kept it very dark, and had obtained the King's commission with 
great difficulty, since his Majesty at first would not concede it; only 
the importunity of Madame d'Etampes secured this favour for him. 
When I felt how greatly and how wrongfully I had been betrayed, 
and saw a work which I had gained with my great toil thus stolen 
from me, I made my mind up for a serious stroke of business, and 
marched off with my good sword at my side to find Bologna.^ He 
was in his room, engaged in studies; after telling the servant to 
introduce me, he greeted me with some of his Lombard compli- 
ments, and asked what good business had brought me hither. I 
replied: "A most excellent business, and one of great importance." 
He then sent for wine, and said: "Before we begin to talk, we must 
drink together, for such is the French custom." I answered: "Messer 
Francesco, you must know that the conversation we have to engage 
in does not call for drinking at the commencement; after it is over, 
perhaps we shall be glad to take a glass." Then I opened the matter 
in this way: "All men who wish to pass for persons of worth allow 
it to be seen that they are so by their actions; if they do the con- 
trary, they lose the name of honest men. I am aware that you knew 
the King had commissioned me with that great Colossus; it had been 
talked of these eighteen months past; yet neither you nor anybody else 
came forward to speak a word about it. By my great labours I made 

' His name in full was Jacques de la Fa. He and his son Pierre after him held the 
office of tresorier de I'epargne. See Plon, p. 63. 

^ By Colossus, Cellini means the fountain with the great statue of Mars. 
' /. e., Primaticcio. 


myself known to his Majesty, who approved of my models and gave 
the work into my hands. During many months I have heard nothing 
to the contrary; only this morning I was informed that you have 
got hold of it, and have filched it from me. I earned it by the talents 
I displayed, and you are robbing me of it merely by your idle talking." 


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


which is just and reasonable, I will show you another which shall be 
like your own, that is to say, ugly and disagreeable. I tell you plainly 
that if I ever hear that you have spoken one single word about this 
work of mine, I will kill you like a dog. We are neither in Rome, nor 
in Bologna, nor in Florence; here one lives in quite a different fash- 
ion; if then it comes to my ears that you talk about this to the King 
or anybody else, I vow that I will kill you. Reflect upon the way 
you mean to take, whether that for good which I formerly described, 
or this latter bad one I have just now set before you." 

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


I had but just dismounted from my horse, when one of those 
excellent people who rejoice in mischief-making came to tell me that 
Pagolo Micceri had taken a house for the little hussy Caterina and 
her mother, and that he was always going there, and whenever he 
mentioned me, used words of scorn to this effect: "Benvenuto set the 
fox to watch the grapes,' and thought I would not eat them! Now 
he is satisfied with going about and talking big, and thinks I am 
afraid of him. But I have girt this sword and dagger to my side in 
order to show him that my steel can cut as well as his, and that I 
too am a Florentine, of the Micceri, a far better family than his 
^ Aveva data a guardia la lattuga ai paperi. 


Cellini." The scoundrel who reported this poisonous gossip spoke it 
with such good effect that I felt a fever in the instant swoop upon 
me; and when I say fever, I mean fever, and no mere metaphor. 
The insane passion which took possession of me might have been my 
death, had I not resolved to give it vent as the occasion offered. I 
ordered the Ferrarese workman, Chioccia, to come with me, and 
made a servant follow with my horse. When we reached the house 
where that worthless villain was, I found the door ajar, and entered. 
I noticed that he carried sword and dagger, and was sitting on a 
big chest with his arm round Caterina's neck; at the moment of my 
arrival, I could hear that he and her mother were talking about me. 
Pushing the door open, I drew my sword, and set the point of it at 
his throat, not giving him the time to think whether he too carried 
steel. At the same instant I cried out: "Vile coward! recommend 
your soul to God, for you are a dead man." Without budging from 
his seat, he called three times: "Mother, mother, help me!" Though 
I had come there fully determined to take his life, half my fury 
ebbed away when I heard this idiotic exclamation. I ought to add 
that I had told Chioccia not to let the girl or her mother leave the 
house, since I meant to deal with those trollops after I had disposed 
of their bully. So I went on holding my sword at his throat, and 
now and then just pricked him with the point, pouring out a 
torrent of terrific threats at the same time. But when I found he 
did not stir a finger in his own defence, I began to wonder what I 
should do next; my menacing attitude could not be kept up for ever; 
so at last it came into my head to make them marry, and complete 
my vengeance at a later period. Accordingly, I formed my resolution, 
and began: "Take that ring, coward, from your finger, and marry 
her, that I may get satisfaction from you afterwards according to 
your deserts." He replied at once : "If only you do not kill me, I will 
do whatever you command." "Then," said I, "put that ring upon 
her hand." When the sword's point was withdrawn a few inches 
from his throat, he wedded her with the ring. But I added: "This is 
not enough. I shall send for two notaries, in order that the marriage 
may be ratified by contract." Bidding Chioccia go for the lawyers, 
I turned to the girl and her mother, and, using the French language, 
spoke as follows: "Notaries and witnesses are coming; the first of 


you who blabs about this affair will be killed upon the spot; nay, I 
will murder you all three. So beware, and keep a quiet tongue in 
your heads." To him I said in Italian : "If you offer any resistance to 
what I shall propose, upon the slightest word you utter I will stab 
you till your guts run out upon this floor." He answered: "Only 
promise not to kill me, and I will do whatever you command." The 
notaries and witnesses arrived; a contract, valid and in due form, 
was drawn up; then my heat and fever left me. I paid the lawyers 
and took my departure. 

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


If I did not confess that in some of these episodes I acted wrongly, 
the world might think I was not telling the truth about those in 
which I say I acted rightly. Therefore 1 admit that it was a mistake 
to inflict so singular a vengeance upon Pagolo Micceri. In truth, 
had I believed him to be so utterly feeble, I should not have con- 
ceived the notion of branding him with such infamy as I am going 
to relate. 

Not satisfied with having made him take a vicious drab to wife, 
I completed my revenge by inviting her to sit to me as a model, and 
dealing with her thus. I gave her thirty sous a day, paid in advance, 
and a good meal, and obliged her to pose before me naked. Then I 
made her serve my pleasure, out of spite against her husband, jeering 
at them both the while. Furthermore, I kept her for hours together 
in position, greatly to her discomfort. This gave her as much annoy- 
ance as it gave me pleasure; for she was beautifully made, and 
brought me much credit as a model. At last, noticing that I did not 
treat her with the same consideration as before her marriage, she 
began to grumble and talk big in her French way about her husband, 
who was now serving the Prior of Capua, a brother of Piero Strozzi.' 

' Leone, son of Filippo Strozzi, Knight o£ Jerusalem and Prior of Capua, was, like 
his brother Piero, a distinguished French general. 


On the first occasion when she did this, the mere mention of the 
fellow aroused me to intolerable fury; still I bore it, greatly against 
the grain, as well as I was able, reflecting that I could hardly find 
so suitable a subject for my art as she was. So I reasoned thus in my 
own mind: "I am now taking two different kinds of revenge. In 
the first place, she is married; and what I am doing to her husband 
is something far more serious than what he did to me, when she 
was only a girl of loose life. If then I wreak my spite so fully upon 
him, while upon her I inflict the discomfort of posing in such strange 
attitudes for such a length of time — which, beside the pleasure I 
derive, brings me both profit and credit through my art — what more 
can I desire?" While I was turning over these calculations, the 
wretch redoubled her insulting speeches, always prating big about 
her husband, till she goaded me beyond the bounds of reason. 
Yielding myself up to blind rage, I seized her by the hair, and 
dragged her up and down my room, beating and kicking her till I 
was tired. There was no one who could come to her assistance. 
When I had well pounded her she swore that she would never 
visit me again. Then for the first time I perceived that I had acted 
very wrongly; for I was losing a grand model, who brought me 
honour through my art. Moreover, when I saw her body all torn 
and bruised and swollen, I reflected that, even if I persuaded her to 
return, I should have to put her under medical treatment for at 
least a fortnight before I could make use of her. 


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

Assuredly, upon that first occasion, I felt I had done very wrong, 
and Ruberta rebuked me after this fashion: "You are a cruel 
monster to maltreat such a handsome girl so brutally." When I 
excused my conduct by narrating all the tricks which she and her 


mother had played off upon me under my own roof, Ruberta scold- 
ingly rephed that that was nothing — that was only French manners, 
and she was sure there was not a husband in France without his 
horns. When I heard this argument, I laughed aloud, and then told 
Ruberta to go and see how Caterina was, since I should like to 
employ her again while finishing the work I had on hand. The old 
woman took me sharply up, saying that I had no savoir vivre: "Only 
wait till daybreak, and she will come of herself; whereas, if you 
send to ask after her or visit her, she will give herself airs and keep 

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

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


While this work was going forward, I set aside certain hours of the 

day for the salt-cellar, and certain others for the Jupiter. There were 

more men engaged upon the former than I had at my disposal for 

the latter, so the salt-cellar was by this time completely finished. The 

'This figure was undoubtedly the Nymph of Fontainebleau. 


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

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

'This salt-cellar is now at Vienna. It is beautifully represented by two photo- 
gravures in Plon's great book on Cellini. 


working at my Jupiter in silver, and also at the great vase I have 
already described, which was richly decorated with a variety of 
ornaments and figures. 


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

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

' The Cleopatra is that recumbent statue of a sleeping Ariadne or Bacchante now 
in the Vatican. The Venus (neither the Medicean nor the Capitoline) represents the 
goddess issuing from the bath; it is now in the Museo Pio Clementino of the 
Vatican. The Commodus is a statue of Hercules, with the lion's skin and an infant 
in his arms, also in the Vatican. The Zingara may be a statue of Diana forming part 
of the Borghese collection. The Apollo is the famous Belvedere Apollo of the Vatican. 

^That is, in Italian, "the rough rind," a name given to rustics. Scorzone is also the 
name for a little black venomous serpent. 


With her for model, I gave perfect finish to the bronze Fontaine- 
bleau, and also to the two Victories. 

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


By labouring incessantly I had now got my various works well 
forward; the Jupiter was nearly finished, and the vase also; the door 
began to reveal its beauties. At that time the King came to Paris; 
and though I gave the right date of the year 1544 for my daughter's 
birth, we were still in 1543; but an opportunity of mentioning my 
daughter having arisen, I availed myself of it, so as not to interrupt 
the narrative of more important things. Well, the King, as I have 
said, came to Paris, and paid me a visit soon after his arrival. The 
magnificent show of works brought well-nigh to completion was 
enough to satisfy anybody's eye; and indeed it gave that glorious 
monarch no less contentment than the artist who had worked so 
hard upon them desired. While inspecting these things, it came 
into his head that the Cardinal of Ferrara had fulfilled none of his 
promises to me, either as regarded a pension or anything else. Whis- 
pering with his Admiral, he said that the Cardinal of Ferrara had 
behaved very badly in the matter; and that he intended to make it up 
to me himself, because he saw I was a man of few words, who in 


the twinkling of an eye might decamp without complaining or ask- 
ing leave. 

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


As I have just said, his Majesty affected to concur with the Car- 
dinal, but his own private mind was otherwise made up. Accord- 
ingly, upon the day after his arrival, without solicitation upon my 
part, he came of his own accord to my house. I went to meet him, 
and conducted him through several rooms where divers works of 

'In 1544 Charles V. advanced toward Champagne and threatened Paris, while 
the English were besieging Boulogne. 


art were on view. Beginning with the less important, I pointed out 
a quantity of things in bronze; and it was long since he had seen 
so many at once. Then I took him to see the Jupiter in silver, now 
nearly completed, with all its splendid decorations. It so happened 
that a grievous disappointment which he had suffered a few years 
earlier, made him think this piece more admirable than it might 
perhaps have appeared to any other man. The occasion to which I 
refer was this: After the capture of Tunis, the Emperor passed 
through Paris with the consent of his brother-in-law. King Francis,* 
who wanted to present him with something worthy of so great a 
potentate. Having this in view, he ordered a Hercules to be executed 
in silver, exactly of the same size as my Jupiter. The King declared 
this Hercules to be the ugliest work of art that he had ever seen, 
and spoke his opinion plainly to the craftsmen of Paris. They 
vaunted themselves to be the ablest craftsmen in the world for works 
of this kind, and informed the King that nothing more perfect could 
possibly have been produced in silver, insisting at the same time 
upon being paid two thousand ducats for their filthy piece of work. 
This made the King, when he beheld mine, affirm that the finish of 
its workmanship exceeded his highest expectations. Accordingly he 
made an equitable judgment, and had my statue valued also at two 
thousand ducats, saying: "I gave those other men no salary; Cellini, 
who gets about a thousand crowns a year from me, can surely let 
me have this masterpiece for two thousand crowns of gold, since 
he has his salary into the bargain." Then I exhibited other things in 
gold and silver, and a variety of models for new undertakings. At 
the last, just when he was taking leave, I pointed out upon the lawn 
of the castle that great giant, which roused him to higher astonish- 
ment than any of the other things he had inspected. Turning to 
his Admiral, who was called Monsignor Aniballe,^ he said: "Since 
the Cardinal has made him no provision, we must do so, and all the 
more because the man himself is so slow at asking favours — to cut it 
short, I mean to have him well provided for; yes, these men who ask 
for nothing feel that their masterpieces call aloud for recompense; 

'In the year 1539 Charles V. obtained leave to traverse France with his army on 
the way to Flanders. 

'Claude d'Annebault; captured at Pavia with Francois; Marshal in 1538; Admiral 
of France in 1543. 


therefore see that he gets the first abbey that falls vacant worth two 
thousand crowns a year. If this cannot be had in one benefice, let 
him have two or three to that amount, for in his case it will come to 
the same thing." As I was standing by, I could hear what the KLing 
said, and thanked his Majesty at once for the donation, as though I 
were already in possession. I told him that as soon as his orders 
were carried into effect, I would work for his Majesty without other 
salary or recompense of any kind until old age deprived me of the 
power to labour, when I hoped to rest my tired body in peace, main- 
taining myself with honour on that income, and always bearing in 
mind that I had served so great a monarch as his Majesty. At the 
end of this speech the King turned toward me with a lively gesture 
and a joyous countenance, saying, "So let it then be done." After 
that he departed, highly satisfied with what he had seen there. 


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

The distiller came, accompanied by Treasurer Grolier, a very 
great nobleman of France, who spoke Italian excellently, and when 


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

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

' Jean Grolier, the famous French Maecenas, collector of books, antiquities, &c. 

2 Vedendo il hello. 

^This document exists, and is dated July 15, 1544. See Bianchi, p. 585. 



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

At that time, Bologna, of whom I have already said so much, had 
brought from Rome his statues, and had cast them very carefully 
in bronze. I knew nothing about this, partly because he kept his 
doings very dark, and also because Fontainebleau is forty miles dis- 
tant from Paris. On asking the King where he wanted me to set 
up my Jupiter, Madame d'Etampes, who happened to be present, 
told him there was no place more appropriate than his own hand- 
some gallery. This was, as we should say in Tuscany, a loggia, or, 
more exactly, a large lobby; it ought indeed to be called a lobby, 
because what we mean by loggia is open at one side. The hall was 
considerably longer than 100 paces, decorated, and very rich with 
pictures from the hand of that admirable Rosso, our Florentine 
master. Among the pictures were arranged a great variety of sculp- 
tured works, partly in the round, and partly in bas-relief. The 
breadth was about twelve paces. Now Bologna had brought all his 
antiques into this gallery, wrought with great beauty in bronze, and 
had placed them in a handsome row upon their pedestals; and they 
were, as I have said, the choicest of the Roman antiquities. Into this 
same gallery I took my Jupiter; and when I saw that grand parade, 
so artfully planned, I said to myself: "This is like running the gaunt- 
let;' now may God assist me." I placed the statue, and having ar- 
ranged it as well as I was able, waited for the coming of the King. 
The Jupiter was raising his thunderbolt with the right hand in the 
act to hurl it; his left hand held the globe of the world. Among the 
flames of the thunderbolt I had very cleverly introduced a torch of 
white wax. Now Madame d'Etampes detained the King till night- 
* Questo si i come passare in fra le picche. 


fall, wishing to do one o£ two mischiefs, either to prevent his com- 
ing, or else to spoil the effect of my work by its being shown off 
after dark; but as God has promised to those who trust in Him, 
it turned out exactly opposite to her calculations; for when night 
came, I set fire to the torch, which standing higher than the head 
of Jupiter, shed light from above and showed the statue far better 
than by daytime. 

At length the King arrived; he was attended by his Madame 
d'Etampes, his son the Dauphin and the Dauphiness, together with 
the King of Navarre his brother-in-law, Madame Marguerite his 
daughter,^ and several other great lords, who had been instructed 
by Madame d'Etampes to speak against me. When the King ap- 
peared, I made my prentice Ascanio push the Jupiter toward his 
Majesty. As it moved smoothly forwards, my cunning in its turn 
was amply rewarded, for this gentle motion made the figure seem 
alive; the antiques were left in the background, and my work was 
the first to take the eye with pleasure. The King exclaimed at once: 
"This is by far the finest thing that has ever been seen; and I, 
although I am an amateur and judge of art, could never have con- 
ceived the hundredth part of its beauty." The lords whose cue it was 
to speak against me, now seemed as though they could not praise 
my masterpiece enough. Madame d'Etampes said boldly: "One 
would think you had no eyes! Don't you see all those fine bronzes 
from the antique behind there ? In those consists the real distinction 
of this art, and not in that modern trumpery." Then the King ad- 
vanced, and the others with him. After casting a glance at the 
bronzes, which were not shown to advantage from the light being 
below them, he exclaimed: "Whoever wanted to injure this man 
has done him a great service; for the comparison of these admirable 
statues demonstrates the immeasurable superiority of his work in 
beauty and in art. Benvenuto deserves to be made much of, for his 
performances do not merely rival, but surpass the antique." In 
reply to this, Madame d'Etampes observed that my Jupiter would 
not make anything like so fine a show by daylight; besides, one had 
to consider that I had put a veil upon my statue to conceal its faults. 
I had indeed flung a gauze veil with elegance and delicacy over a 

*Born 1523. Married Emmanuele Filiberto, Duke of Savoy, in 1559. Died 1574. 


portion of my statue, with the view of augmenting its majesty. This, 
when she had finished speaking, I hfted from beneath, uncovering 
the handsome genital members of the god; then tore the veil to pieces 
with vexation. She imagined I had disclosed those parts of the statue 
to insult her. The King noticed how angry she was, while I was 
trying to force some words out in my fury; so he wisely spoke, in 
his own language, precisely as follows: "Benvenuto, I forbid you to 
speak; hold your tongue, and you shall have a thousand times more 
wealth than you desire." Not being allowed to speak, I writhed my 
body in a rage; this made her grumble with redoubled spite; and the 
King departed sooner than he would otherwise have done, calling 
aloud, however, to encourage me: "I have brought from Italy the 
greatest man who ever lived, endowed with all the talents." 


I left the Jupiter there, meaning to depart the next morning. Be- 
fore I took horse, one thousand crowns were paid me, partly for 
my salary, and partly on account of monies 1 had disbursed. Having 
received this sum, I returned with a light heart and satisfied to Paris. 
No sooner had I reached home and dined with merry cheer, than 
I called for all my wardrobe, which included a great many suits 
of silk, choice furs, and also very fine cloth stuffs. From these I 
selected presents for my workpeople, giving each something accord- 
ing to his own desert, down to the servant-girls and stable-boys, in 
order to encourage them to aid me heartily. 

Being then refreshed in strength and spirits, I attacked the great 
statue of Mars, which I had set up solidly upon a frame of well- 
connected woodwork.' Over this there lay a crust of plaster, about 
the eighth of a cubit in thickness, carefully modelled for the flesh 
of the Colossus. Lastly, I prepared a great number of moulds in 
separate pieces to compose the figure, intending to dovetail them 
together in accordance with the rules of art; and this task involved 
no difficulty. 

I will not here omit to relate something which may serve to give a 
notion of the size of this great work, and is at the same time highly 

' This was what he called the Colossus above, p. 310. He meant it for the fountain 
of Fontainebleau. See p. 295. 


comic. It must first be mentioned that I had forbidden all the men 
who lived at my cost to bring light women into my house or any- 
where within the castle precincts. Upon this point o£ discipline I 
was extremely strict. Now my lad Ascanio loved a very handsome 
girl, who returned his passion. One day she gave her mother the slip, 
and came to see Ascanio at night. Finding that she would not take 
her leave, and being driven to his wits' ends to conceal her, like a 
person o£ resources, he hit at last upon the plan of installing her 
inside the statue. There, in the head itself, he made her up a place 
to sleep in; this lodging she occupied some time, and he used to 
bring her forth at whiles with secrecy at night. I meanwhile having 
brought this part of the Colossus almost to completion, left it alone, 
and indulged my vanity a bit by exposing it to sight; it could, indeed 
be seen by more than half Paris, The neighbours, therefore, took 
to climbing their house-roofs, and crowds came on purpose to enjoy 
the spectacle. Now there was a legend in the city that my castle had 
from olden times been haunted by a spirit, though I never noticed 
anything to confirm this belief; and folk in Paris called it popularly 
by the name of Lemmonio Boreo.^ The girl, while she sojourned in 
the statue's head, could not prevent some of her movements to and 
fro from being perceptible through its eye-holes; this made stupid 
people say that the ghost had got into the body of the figure, and 
was setting its eyes in motion, and its mouth, as though it were about 
to talk. Many of them went away in terror; others, more incredu- 
lous, came to observe the phenomenon, and when they were unable 
to deny the flashing of the statue's eyes, they too declared their 
credence in a spirit — not guessing that there was a spirit there, and 
sound young flesh to boot. 


All this while I was engaged in putting my door together, with 

its several appurtenances. As it is no part of my purpose to include 

in this autobiography such things as annalists record, I have omitted 

the coming of the Emperor with his great host, and the King's mus- 

^ Properly, Le Maine Bourru, the ghost of a monk dressed in drugget (bure). 
Le Petit Nesle had a bad reputation on account of the murders said to have been 
committed there in the fourteenth century by Queen Jeanne, wife of Philip V. 


tering of his whole army.' At the time when these events took place, 
his Majesty sought my advice with regard to the instantaneous forti- 
fication of Paris. He came on purpose to my house, and took me all 
round the city; and when he found that I was prepared to fortify 
the town with expedition on a sound plan, he gave express orders 
that all my suggestions should be carried out. His Admiral was 
directed to command the citizens to obey me under pain of his dis- 

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

That accursed woman seemed born to be the ruin of the world. 
I ought therefore to think myself of some account, seeing she held 
me for her mortal enemy. Happening to speak one day with the 

'Toward the end of August 1544, the Imperial army advanced as far as Epernay, 
within twenty leagues of Paris. 

^ i. e., ass-ox, Ane-et-bo. 

' Girolamo Bellarmati, a learned mathematician and military architect, banished 
from Siena for political reasons. He designed the harbour of Havre. 

* There is indeed good reason to believe that the King's mistress, in her jealousy 
of the Dauphin and Diane de Poitiers, played false, and enabled the Imperialists to 
advance beyond Epernay. 


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


I went accordingly, and waited for the good King's visit, who, it 
seems, had gone meanwhile to take leave of Madame d'Etampes. 
She asked whither he was bound, adding that she would accompany 
him; but when he informed her, she told him that she would not go, 
and begged him as a special favour not to go himself that day. She 
had to return to the charge more than twice before she shook the 
King's determination; however, he did not come to visit me that 
day. Next morning I went to his Majesty at the same hour; and no 
sooner had he caught sight of me, than he swore it was his intention 
to come to me upon the spot. Going then, according to his wont, 
to take leave of his dear Madame d'Etampes, this lady saw that all 
her influence had not been able to divert him from his purpose; so 
she began with that biting tongue of hers to say the worst of me 
that could be insinuated against a deadly enemy of this most worthy 
crown of France. The good King appeased her by replying that the 
sole object of his visit was to administer such a scolding as should 
make me tremble in my shoes. This he swore to do upon his honour. 


Then he came to my house, and I conducted him through certain 
rooms upon the basement, where I had put the whole of my great 
door together. Upon beholding it, the King was struck with stupe- 
faction, and quite lost his cue for reprimanding me, as he had prom- 
ised Madame d'Etampes. Still he did not choose to go away without 
finding some opportunity for scolding; so he began in this wise: 
"There is one most important matter, Benvenuto, which men of 
your sort, though full of talent, ought always to bear in mind; it is 
that you cannot bring your great gifts to light by your own strength 
alone; you show your greatness only through the opportunities we 
give you. Now you ought to be a little more submissive, not so arro- 
gant and headstrong. I remember that I gave you express orders to 
make me twelve silver statues; and this was all I wanted. You have 
chosen to execute a salt-cellar, and vases and busts and doors, and a 
heap of other things, which quite confound me, when I consider how 
you have neglected my wishes and worked for the fulfilment of your 
own. If you mean to go on in this way, I shall presently let you 
understand what is my own method of procedure when I choose to 
have things done in my own way. I tell you, therefore, plainly: do 
your utmost to obey my commands; for if you stick to your own 
fancies, you will run your head against a wall." While he was utter- 
ing these words, his lords in waiting hung upon the King's lips, see- 
ing him shake his head, frown, and gesticulate, now with one hand 
and now with the other. The whole company of attendants, there- 
fore, quaked with fear for me; but I stood firm, and let no breath of 
fear pass over me. 


When he had wound up this sermon, agreed upon beforehand with 
his darling Madame d'Etampes, I bent one leg upon the ground, and 
kissed his coat above the knee. Then I began my speech as follows : 
"Sacred Majesty, I admit that all that you have said is true. Only, 
in reply, I protest that my heart has ever been, by day and night, 
with all my vital forces, bent on serving you and executing your 
commands. If it appears to your Majesty that my actions contradict 
these words, let your Majesty be sure that Benvenuto was not at 
fault, but rather possibly my evil fate or adverse fortune, which has 


made me unworthy to serve the most admirable prince who ever 
blessed this earth. Therefore I crave your pardon. I was under the 
impression, however, that your Majesty had given me silver for one 
statue only; having no more at my disposal, I could not execute 
others; so, with the surplus which remained for use, I made this 
vase, to show your Majesty the grand style of the ancients. Perhaps 
you never had seen anything of the sort before. As for the salt-cellar, 
I thought, if my memory does not betray me, that your Majesty on 
one occasion ordered me to make it of your own accord. The con- 
versation falling upon something of the kind which had been 
brought for your inspection, I showed you a model made by me in 
Italy; you, following the impulse of your own mind only, had a thou- 
sand golden ducats told out for me to execute the piece withal, thank- 
ing me in addition for my hint; and what is more, I seem to remem- 
ber that you commended me highly when it was completed. As re- 
gards the door, it was my impression that, after we had chanced to 
speak about it at some time or other, your Majesty gave orders to 
your chief secretary, M. Villerois, from whom the order passed to 
M. de Marmagne and M. de la Fa, to this effect, that all these gen- 
demen should keep me going at the work, and see that I obtained 
the necessary funds. Without such commission I should certainly 
not have been able to advance so great an undertaking on my own 
resources. As for the bronze heads, the pedestal of Jupiter and other 
such-like things, I will begin by saying that I cast those heads upon 
my own account, in order to become acquainted with French clays, 
of which, as a foreigner, I had no previous knowledge whatsoever. 
Unless I had made the experiment, I could not have set about casting 
those large works. Now, touching the pedestals, I have to say that I 
made them because I judged them necessary to the statues. Conse- 
quently, in all that I have done, I meant to act for the best, and at 
no point to swerve from your Majesty's expressed wishes. It is indeed 
true that I set that huge Colossus up to satisfy my own desire, paying 
for it from my own purse, even to the point which it has reached, 
because I thought that, you being the great King you are, and I the 
trifling artist that I am, it was my duty to erect for your glory and 
my own a statue, the like of which the ancients never saw. Now, 
at the last, having been taught that God is not inclined to make me 


worthy of so glorious a service, I beseech your Majesty, instead of the 
noble recompense you had in mind to give me for my labours, be- 
stow upon me only one small trifle of your favour, and therewith the 
leave to quit your kingdom. At this instant, if you condescend to 
my request, I shall return to Italy, always thanking God and your 
Majesty for the happy hours which I have passed in serving you." 


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

' The MSS. in this phrase vary, and the meaning is not quite clear. According 
to one reading, the sense would he: "Though the works he had commissioned were 
not yet begun." But this involves an awkward use of the word dipoi. 



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

' Francois de Bourbon, Comte de Saint Paul, one of the chief companions in arms 
and captains of Francois I. 



The King had now made peace with the Emperor, but not with 
the EngHsh, and these devils were keeping us in constant agitation,' 
His Majesty had therefore other things than pleasure to attend to. 
He ordered Piero Strozzi to go with ships of war into the English 
waters; but this was a very difficult undertaking, even for that great 
commander, without a paragon in his times in the art of war, and 
also without a paragon in his misfortunes. Several months passed 
without my receiving money or commissions; accordingly, I dis- 
missed my workpeople with the exception of the two Italians, whom 
I set to making two big vases out of my own silver; for these men 
could not work in bronze. After they had finished these, 1 took them 
to a city which belonged to the Queen of Navarre; it is called Ar- 
gentana, and is distant several days' journey from Paris.^ On arriving 
at this place, I found that the King was indisposed; and the Cardinal 
of Ferrara told his Majesty that I was come. He made no answer, 
which obliged me to stay several days kicking my heels. Of a truth, 
I never was more uncomfortable in my life; but at last I presented 
myself one evening and offered the two vases for the King's inspec- 
tion. He was excessively delighted, and when I saw him in good 
humour, I begged his Majesty to grant me the favour of permitting 
me to travel into Italy; I would leave the seven months of my salary 
which were due, and his Majesty might condescend to pay me when 
I required money for my return journey. I entreated him to grant 
this petition, seeing that the times were more for fighting than for 
making statues; moreover, his Majesty had allowed a similar license 
to Bologna the painter, wherefore I humbly begged him to concede 
the same to me. While I was uttering these words the King kept 
gazing intently on the vases, and from time to time shot a terrible 
glance at me; nevertheless, I went on praying to the best of my 
ability that he would favour my petition. All of a sudden he rose 
angrily from his seat, and said to me in Italian : "Benvenuto, you are 

'The peace of Crepy was concluded September i8, 1544. The English had taken 
Boulogne four days earlier. Peace between France and England was not concluded 
till June 7, 1546. 

^ Argentan, the city of the Duchy of Alenfon. Margaret, it will be remembered, had 
been first married to the Due d'Alenfon, and after his death retained his fiefs. 


a great fool. Take these vases back to Paris, for I want to have them 
gih." Without making any other answer he then departed. 

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


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

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

I made Ascanio and Pagolo guardians of my castle and all my 
property, including two little vases which were only just begun; 
those I left behind in order that the two young men might not be 
idle. I had lived very handsomely in Paris, and therefore there was 
a large amount of costly household furniture: the whole value of 
these effects exceeded 1500 crowns. I bade Ascanio remember what 
great benefits I had bestowed upon him, and that up to the present 


he had been a mere thoughtless lad; the time was now come for him 
to show the prudence of a man; therefore I thought fit to leave him 
in the custody of all my goods, as also of my honour. If he had the 
least thing to complain of from those brutes of Frenchmen, he was 
to let me hear at once, because I would take post and fly from any 
place in which I found myself, not only to discharge the great obli- 
gations under which I lay to that good King, but also to defend my 
honour. Ascanio replied with the tears of a thief and hypocrite: "I 
have never known a father better than you are, and all things which 
a good son is bound to perform for a good father will I ever do for 
you." So then I took my departure, attended by a servant and a Uttle 
French lad. 

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

While I was thus dismally debating with myself, I heard Ascanio 
calling me. On the instant I jumped out of bed, and asked if he 
brought good or evil tidings. The knave answered : "They are good 
news I bring; but you must only send back those three vases, for 
the rascally treasurers keep shouting, 'Stop, thief!' So the Bishop 
and Messer Guido say that you must absolutely send them back. For 
the rest you need have no anxiety, but may pursue your journey 
with a light heart." I handed over the vases immediately, two of 


them being my own property, together with the silver and much 
else besides.' I had meant to take them to the Cardinal of Ferrara's 
abbey at Lyons; for though people accused me of wanting to carry 
them into Italy, everybody knows quite well that it is impossible to 
export money, gold, or silver from France without special hcense. 
Consider, therefore, whether I could have crossed the frontier with 
those three great vases, which, together with their cases, were a whole 
mule's burden! It is certainly true that, since these articles were of 
great value and the highest beauty, I felt imeasiness in case the King 
should die, and I had lately left him in a very bad state of health; 
therefore I said to myself: "If such an accident should happen, hav- 
ing these things in the keeping of the Cardinal, I shall not lose them." 

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

We were one day distant from Lyons, and it was close upon the 
hour of twenty-two, when the heavens began to thunder with sharp 
rattling claps, although the sky was quite clear at the time.^ I was 
riding a cross-bow shot before my comrades. After the thunder the 
heavens made a noise so great and horrible that I thought the last 
day had come; so I reined in for a moment, while a shower of hail 
began to fall without a drop of water. At first the hail was some- 
what larger than pellets from a popgun, and when these struck me, 
they hurt considerably. Litde by little it increased in size, until the 

' Con I'argento e ogni cosa. These words refer perhaps to the vases: the silver and 
everything pertaining to them. 

^ E I'aria era bianchissima. Perhaps this ought to be: and the air blazed with light- 
nings. Goethe takes it as I do above. 


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



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

I parted company with Signer Ippolito Gonzaga, who took the 
route for Mirandola, while I diverged upon the road to Parma and 
Piacenza. In the latter city I met Duke Pier Luigi upon the street, 
who stared me in the face, and recognised me.^ Since I knew him to 
have been the sole cause of my imprisonment in the castle of St. 
Angelo, the sight of him made my blood boil. Yet being unable to 
escape from the man, I decided to pay him my respects, and arrived 

^ The text here is obscure. The words venire a tribulare might mean "to get, by 
any means, however inconvenient, to Florence." I have chosen another interpretation 
in the text, as more consonant with the Italian idiom. For Cellini's use of tribulare or 
iribolare, see lib. i. 112, andando a tribolare la vita tua. 

^Pier Luigi Farnese was not formally invested with the Duchy of Parma and 
Piacenza until September 1545. Cellini, therefore, gives him this title as Duke of 
Castro. He was assassinated on September jo, 1547. The Landi, among other noble- 
men of the duchy, took part in a conspiracy which had its ground in Pier Luigi's 
political errors no less than in his intolerable misgovernment and infamous private 


just after he had risen from table in tKe company of the Landi, who 
afterwards murdered him. On my appearance he received me with 
unbounded marks of esteem and affection, among which he took 
occasion to remark to the gentlemen present that I was the first 
artist of the world in my own line, and that I had been for a long 
while in prison at Rome. Then he turned to me and said: "My 
Benvenuto, I was deeply grieved for your misfortune, and knew well 
that you were innocent, but could not do anything to help you. In 
short, it was my father, who chose to gratify some enemies of yours, 
from whom, moreover, he heard that you had spoken ill of him. 
I am convinced this was not true, and indeed I was heartily sorry 
for your troubles." These words he kept piling up and repeating 
until he seemed to be begging my pardon. Afterwards he inquired 
about the work I had been doing for his Most Christian Majesty; 
and on my furnishing him with details, he listened as attentively 
and graciously as possible. Then he asked if I had a mind to serve 
him. To this I replied that my honour would not allow me to do so; 
but that if I had completed those extensive works begun for the 
King, I should be disposed to quit any great prince merely to enter 
his Excellency's service. 

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



When I returned to my inn, I found that the Duke had sent me 
abundance to eat and drink of very excellent quality. I made a 
hearty meal, then mounted and rode toward Florence. There I 
found my sister with six daughters, the eldest of whom was 
marriageable and the youngest still at nurse. Her husband, by 
reason of divers circumstances in the city, had lost employment from 
his trade. I had sent gems and French jewellery, more than a year 
earlier, to the amount of about two thousand ducats, and now 
brought with me the same wares to the value of about one thousand 
crowns. I discovered that, whereas I made them an allowance of 
four golden crowns a month, they always drew considerable sums 
from the current sale of these articles. My brother-in-law was such 
an honest fellow, that, fearing to give me cause for anger, he had 
pawned nearly everything he possessed, and was devoured by 
interest, in his anxiety to leave my monies untouched. It seems 
that my allowance, made by way of charity, did not suffice for the 
needs of the family. When then I found him so honest in his 
dealings, I felt inclined to raise his pension; and it was my intention, 
before leaving Florence, to make some arrangement for all of his 


The Duke of Florence at this time, which was the month of 
August 1545, had retired to Poggio a Cajano, ten miles distant from 
Florence. Thither then I went to pay him my respects, with the 
sole object of acting as duty required, first because I was a Florentine, 
and next because my forefathers had always been adherents of the 
Medicean party, and I yielded to none of them in affection for this 
Duke Cosimo. As I have said, then, I rode to Poggio with the sole 
object of paying my respects, and with no intention of accepting 
service under him, as God, who does all things well, did then appoint 
for me. 
When I was introduced, the Duke received me very kindly; then 
' Though this paragraph is confused, the meaning seems to be that Cellini's brother- 
in-law did not use the money which accrued from the sale of jewellery, and got into 
debt, because his allowance was inadequate, and he was out of work. 


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

' This Duchess was Eleonora di Toledo, well known to us through Bronzino's 

^ This school was the CoUegio dei Maestri di Belle Arti in Florence, who had 
hitherto known of Cellini mainly as a goldsmith. 

' Cosimo chose the subject of Perseus because it symbolised his own victory over 
the Gorgon of tyrannicide and Republican partisanship. Donatello's Judith, symbol- 
ising justifiable regicide, and Michel Angelo's David, symbolising the might of innocent 
right against an overbearing usurper, already decorated the Florentine piazza. Until 
lately, both of these masterpieces stood together there with the Perseus of Cellini. 

*This is probably the precious model now existing in the Bargello Palace at 
Florence, in many points more interesting than the completed bronze statue under 
the Loggia de' Lanzi. 


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

It is certain that if I had been cunning enough to secure by con- 
tract all I wanted for my work, I should not have incurred the great 
troubles which came upon me through my own fault. But he showed 
the strongest desire to have the work done, and the most perfect 
willingness to arrange preliminaries. I therefore, not discerning that 
he was more a merchant than a duke, dealt very frankly with his 
Excellency, just as if I had to do with a prince, and not with a com- 
mercial man. I sent in my petition, to which he replied in large 

'Donatello's Judith and Holofernes; Michel Angelo's David. 
' It is difficult to give the exact sense of pertanto and perchi in the text, but I 
think the drift of the sentence is rendered above. 


and ample terms. The memorandum ran as follows: "Most rare 
and excellent my patron, petitions of any validity and compacts 
between us of any value do not rest upon words or writings; the 
whole point is that I should succeed in my work according to my 
promise; and if I so succeed, I feel convinced that your most illus- 
trious Excellency will very well remember what you have engaged 
to do for me." This language so charmed the Duke both with my 
ways of acting and of speaking that he and the Duchess began to 
treat me with extraordinary marks of favour. 


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

' This house is in the Via del Rosaio, entered from Via della Pergola, No. 6527. 
^The petition and the rescript are in existence, and confirm Cellini's veracity in 
this transaction. See Bianchi, p. 587. 


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

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

' Varchi, St. Fior., lib. xv. 44, gives to this man the character of a presumptuous 
conceited simpleton. 

* Cellini calls this man, his bitter foe and rival, Buaccio or the great ox, block.head, 
instead of Baccio, which is shortened for Bartolommeo. 

^ See p. 25. Vasari introduced him, together with Cosimo's other favoured artists, 
in a fresco of the Palazzo Vecchio at Florence. See Plon, p. 124. 


as well as I was able, some few of the gloomy thoughts which 
weighed upon me. 


I had got all the above-mentioned things in order, and was making 
vigorous preparations for my great undertaking — indeed a portion 
of the lime had been already used — when I received sudden notice to 
appear before the majordomo. I found him, after his Excellency's 
dinner, in the hall of the clock.' On entering, I paid him marked 
respect, and he received me with the greatest stiffness. Then he 
asked who had installed me in the house, and by whose authority 
I had begun to build there, saying he marvelled much that I had 
been so headstrong and foolhardy. I answered that I had been 
installed in the house by his Excellency, and that his lordship him- 
self, in the name of his Excellency, had given the orders to Lattanzio 
Gorini. "Lattanzio brought stone, sand, and lime, and provided 
what I wanted, saying he did so at your lordship's orders." When I 
had thus spoken, the brute turned upon me with still greater tart- 
ness, vowing that neither I nor any of those whom I had mentioned 
spoke the truth. This stung me to the quick, and I exclaimed: "O 
majordomo, so long as your lordship^ chooses to use language 
befitting the high office which you hold, I shall revere you, and 
speak to you as respectfully as I do to the Duke; if you take another 
Hne with me, I shall address you as but one Ser Pier Francesco 
Riccio." He flew into such a rage that I thought he meant to go 
mad upon the spot, anticipating the time ordained by Heaven for 
him to do so.' Pouring forth a torrent of abuse, he roared out that 
he was surprised at himself for having let me speak at all to a man 
of his quality. Thereupon my blood was up, and I cried: "Mark 
my words, then, Ser Pier Francesco Riccio! I will tell you what 
sort of men are my equals, and who are yours — mere teachers of the 

' One of the rooms in the Palazzo Vecchio, so called because the famous cosmo- 
graphical timepiece, made about 1484 for Lorenzo de' Medici by Lorenzo della 
Volpaia, stood there. 

^It was the custom at that epoch to address princes by the title of Signore or 
Vostra Signoria; gendemen (armigeri) had the title of Messer; simple Ser was given 
to plebeians with some civil or ecclesiastical dignity. 

' Vasari, in his Lije of Montorsoli, says in effect that this Riccio died about I559i 
after having been insane several years. 


alphabet to children!" His face contracted with a spasm, while he 
raised his voice and repeated the same words in a still more insulting 
tone. I, too, assumed an air of menace, and matching his own 
arrogance with something of the same sort, told him plainly that 
men of my kind were worthy to converse with popes and emperors, 
and great kings, and that perhaps there were not two such men alive 
upon this earth, while ten of his sort might be met at every doorway. 
On hearing these words he jumped upon a window-seat in the hall 
there, and defied me to repeat what I had said. I did so with still 
greater heat and spirit, adding I had no farther mind to serve the 
Duke, and that I should return to France, where I was always 
welcome. The brute remained there stupefied and pale as clay; I 
went off furious, resolved on leaving Florence; and would to God 
that I had done so! 

The Duke cannot, I think, have been informed at once of this 
diabolical scene, for I waited several days without hearing from him. 
Giving up all thoughts of Florence, except what concerned the 
settlement of my sister's and nieces' affairs, I made preparations to 
provide for them as well as I could with the small amount of money 
I had brought, and then to return to France and never set my foot 
in Italy again. This being my firm purpose, I had no intention to 
ask leave of the Duke or anybody, but to decamp as quickly as I 
could; when one morning the majordomo, of his own accord, sent 
very humbly to entreat my presence, and opened a long pedantic 
oration, in which I could discover neither method, nor elegance, nor 
meaning, nor head, nor tail. I only gathered from it that he pro- 
fessed himself a good Christian, wished to bear no man malice, and 
asked me in the Duke's name what salary I should be willing to 
accept. Hearing this, I stood a while on guard, and made no answer, 
being firmly resolved not to engage myself. When he saw that I 
refused to reply, he had at least the cleverness to put in: "Benvenuto, 
dukes expect to be answered; and what I am saying to you, I am 
saying from his Excellency's lips." Then I rejoined that if the 
message came from his Excellency, I would gladly reply, and told 
him to report to the Duke that I could not accept a position inferior 
to that of any one employed by him as artist. The majordomo 
answered: "Bandinello receives two hundred crowns a year; if then 


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


I received frequent letters from France, written by my most faith- 
ful friend Messer Guido Guidi. As yet they told nothing but good 
news; and Ascanio also bade me enjoy myself without uneasiness, 
since, if anything happened, he would let me know at once. 

Now the King was informed that I had commenced working for 
the Duke of Florence, and being the best man in the world, he 
often asked: "Why does not Benvenuto come back to us?" He put 
searching questions on the subject to my two workmen, both of 
whom replied that I kept writing I was well off where I was, adding 
they thought I did not want to re-enter the service of his Majesty. 
Incensed by these presumptuous words, which were none of my 
saying, the King exclaimed: "Since he left us without any cause, I 
shall not recall him; let him e'en stay where he is." Thus the thievish 
brigands brought matters exactly to the pass they desired; for if I 
had returned to France, they would have become mere workmen 
under me once more, whereas, while I remained away, they were 
their own masters and in my place; consequently, they did every- 
thing in their power to prevent my coming back. 


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


structed the skeleton in iron. Afterwards I put on the clay, and 
when that was modelled, baked it. 

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


In my anxiety that nothing should go wrong, I sent for two hand- 
labourers to clear my garden of rubbish. They came from Ponte 
Vecchio, the one an old man of sixty years, the other a young fellow 
of eighteen. After employing them about three days, the lad told 
me that the old man would not work, and that I had better send 
him away, since, beside being idle, he prevented his comrade from 
working. The little I had to do there could be done by himself, 
without throwing money away on other people. The youth was 
called Bernardino Mannellini, of Mugello. When I saw that he was 
so inclined to labour, I asked whether he would enter my service, 
and we agreed upon the spot. He groomed my horse, gardened, and 

' That is, the Opera del Duomo, or permanent establishment for attending to the 
fabric of the Florentine Cathedral. 


soon essayed to help me in the workshop, with such success that by 
degrees he learned the art quite nicely. I never had a better assistant 
than he proved. Having made up my mind to accomplish the whole 
ajffair with this man's aid, I now let the Duke know that Bandinello 
was lying, and that I could get on famously without his workpeople. 
Just at this time I suffered slightly in the loins, and being unable 
to work hard, I was glad to pass my time in the Duke's wardrobe 
with a couple of young goldsmiths called Gianpagolo and Domenico 
Poggini,* who made a little golden cup under my direction. It was 
chased in bas-relief with figures and other pretty ornaments, and his 
Excellency meant it for the Duchess to drink water out of. He 
furthermore commissioned me to execute a golden belt, which I 
enriched with gems and delicate masks and other fancies. The Duke 
came frequently into the wardrobe, and took great pleasure in 
watching me at work and talking to me. When my health improved, 
I had clay brought, and took a portrait of hij Excellency, considerably 
larger than hfe-size, which I modelled while he stayed with me for 
pastime. He was highly delighted with this piece, and conceived 
such a liking for me that he earnestly begged me to take up my 
working quarters in the palace, selecting rooms large enough for 
my purpose, and fitting them up with furnaces and all I wanted, for 
he greatly enjoyed watching the processes of art. I replied that this 
was impossible; I should not have finished my undertakings in a 
hundred years. 


The Duchess also treated me with extraordinary graciousness, and 
would have been pleased if I had worked for her alone, forgetting 
Perseus and everything besides. I for my part, while these vain 
favours were being showered upon me knew only too well that my 
perverse and biting fortune could not long delay to send me some 
fresh calamity, because I kept ever before my eyes the great mistake 
I had committed while seeking to do a good action. I refer to my 
affairs in France. The King could not swallow the displeasure he 
felt at my departure; and yet he wanted me to return, if only this 

' These two brothers were specially eminent as die-casters. Gianpagolo went to 
Spain, and served Philip II. 


could be brought about without concessions on his part. I thought 
that I was entirely in the right, and would not bend submissively, 
because I judged that if I wrote in humble terms, those enemies of 
mine would say in their French fashion that I had confessed myself 
to blame, and that certain misdoings with which they wrongfully 
taxed me were proved true. Therefore I stood upon my honour, and 
wrote in terms of haughty coldness, which was precisely what those 
two traitors, my apprentices, most heartily desired. In my letters to 
them I boasted of the distinguished kindness shown me in my own 
birthplace by a prince and princess the absolute masters of Florence, 
Whenever they received one of these despatches, they went to the 
King, and besieged his Majesty with entreaties for the castle upon 
the same terms as he had granted it to me. The King, who was a 
man of great goodness and perspicacity, would never consent to the 
presumptuous demands of those scoundrels, since he scented the 
malignity of their aims. Yet, wishing to keep them in expectation, 
and to give me the opportunity of coming back, he caused an angry 
letter to be written to me by his treasurer, Messer Giuliano Buonac- 
corsi, a burgher of Florence. The substance was as follows: If I 
wanted to preserve the reputation for honesty which I had hitherto 
enjoyed, it was my plain duty, after leaving France with no cause 
whatsoever, to render an account of all that I had done and dealt 
with for his Majesty. 

The receipt of this letter gave me such pleasure that, if I had con- 
sulted my own palate, I could not have wished for either more or 
less. I sat down to write an answer, and filled nine pages of ordinary 
paper. In this document I described in detail all the works which I 
had executed, and all the adventures I had gone through while per- 
forming them, and all the sums which had been spent upon them. 
The payments had always been made through two notaries and one 
of his Majesty's treasurers; and I could show receipts from all the 
men into whose hands they passed, whether for goods supplied or 
labour rendered. I had not pocketed one penny of the money, nor 
had I received any reward for my completed works. I brought back 
with me into Italy nothing but some marks of favour and most royal 
promises, truly worthy of his Majesty. "Now, though I cannot vaunt 
myself of any recompense beyond the salaries appointed for my 


maintenance in France, seven hundred golden crowns o£ which are 
still due, inasmuch as I abstained from drawing them until I could 
employ them on my return-journey; yet knowing that malicious foes 
out of their envious hearts have played some knavish trick against 
me, I feel confident that truth will prevail. I take pride in his Most 
Christian Majesty and am not moved by avarice. I am indeed aware 
of having performed for him far more than I undertook; and albeit 
the promised reward has not been given me, my one anxiety is to 
remain in his Majesty's opinion that man of probity and honour 
which I have always been. If your Majesty entertains the least doubt 
upon this point, I will fly to render an account of my conduct, at the 
risk even of my life. But noticing in what slight esteem I am held 
I have had no mind to come back and make an offer of myself, 
knowing that I shall never lack for bread whithersoever I may go. 
If, however, I am called for, I will always answer." The letter con- 
tained many further particulars worthy of the King's attention, and 
proper to the preservation of my honour. Before despatching it, I 
took it to the Duke, who read it with interest; then I sent it into 
France, addressed to the Cardinal of Ferrara. 


About this time Bernardone Baldini,' broker in jewels to the Duke, 
brought a big diamond from Venice, which weighed more than 
thirty-five carats. Antonio, son of Vittorio Landi, was also interested 
in getting the Duke to purchase it.^ The stone had been cut with a 
point; but since it did not yield the purity of lustre which one expects 
in such a diamond, its owners had cropped the point, and, in truth, 
it was not exactly fit for either point or table cutting.' Our Duke, 
who greatly delighted in gems, though he was not a sound judge of 
them, held out good hopes to the rogue Bernardaccio that he would 
buy this stone; and the fellow, wanting to secure for himself alone 
the honour of palming it off upon the Duke of Florence, abstained 
from taking his partner Antonio Landi into the secret. Now Landi 

' Varchi and Ammirato both mention him as an excellent jeweller. 

^ Antonio Landi was a Florentine gentleman, merchant, and author. A comedy of 
his called Commotio is extant. 

^Italians distinguished cut diamonds of three sorts: in tavola, a faccctte, and in 
punta. The word I have translated cropped is ischericato, which was properly applied 
to an unfrocked or degraded ecclesiastic. 


had been my intimate friend from childhood, and when he saw that 
I enjoyed the Duke's confidence, he called "me aside (it was just 
before noon at a corner of the Mercato Nuovo), and spoke as follows: 
"Benvenuto, I am convinced that the Duke will show you a diamond, 
which he seems disposed to buy; you will find it a big stone. Pray 
assist the purchase; I can give it for seventeen thousand crowns, I 
feel sure he will ask your advice; and if you see that he has a mind 
for it, we will contrive that he secures it." Antonio professed great 
confidence in being able to complete the bargain for the jewel at 
that price. In reply, I told him that if my advice was taken, I would 
speak according to my judgment, without prejudice to the diamond. 
As I have above related, the Duke came daily into our goldsmith's 
workshop for several hours; and about a week after this conversation 
with Antonio Landi he showed me one day after dinner the diamond 
in question, which I immediately recognised by its description, both 
'as to form and weight. I have already said that its water was not 
quite transparent, for which reason it had been cropped; so, when 
I found it of that kind and quality, I felt certainly disinclined to 
recommend its acquisition. However, I asked his Excellency what 
he wanted me to say; because it was one thing for jewellers to value 
a stone after a prince had bought it, and another thing to estimate it 
with a view to purchase. He replied that he had bought it, and that 
he only wanted my opinion. I did not choose to abstain from hinting 
what I really thought about the stone. Then he told me to observe 
the beauty of its great facets.* I answered that this feature of the 
diamond was not so great a beauty as his Excellency supposed, but 
came from the point having been cropped. At these words my 
prince, who perceived that I was speaking the truth, made a wry 
face, and bade me give good heed to valuing the stone, and saying 
what I thought it worth. I reckoned that, since Landi had offered 
it to me for 17,000 crowns, the Duke might have got it for 15,000 
at the highest; so, noticing that he would take it ill if I spoke the 
truth, I made my mind up to uphold him in his false opinion, and 
handing back the diamond, said: "You will probably have paid 
18,000 crowns." On hearing this the Duke uttered a loud "Oh!" 
opening his mouth as wide as a well, and cried out : "Now am I con- 

* Filetti, the sharp lines which divide one facet from another. 


vinced that you understand nothing about the matter." I retorted: 
"You are certainly in the wrong there, my lord. Do you attend to 
maintaining the credit of your diamond, while I attend to under- 
standing my trade. But pray tell me at least how much you paid, 
in order that I may learn to understand it according to the way of 
your Excellency." The Duke rose, and, with a little sort of angry 
grin, replied: "Twenty-five thousand crowns and more, Benvenuto, 
did that stone cost me!" 

Having thus spoken he departed. Giovanpagolo and Domenico 
Poggini, the goldsmiths, were present; and Bachiacca, the embroid- 
erer, who was working in an adjacent room, ran up at the noise." 
I told them that I should never have advised the Duke to purchase 
it; but if his heart was set on having it, Antonio Landi had offered 
me the stone eight days ago for 17,000 crowns. I think I could have 
got it for 15,000 or less. But the Duke apparently wishes to maintain 
his gem in credit; for when Antonio Landi was willing to let it go 
at that price, how the devil can Bernardone have played off such a 
shameful trick upon his Excellency.'' Never imagining that the 
matter stood precisely as the Duke averred, we laughingly made 
light of his supposed credulity. 


Meanwhile I was advancing with my great statue of Medusa. I 
had covered the iron skeleton with clay, which I modelled like an 
anatomical subject, and about half an inch thinner than the bronze 
would be. This I baked well, and then began to spread on the wax 
surface, in order to complete the figure to my liking.' The Duke, 
who often came to inspect it, was so anxious lest I should not succeed 
with the bronze, that he wanted me to call in some master to case 
it for me. 

' Antonio Ubertini, called II Bachiacca, a brother of Cellini's friend in Rome. See 
p. 56. He enjoyed a great reputation, and was praised by Varchi in a sonnet for his 
mastery of embroidery. 

' This is an important passage, which has not, I think, been properly understood 
by Cellini's translators. It describes the process he now employed in preparing a mould 
for bronze-casting. First, it seems, he made a solid clay model, somewhat smaller than 
the bronze was meant to be. This he overlaid with wax, and then took a hollow 
mould of the figure thus formed. Farther on we shall see how he withdrew the wax 
from the hollow mould, leaving the solid model inside, with space enough between 
them for the metal to flow in. 


He was continually talking in the highest terms of my acquire- 
ments and accomplishments. This made his majordomo no less con- 
tinually eager to devise some trap for making me break my neck. 
Now his post at court gave him authority with the chief-constables 
and all the officers in the poor unhappy town of Florence. Only to 
think that a fellow from Prato, our hereditary foeman, the son of a 
cooper, and the most ignorant creature in existence, should have 
risen to such a station of influence, merely because he had been the 
rotten tutor of Cosimo de' Medici before he became Duke! Well, as 
I have said, he kept ever on the watch to serve me some ill turn; and 
finding that he could not catch me out on any side, he fell at last 
upon this plan, which meant mischief. He betook himself to Gam- 
betta, the mother of my apprentice Cencio; and this precious pair 
together — that knave of a pedant and that rogue of a strumpet — in- 
vented a scheme for giving me such a fright as would make me leave 
Florence in hot haste. Gambetta, yielding to the instinct of her trade, 
went out, acting under the orders of that mad, knavish pedant, the 
majordomo — I must add that they had also gained over the Bargello, 
a Bolognese, whom the Duke afterwards dismissed for similar con- 
spiracies. Well, one Saturday evening, after sunset, Gambetta came 
to my house with her son, and told me she had kept him several 
days indoors for my welfare. I answered that there was no reason to 
keep him shut up on my account; and laughing her whorish arts 
to scorn, I turned to the boy in her presence, and said these words: 
"You know, Cencio, whether I have sinned with you!" He began to 
shed tears, and answered, "No!" Upon this the mother, shaking her 
head, cried out at him: "Ah! you little scoundrel! Do you think I 
do not know how these things happen?" Then she turned to me, 
and begged me to keep the lad hidden in my house, because the 
Bargello was after him, and would seize him anywhere outside my 
house, but there they would not dare to touch him. I made answer 
that in my house lived my widowed sister and six girls of holy life, 
and that I wanted nobody else there. Upon that she related that the 
majordomo had given orders to the Bargello, and that I should cer- 
tainly be taken up: only, if I would not harbour her son, I might 
square accounts by paying her a hundred crowns; the majordomo 
was her crony, and I might rest assured that she could work him to 


her liking, provided I paid down the hundred crowns. This cozen- 
age goaded me into such a fury that I cried: "Out with you, shame- 
ful strumpet! Were it not for my good reputation, and for the 
innocence of this uphappy boy of yours here, I should long ago have 
cut your throat with the dagger at my side; and twice or thrice I 
have already clasped my fingers on the handle." With words to this 
effect, and many ugly blows to boot, I drove the woman and her 
son into the street. 


When I reflected on the roguery and power of that evil-minded 
pedant, I judged it best to give a wide berth to his infernal machi- 
nations; so early next morning I mounted my horse and took the 
road for Venice, leaving in my sister's hands jewels and articles to 
the value of nearly two thousand crowns. I took with me my servant 
Bernardino of Mugello; and when I reached Ferrara, I wrote word 
to his Excellency the Duke, that though I had gone off without 
being sent, I should come back again without being called for. 

On arriving at Venice, and pondering upon the divers ways my 
cruel fortune took to torment me, yet at the same time feeling myself 
none the less sound in health and hearty, I made up my mind to 
fence with her according to my wont. While thus engrossed in 
thoughts about my own affairs, I went abroad for pastime through 
that beautiful and sumptuous city, and paid visits to the admirable 
painter Titian, and to Jacopo del Sansovino, our able sculptor and 
architect from Florence. The latter enjoyed an excellent appoint- 
ment under the Signoria of Venice; and we had been acquainted 
during our youth in Rome and Florence. These two men of genius 
received me with marked kindness. The day afterwards I met 
Messer Lorenzo de' Medici,* who took me by the hand at once, 
giving me the warmest welcome which could be imagined, because 
we had known each other in Florence when I was coining for Duke 
Alessandro, and afterwards in Paris while I was in the King's 
service. At that time he sojourned in the house of Messer Giuliano 
Buonaccorsi, and having nowhere else to go for pastime without the 

' This is Lorenzino de' Medici, the murderer of Alessandro, who was himself assas- 
sinated by two Tuscan bravi in 1548. See Renaissance in Italy, vol. vi. chap. 6. 


greatest peril of his life, he used to spend a large part of the day in 
my house, watching me working at the great pieces I produced there. 
As I was saying, our former acquaintance led him to take me by the 
hand and bring me to his dwelling, where I found the Prior degli 
Strozzi, brother of my lord Piero. While making good cheer 
together, they asked me how long I intended to remain in Venice, 
thinking that I was on my return journey into France. To these 
gentlemen I replied that I had left Florence on account of the events 
I have described above, and that I meant to go back after two or 
three days, in order to resume my service with the Duke. On hear- 
ing this, the Prior and Messer Lorenzo turned round on me with 
such sternness that I felt extremely uneasy; then they said to me: 
"You would do far better to return to France, where you are rich and 
well known; for if you go back to Florence, you will lose all that 
you have gained in France, and will earn nothing there but annoy- 

I made no answer to these words, and departed the next day as 
secretly as I was able, turning my face again towards Florence. In 
the meanwhile that infernal plot had come to a head and broken, 
for I had written to my great master, the Duke, giving him a full 
account of the causes of my escapade to Venice. I went to visit him 
without any ceremony, and was received with his usual reserve and 
austerity. Having maintained this attitude awhile, he turned toward 
me pleasantly, and asked where I had been. I answered that my 
heart had never moved one inch from his most illustrious Excellency, 
although some weighty reasons had forced me to go a roaming for a 
little while. Then softening still more in manner, he began to ques- 
tion me concerning Venice, and after this wise we conversed some 
space of time. At last he bade me apply myself to business, and 
complete his Perseus. So I returned home glad and light-hearted, 
and comforted my family, that is to say, my sister and her six 
daughters. Then I resumed my work, and pushed it forward as 
briskly as I could. 


The first piece I cast in bronze was that great bust, the portrait of 
his Excellency, which I had modelled in the goldsmith's workroom 


while suffering from those pains in my back.' It gave much pleasure 
when it was completed, though my sole object in making it was to 
obtain experience of clays suitable for bronze-casting. I was of 
course aware that the admirable sculptor Donatello had cast his 
bronzes with the clay of Florence; yet it seemed to me that he had 
met with enormous difficulties in their execution. As I thought 
that this was due to some fault in the earth, I wanted to make these 
first experiments before I undertook my Perseus. From them I 
learned that the clay was good enough, but had not been well under- 
stood by Donatello, inasmuch as I could see that his pieces had been 
cast with the very greatest trouble. Accordingly, as I have described 
above, I prepared the earth by artificial methods, and found it serve 
me well, and with it I cast the bust; but since I had not yet con- 
structed my own furnace, I employed that of Maestro Zanobi di 
Pagno, a bell-founder. 

When I saw that this bust came out sharp and clean, I set at once 
to construct a little furnace in the workshop erected for me by the 
Duke, after my own plans and design, in the house which the Duke 
had given me. No sooner was the furnace ready than I went to 
work with all diligence upon the casting of Medusa, that is, the 
woman twisted in a heap beneath the feet of Perseus. It was an 
extremely difficult task, and I was anxious to observe all the niceties 
of art which I had learned, so as not to lapse into some error. The 
first cast I took in my furnace succeeded in the superlative degree, 
and was so clean that my friends thought I should not need to 
retouch it. It is true that certain Germans and Frenchmen, who 
vaunt the possession of marvellous secrets, pretend that they can 
cast bronzes without retouching them; but this is really nonsense, 
because the bronze, when it has first been cast, ought to be worked 
over and beaten in with hammers and chisels, according to the 
manner of the ancients and also to that of the moderns — I mean such 
moderns as have known how to work in bronze. 

The result of this casting greatly pleased his Excellency, who often 

came to my house to inspect it, encouraging me by the interest he 

showed to do my best. The furious envy of Bandinello, however, 

who kept always whispering in the Duke's ears, had such effect that 

' Now in the Museum of the Bargello Palace at Florence 


he made him believe my first successes with a single figure or two 
proved nothing; I should never be able to put the whole large piece 
together, since I was new to the craft, and his Excellency ought to 
take good heed he did not throw his money away. These insinua- 
tions operated so efficiently upon the Duke's illustrious ears, that 
part of my allowance for workpeople was withdrawn. I felt com- 
pelled to complain pretty sharply to his Excellency; and having gone 
to wait on him one morning in the Via de' Servi, I spoke as follows: 
"My lord, I do not now receive the monies necessary for my task, 
which makes me fear that your Excellency has lost confidence in me. 
Once more then I tell you that I feel quite able to execute this statue 
three times better than the model, as I have before engaged my 


I could see that this speech made no impression on the Duke, for 
he kept silence; then, seized with sudden anger and a vehement 
emotion, I began again to address him : "My lord, this city of a truth 
has ever been the school of the most noble talents. Yet when a man 
has come to know what he is worth, after gaining some acquire- 
ments, and wishing to augment the glory of his town and of his 
glorious prince, it is quite right that he should go and labour else- 
where. To prove the truth of these words, I need only remind your 
Excellency of Donatello and the great Lionardo da Vinci in the past, 
and of our incomparable Michel Angelo Buonarroti in the present; 
they augment the glory of your Excellency by their genius. I in my 
turn feel the same desire and hope to play my part like them; there- 
fore, my lord, give me the leave to go. But beware of letting Bandi- 
nello quit you; rather bestow upon him always more than he 
demands; for if he goes into foreign parts, his ignorance is so pre- 
sumptuous that he is just the man to disgrace our most illustrious 
school. Now grant me my permission, prince! I ask no further 
reward for my labours up to this time than the gracious favour of 
your most illustrious Excellency." When he saw the firmness of my 
resolution, he turned with some irritation and exclaimed: "Ben- 
venuto, if you want to finish the statue, you shall lack for nothing." 
Then I thanked him and said I had no greater desire than to show 


those envious folk that I had it in me to execute the promised work. 
When I left his Excellency, I received some slight assistance; but this 
not being sufficient, I had to put my hand into my own purse, in 
order to push the work forward at something better than a snail's 

It was my custom to pass the evening in the Duke's wardrobe, 
where Domenico Poggini and his brother Gianpagolo were at work 
upon that golden cup for the Duchess and the girdle I have already 
described. His Excellency had also commissioned me to make a 
little model for a pendent to set the great diamond which Bernardone 
and Antonio Landi made him buy. I tried to get out of doing it, but 
the Duke compelled me by all sorts of kindly pressure to work until 
four hours after nightfall. He kept indeed enticing me to push this 
job forward by daytime also; but I would not consent, although I 
felt sure I should incur his anger. Now one evening I happened to 
arrive rather later than usual, whereupon he said: "III come may 
you be!" ^ I answered: "My lord, that is not my name; my name is 
Welcome! But, as I suppose your Excellency is joking, I will add no 
more." He replied that, far from joking, he meant solemn earnest. 
I had better look to my conduct, for it had come to his ears that I 
relied upon his favour to take in first one man and then another. 
I begged his most illustrious Excellency to name a single person 
whom I had ever taken in. At this he flew into a rage, and said: 
"Go, and give back to Bernardone what you have of his. There! 
I have mentioned one." I said: "My lord, I thank you, and beg you 
to condescend so far as to listen to four words. It is true that he lent 
me a pair of old scales, two anvils, and three little hammers, which 
articles I begged his workman, Giorgio da Cortona, fifteen days ago, 
to fetch back. Giorgio came for them himself. If your Excellency 
can prove, on referring to those who have spoken these calumnies, 
or to others, that I have ever, from the day of my birth till now, got 
any single thing by fraud from anybody, be it in Rome or be it in 
France, then let your Excellency punish me as immoderately as you 
choose." When the Duke saw me in this mighty passion, he assumed 
the air of a prudent and benevolent lord, saying: "Those words are 
not meant for well-doers; therefore, if it is as you say, I shall always 
1 A play on Benvenuto and Malvenuto. 


receive you with the same kindness as heretofore." To this I 
answered : "I should hke your Excellency to know that the rascalities 
of Bernardone compel me to ask as a favor how much that big 
diamond with the cropped point cost you. I hope to prove on what 
account that scoundrel tries to bring me into disgrace." Then his 
Excellency replied: "I paid 25,000 ducats for it; why do you ask me?" 
"Because, my lord, on such a day, at such an hour, in a corner of 
Mercato Nuovo, Antonio Landi, the son of Vittorio, begged me to 
induce your Excellency to buy it, and at my first question he asked 
16,000 ducats for the diamond;'^ now your Excellency knows what it 
has cost you. Domenico Poggini and Gianpagolo his brother, who 
are present, will confirm my words; for I spoke to them at once 
about it, and since that time have never once alluded to the matter, 
because your Excellency told me I did not understand these things, 
which made me think you wanted to keep up the credit of your 
stone. I should like you to know, my lord, thdt I do understand, 
and that, as regards my character, I consider myself no less honest 
than any man who ever lived upon this earth. I shall not try to rob 
you of eight or ten thousand ducats at one go, but shall rather seek 
to earn them by my industry. I entered the service of your Excel- 
lency as sculptor, goldsmith, and stamper of coin; but to blab about 
my neighbour's private matters, — never! What I am now telUng you 
I say in self-defence; I do not want my fee for information.* If I 
speak out in the presence of so many worthy fellows as are here, it 
is because I do not wish your Excellency to believe what Bernardone 
tells you." 

When he had heard this speech, the Duke rose up in anger, and 
sent for Bernardone, who was forced to take flight as far as Venice, 
he and Antonio Landi with him. The latter told me that he had not 
meant that diamond, but was talking of another stone. So then they 
went and came again from Venice; whereupon I presented myself 
to the Duke and spoke as follows : "My lord, what I told you is the 
truth; and what Bernardone said about the tools he lent me is a lie. 
You had better put this to the proof, and I will go at once to the 

2 He forgets that he has said above that it was offered him by Landi for 17,000 

^ This fee was il quarto, or the fourth part of the criminal's fine, which came to 
the delator. 


Bargello." The Duke made answer : "Benvenuto, do your best to be 
an honest man, as you have done until now; you have no cause for 
apprehension." So the whole matter passed off in smoke, and I 
heard not one more word about it. I applied myself to finishing his 
jewel; and when I took it to the Duchess, her Grace said that she 
esteemed my setting quite as highly as the diamond which Bernard- 
accio had made them btiy. She then desired me to fasten it upon her 
breast, and handed me a large pin, with which I fixed it, and took 
my leave in her good favour.* Afterwards I was informed that they 
had the stone reset by a German or some other foreigner — whether 
truly or not I cannot vouch — upon Bernardone's suggestion that the 
diamond would show better in a less elaborate setting. 


I believe I have already narrated how Domenico and Giovan- 
pagolo Poggini, goldsmiths and brothers, were at work in the Duke's 
wardrobe upon some little golden vases, after my design, chased with 
figures in bas-relief, and other ornaments of great distinction. I often- 
times kept saying to his Excellency : "My lord, if you will undertake 
to pay some workpeople, I am ready to strike coins for your mint and 
medals with your portrait. I am willing to enter into competition 
with the ancients, and feel able to surpass them; for since those early 
days in which I made the medals of Pope Clement, I have learned 
so much that I can now produce far better pieces of the kind. I think 
I can also outdo the coins I struck for Duke Alessandro, which are 
still held in high esteem; in like manner I could make for you large 
pieces of gold and silver plate, as I did so often for that noble mon- 
arch. King Francis of France, thanks to the great conveniences he 
allowed me, without ever losing time for the execution of colossal 
statues or other works of the sculptor's craft." To this suggestion the 
Duke replied: "Go forward; I will see;" but he never supplied me 
with conveniences or aid of any kind. 

One day his most illustrious Excellency handed me several pounds 
weight of silver, and said: "This is some of the silver from my 

* It is worthy o£ notice that from this point onward the MS. is written by CellLni 
in his own hand. 


mines;' take it, and make a fine vase." Now I did not choose to 
neglect my Perseus, and at the same time I wished to serve the Duke, 
so I entrusted the metal, together with my designs and models in 
wax, to a rascal called Piero di Martino, a goldsmith by trade. He 
set the work up badly, and moreover ceased to labour at it, so that I 
lost more time than if I had taken it in hand myself. After several 
months were wasted, and Piero would neither work nor put men to 
work upon the piece, I made him give it back. I moved heaven and 
earth to get back the body of the vase, which he had begun badly, as 
I have already said, together with the remainder of the silver. The 
Duke, hearing something of these disputes, sent for the vase and the 
models, and never told me why or wherefore. Suffice it to say, that 
he placed some of my designs in the hands of divers persons at 
Venice and elsewhere, and was very ill served by them. 

The Duchess kept urging me to do goldsmith's work for her. I 
frequently replied that everybody, nay, all Italy, knew well I was an 
excellent goldsmith; but Italy had not yet seen what I could do in 
sculpture. Among artists, certain enraged sculptors laughed at me, 
and called me the new sculptor. "Now I hope to show them that I 
am an old sculptor, if God shall grant me the boon of finishing my 
Perseus for that noble piazza of his most illustrious Excellency." 
After this I shut myself up at home, working day and night, not 
even showing my face in the palace. I wished, however, to keep 
myself in favour with the Duchess; so I got some little cups made 
for her in silver, no larger than twopenny milk-pots, chased with 
exquisite masks in the rarest antique style. When I took them to her 
Excellency, she received me most graciously, and repaid the gold 
and silver I had spent upon them. Then I made my suit to her and 
prayed her tell the Duke that I was getting small assistance for so 
great a work; I begged her also to warn him not to lend so ready 
an ear to Bandinello's evil tongue, which hindered me from finishing 
my Perseus. In reply to these lamentable complaints the Duchess 
shrugged her shoulders and exclaimed: "Of a surety the Duke 
ought only too well to know that this Bandinello of his is. worth 

' Cosimo's silver mines were at Campiglia and Pietrasantra. He worked them, 
however, rather at a loss than profit. 



I now stayed at home, and went rarely to the palace, labouring 
with great diligence to complete my statue. I had to pay the work- 
men out of my own pocket; for the Duke, after giving Lattanzio 
Gorini orders to discharge their wages, at the end of about eighteen 
months, grew tired, and withdrew this subsidy. I asked Lattanzio 
why he did not pay me as usual. The man replied, gesticulating with 
those spidery hands of his, in a shrill gnat's voice : "Why do not you 
finish your work.? One thinks that you will never get it done." In a 
rage I up and answered: "May the plague catch you and all who dare 
to think I shall not finish it!" 

So I went home with despair at heart to my unlucky Perseus, not 
without weeping, when I remembered the prosperity I had aban- 
doned in Paris under the patronage of that marvellous King Francis, 
where I had abundance of all kinds, and here had everything to 
want for. Many a time I had it in my soul to cast myself away for 
lost. One day on one of these occasions, I mounted a nice nag I 
had, put a hundred crowns in my purse, and went to Fiesole to 
visit a natural son of mine there, who was at nurse with my gossip, 
the wife of one of my workpeople. When I reached the house, I 
found the boy in good health, and kissed him, very sad at heart. 
On taking leave, he would not let me go, but held me with his little 
hands and a tempest of cries and tears. Considering that he was only 
two years old or thereabouts, the child's grief was something wonder- 
ful. Now I had resolved, in the heat of my despair, if I met Bandi- 
nello, who went every evening to a farm of his above San Domenico, 
that I would hurl him to destruction; so I disengaged myself from 
my baby, and left the boy there sobbing his heart out. Taking the 
road toward Florence, just when I entered the piazza of San 
Domenico, Bandinello was arriving from the other side. On the 
instant I decided upon bloodshed; but when I reached the man and 
raised my eyes, I saw him unarmed, riding a sorry mule or rather 
donkey, and he had with him a boy of ten years old. No sooner did 
he catch sight of me than he turned the colour of a corpse, and 
trembled from head to foot. Perceiving at once how base the business 


would be, I exclaimed: "Fear not, vile coward! I do not condescend 
to smite you." He looked at me submissively and said nothing. 
Thereupon I recovered command of my faculties, and thanked God 
that His goodness had withheld me from so great an act of violence. 
Then, being delivered from that fiendish fury, my spirits rose, and 
I said to myself: "If God but grant me to execute my work, I hope 
by its means to annihilate all my scoundrelly enemies; and thus I 
shall perform far greater and more glorious revenges than if I had 
vented my rage upon one single foe." Having this excellent resolve 
in heart, I reached my home. At the end of three days news was 
brought me that my only son had been smothered by his nurse, my 
gossip, which gave me greater grief than I have ever had in my whole 
life. However, I knelt upon the ground, and, not without tears, 
returned thanks to God, as I was wont, exclaiming, "Lord, Thou 
gavest me the child, and Thou hast taken him; for all Thy dealings 
I thank Thee with my whole heart." This great sorrow went nigh 
to depriving me of reason; yet, according to my habit, I made a 
virtue of necessity, and adapted myself to circumstances as well as 
I was able. 


About this time a young fellow called Francesco, the son of a 
smith, Matteo, left Bandinello's employment, and inquired whether 
I would give him work. I agreed, and sent him to retouch my 
Medusa, which had been new cast in bronze. After a fortnight he 
mentioned that he had been speaking with his master, that is, 
Bandinello, who told him, if I cared to make a marble statue, he 
would give me a fine block of stone. I replied at once: "Tell him 
I accept his offer; perhaps this marble will prove a stumbling block 
to him, for he keeps on provoking me, and does not bear in mind 
the great peril he ran upon the piazza of San Domenico. Tell him 
I will have the marble by all means. I never speak about him, and 
the beast is perpetually causing me annoyance. I verily believe you 
came to work here at his orders for the mere purpose of spying upon 
me. Go, then, and tell him I insist on having the marble, even 
against his will: see that you do not come back without it." 



Many days had elapsed during which I had not shown my face in 
the palace, when the fancy took me to go there one morning just as 
the Duke was finishing his dinner. From what I heard, his Excel- 
lency had been talking of me that morning, commending me highly, 
and in particular praising my skill in setting jewels. Therefore, 
when the Duchess saw me, she called for me by Messer Sforza;' and 
on my presenting myself to her most illustrious Excellency, she 
asked me to set a little point-diamond in a ring, saying she wished 
always to wear it; at the same time she gave me the measure and the 
stone, which was worth about a hundred crowns, begging me to be 
quick about the work. Upon this the Duke began speaking to the 
Duchess, and said : "There is no doubt that Benvenuto was formerly 
without his peer in this art; but now that he has abandoned it, I 
believe it will be too much trouble for him to make a little ring of 
the sort you want. I pray you, therefore, not to importune him 
about this trifle, which would be no trifle to him owing to his want 
of practice." I thanked the Duke for his kind words, but begged him 
to let me render this trifling service to the Duchess. Then I took the 
ring in hand, and finished it within a few days. It was meant for 
the little finger; accordingly I fashioned four tiny children in the, 
round and four masks, which figures composed the hoop. I also 
found room for some enamelled fruits and connecting links, so that 
the stone and setting went uncommonly well together. Then I took 
it to the Duchess, who told me graciously that I had produced a 
very fine piece, and that she would remember me. She afterwards 
sent the ring as a present to King Philip, and from that time forward 
kept charging me with commissions, so kindly, however, that I did 
my best to serve her, although I saw but very little of her money. 
God knows I had great need of that, for I was eager to finish my 
Perseus, and had engaged some journeymen, whom I paid out of my 
own purse. I now began to show myself more often than I had 
recently been doing. 

' sforza Almeni, a Perugian gendeman, the Duke's chamberlain. Cosimo killed this 
man with his own hand in the year 1566. 



It happened on one feast-day that I went to the palace after dinner, 
and when I reached the clockroom, I saw the door of the wardrobe 
standing open. As I drew nigh it, the Duke called me, and after 
a friendly greeting said: "You are welcome! Look at that box 
which has been sent me by my lord Stefano of Palestrina.' Open it, 
and let us see what it contains." When I had opened the box, I 
cried to the Duke: "My lord, this is a statue in Greek marble, and it 
is a miracle of beauty. I must say that I have never seen a boy's 
figure so excellently wrought and in so fine a style among all the 
antiques I have inspected. If your Excellency permits, I should like 
to restore it — head and arms and feet. I will add an eagle, in order 
that we may christen the lad Ganymede. It is certainly not my busi- 
ness to patch up statues, that being the trade of botchers, who do it in 
all conscience villainously ill; yet the art displayed by this great 
master of antiquity cries out to me to help him." The Duke was 
highly delighted to find the statue so beautiful, and put me a multi- 
tude of questions, saying: "Tell me, Benvenuto, minutely, in what 
consists the skill of this old master, which so excites your admira- 
tion." I then attempted, as well as I was able, to explain the beauty 
of workmanship, the consummate science, and the rare manner dis- 
played by the fragment. I spoke long upon these topics, and with 
the greater pleasure because I saw that his Excellency was deeply 


While I was thus pleasantly engaged in entertaining the Duke, a 
page happened to leave the wardrobe, and at the same moment 
Bandinello entered. When the Duke saw him, his countenance con- 
tracted, and he asked him drily: "What are you about here?" Bandi- 
nello, without answering, cast a glance upon the box, where the 
statue lay uncovered. Then breaking into one of his malignant 
laughs and wagging his head, he turned to the Duke and said : "My 
lord, this exactly illustrates the truth of what I have so often told 

' Stefano Colonna, of the princely house of Palestrina. He was a general of con- 
siderable repute in the Spanish, French, and Florentine services successively. 


your Excellency. You must know that the ancients were wholly 
ignorant of anatomy, and therefore their works abound in mistakes." 
I kept silence, and paid no heed to what he was saying; nay, indeed, 
I had turned my back on him. But when the brute had brought his 
disagreeable babble to an end, the Duke exclaimed: "O Benvenuto, 
this is the exact opposite of what you were just now demonstrating 
with so many excellent arguments. Come and speak a word in 
defence of the statue." In reply to this appeal, so kindly made me by 
the Duke, I spoke as follows: "My lord, your most illustrious Excel- 
lency must please to know that Baccio Bandinello is made up of 
everything bad, and thus has he ever been; therefore, whatever he 
looks at, be the thing superlatively excellent, becomes in his ungra- 
cious eyes as bad as can be. I, who incline to the good only, discern 
the truth with purer senses. Consequently, what I told your Excel- 
lency about this lovely statue is mere simple truth; whereas what 
Bandinello said is but a portion of the evil out of which he is com- 
posed." The Duke listened with much amusement; but Bandinello 
writhed and made the most ugly faces — his face itself being by 
nature hideous beyond measure — which could be imagined by the 
mind of man. 

The Duke at this point moved away, and proceeded through some 
ground-floor rooms, while Bandinello followed. The chamberlains 
twitched me by the mantle, and sent me after ; so we all attended the 
Duke until he reached a certain chamber, where he seated himself, 
with Bandinello and me standing at his right hand and his left. I 
kept silence, and the gentlemen of his Excellency's suite looked hard 
at Bandinello, tittering among themselves about the speech I had 
made in the room above. So then Bandinello began again to chatter, 
and cried out : "Prince, when I uncovered my Hercules and Cacus, I 
verily believe a hundred sonnets were written on me, full of the 
worst abuse which could be invented by the ignorant rabble." ' I 
rejoined: "Prince, when Michel Agnolo Buonarroti displayed his 
Sacristy to view, with so many fine statues in it, the men of talent 
in our admirable school of Florence, always appreciative of truth 

' Vasari confirms this statement. The statue, which may still be seen upon the great 
piazza, is, in truth, a very poor performance. The Florentines were angry because 
Bandinello had filched the commission away from Michel Angelo. It was uncovered 
in 1534, and Duke Alessandro had to imprison its lampooners. 


and goodness, published more than a hundred sonnets, each vying 
with his neighbour to extol these masterpieces to the skies.'' So then, 
just as Bandinello's work deserved all the evil which, he tells us, 
was then said about it, Buonarroti's deserved the enthusiastic praise 
which was bestowed upon it." These words of mine made Bandi- 
nello burst with fury; he turned on me, and cried: "And you, what 
have you got to say against my work?" "I will tell you if you have 
the patience to hear me out." "Go along then," he replied. The 
Duke and his attendants prepared themselves to listen. I began and 
opened my oration thus : "You must know that it pains me to point 
out the faults of your statue; I shall not, however, utter my own 
sentiments, but shall recapitulate what our most virtuous school of 
Florence says about it." The brutal fellow kept making disagreeable 
remarks and gesticulating with his hands and feet, until he enraged 
me so that I began again, and spoke far more rudely than I should 
otherwise have done, if he had behaved with decency. "Well, then, 
this virtuous school says that if one were to shave the hair of your 
Hercules, there would not be skull enough left to hold his brain; it 
says that it is impossible to distinguish whether his features are those 
of a man or of something between a lion and an ox; the face too is 
turned away from the action of the figure, and is so badly set upon 
the neck, with such poverty of art and so ill a grace, that nothing 
worse was ever seen; his sprawling shoulders are like the two pom- 
mels of an ass's pack-saddle; his breasts and all the muscles of the 
body are not portrayed from a man, but from a big sack full of 
melons set upright against a wall. The loins seem to be modelled 
from a bag of lanky pumpkins; nobody can tell how his two legs are 
attached to that vile trunk; it is impossible to say on which leg he 
stands, or which he uses to exert his strength; nor does he seem to be 
resting upon both, as sculptors who know something of their art 
have occasionally set the figure. It is obvious that the body is leaning 
forward more than one-third of a cubit, which alone is the greatest 
and most insupportable fault committed by vulgar commonplace 
pretenders. Concerning the arms, they say that these are both 
stretched out without one touch of grace or one real spark of artistic 

^ Cellini alludes of course to the Sacristy of S. Lorenzo, designed by Michel Angelo, 
with the portraits of the Medici and statues of Day, Night, Dawn, and Twilight. 


talents, just as if you had never seen a naked model. Again, the 
right leg of Hercules and that of Cacus have got one mass of flesh 
between them, so that if they were to be separated, not only one of 
them, but both together, would be left without a calf at the point 
where they are touching. They say, too, that Hercules has one of his 
feet underground, while the other seems to be resting on hot coals." 


The fellow could not stand quiet to hear the damning errors of 
his Cacus in their turn enumerated. For one thing, I was telling the 
truth; for another, I was unmasking him to the Duke and all the 
people present, who showed by face and gesture first their surprise, 
and next their conviction that what I said was true. All at once he 
burst out: "Ah, you slanderous tongue! why don't you speak about 
my design?" I retorted: "A good draughtsman can never produce 
bad works; therefore I am inclined to believe that your drawing is 
no better than your statues." When he saw the amused expression 
on the Duke's face and the cutting gestures of the bystanders, he let 
his insolence get the better of him, and turned to me with that most 
hideous face of his, screaming aloud: "Oh, hold your tongue, you 
ugly . . . " ' At these words the Duke frowned, and the others 
pursed their lips up and looked with knitted brows toward him. 
The horrible affront half maddened me with fury; but in a moment 
I recovered presence of mind enough to turn it off with a jest: "You 
madman! you exceed the bounds of decency. Yet would to God that 
I understood so noble an art as you allude to; they say that Jove used 
it with Ganymede in paradise, and here upon this earth it is practised 
by some of the greatest emperors and kings. I, however, am but a 
poor humble creature, who neither have the power nor the intelli- 
gence to perplex my wits with anything so admirable." When I had 
finished this speech, the Duke and his attendants could control them- 
selves no longer, but broke into such shouts of laughter that one 
never heard the like. You must know, gentle readers, that though I 
put on this appearance of pleasantry, my heart was bursting in my 
body to think that a fellow, the foulest villain who ever breathed, 
should have dared in the presence of so great a prince to cast an 

' oh sta cheto, soddomitaccio. 


insult of that atrocious nature in my teeth; but you must also know 
that he insulted the Duke, and not me; for had I not stood in that 
august presence, I should have felled him dead to earth. When the 
dirty stupid scoundrel observed that those gentlemen kept on laugh- 
ing, he tried to change the subject, and divert them from deriding 
him; so he began as follows: "This fellow Benvenuto goes about 
boasting that I have promised him a piece of marble." I took him up 
at once. "What! did you not send to tell me by your journeyman, 
Francesco, that if I wished to work in marble you would give me a 
block? I accepted it, and mean to have it." He retorted: "Be very 
well assured that you will never get it." Still smarting as I was 
under the calumnious insults he had flung at me, I lost my self- 
control, forgot I was in the presence of the Duke, and called out in 
a storm of fury: "I swear to you that if you do not send the marble 
to my house, you had better look out for another world, for if you 
stay upon this earth I will most certainly rip the wind out of your 
carcass.^ Then suddenly awaking to the fact that I was standing in 
the presence of so great a duke, I turned submissively to his Excel- 
lency and said: "My lord, one fool makes a hundred; the follies of 
this man have blinded me for a moment to the glory of your most 
illustrious Excellency and to myself. I humbly crave your pardon." 
Then the Duke said to Bandinello : "Is it true that you promised him 
the marble.''" He replied that it was true. Upon this the Duke 
addressed me: "Go to the Opera, and choose a piece according to 
your taste." I demurred that the man had promised to send it home 
to me. The words that passed between us were awful, and I refused 
to take the stone in any other way. Next morning a piece of marble 
was brought to my house. On asking who had sent it, they told me 
it was Bandinello, and that this was the very block which he had 

2 In questo (mondo) ti sgonfiero a ogni modo. 

' Vasari, in his Lije oj Bandinello, gives a curious confirmation o£ Cellini's veracity 
by reporting this quarrel, with some of the speeches which passed between the two 
rival artists. Yet he had not read Cellini's Memoirs, and was far from partial to the 
man. Comparing Vasari's with Cellini's account, we only notice that the latter has 
made Bandinello play a less witty part in the wordy strife than the former assigned 



I had it brought at once into my studio, and began to chisel it. 
While I was rough-hewing the block, I made a model. But my 
eagerness to work in marble was so strong, that I had not patience 
to finish the model as correctly as this art demands. I soon noticed 
that the stone rang false beneath my strokes, which made me often- 
times repent commencing on it. Yet I got what I could out of the 
piece — that is, the Apollo and Hyacinth, which may still be seen 
unfinished in my workshop. While I was thus engaged, the Duke 
came to my house, and often said to me : "Leave your bronze awhile, 
and let me watch you working on the marble." Then I took chisel 
and mallet, and went at it blithely. He asked about the model I 
had made for my statue; to which I answered: "Duke, this marble 
is all cracked, but I shall carve something from it in spite of that; 
therefore I have not been able to settle the model, but shall go on 
doing the best I can." 

His Excellency sent to Rome post-haste for a block of Greek 
marble, in order that I might restore his antique Ganymede, which 
was the cause of that dispute with Bandinello. When it arrived, I 
thought it a sin to cut it up for the head and arms and other bits 
wanting in the Ganymede; so I provided myself with another piece 
of stone, and reserved the Greek marble for a Narcissus which I 
modelled on a small scale in wax. I found that the block had two 
holes, penetrating to the depth of a quarter of a cubit, and two good 
inches wide. This led me to choose the attitude which may be 
noticed in my statue, avoiding the holes and keeping my figure free 
from them. But rain had fallen scores of years upon the stone, 
filtering so deeply from the holes into its substance that the marble 
was decayed. Of this I had full proof at the time of a great inunda- 
tion of the Arno, when the river rose to the height of more than a 
cubit and a half in my workshop.' Now the Narcissus stood upon a 
square of wood, and the water overturned it, causing the statue to 
break in two above the breasts. I had to join the pieces; and in order 
that the line of breakage might not be observed, I wreathed that 
garland of flowers round it which may still be seen upon the bosom. 
' Cellini alludes to a celebrated inundation of the year 1547. 


I went on working at the surface, employing some hours before 
sunrise, or now and then on feast-days, so as not to lose the time I 
needed for my Perseus. 

It so happened on one of those mornings, while I was getting some 
little chisels into trim to work on the Narcissus, that a very fine 
splinter of steel flew into my right eye, and embedded itself so 
deeply in the pupil that it could not be extracted. I thought for 
certain I must lose the sight of that eye. After some days I sent for 
Maestro Raflaello de Pilli, the surgeon, who obtained a couple of 
live pigeons, and placing me upon my back across a table, took the 
birds and opened a large vein they have beneath the wing, so that 
the blood gushed out into my eye. I felt immediately relieved, and 
in the space of two days the splinter came away, and I remained with 
eyesight greatly improved. Against the feast of S. Lucia,^ which 
came round in three days, I made a golden eye out of a French 
crown, and had it presented at her shrine by one of my six nieces, 
daughters of my sister Liperata; the girl was ten years of age, and 
in her company I returned thanks to God and S. Lucia. For some 
while afterwards I did not work at the Narcissus, but pushed my 
Perseus forward under all the difEculties I have described. It was 
my purpose to finish it, and then to bid farewell to Florence. 


Having succeeded so well with the cast of the Medusa, I had 
great hope of bringing my Perseus through; for I had laid the wax 
on, and felt confident that it would come out in bronze as perfectly 
as the Medusa. The waxen model produced so fine an eflect, that 
when the Duke saw it and was struck with its beauty — whether 
somebody had persuaded him it could not be carried out with the 
same finish in metal, or whether he thought so for himself — he came 
to visit me more frequently than usual, and on one occasion said: 
"Benvenuto, this figure cannot succeed in bronze; the laws of art do 
not admit of it." These words of his Excellency stung me so sharply 
that I answered: "My lord, I know how very little confidence you 

' S. Lucy, I need hardly remark, is the patroness of the eyes. In Italian art she is 
generally represented holding her own eyes upon a plate. 


have in me; and I believe the reason of this is that your most 
illustrious Excellency lends too ready an ear to my calumniators, or 
else indeed that you do not understand my art." He hardly let me 
close the sentence when he broke in : "I profess myself a connoisseur, 
and understand it very well indeed." I replied: "Yes, like a prince, 
not like an artist; for if your Excellency understood my trade as 
well as you imagine, you would trust me on the proofs I have already 
given. These are, first, the colossal bronze bust of your Excellency, 
which is now in Elba;' secondly, the restoration of the Ganymede 
in marble, which offered so many difficulties and cost me so much 
trouble, that I would rather have made the whole statue new from 
the beginning; thirdly, the Medusa, cast by me in bronze, here now 
before your Excellency's eyes, the execution of which was a greater 
triumph of strength and skill than any of my predecessors in this 
fiendish art have yet achieved. Look you, my lord! I constructed 
that furnace anew on principles quite different from those of other 
founders; in addition to many technical improvements and ingenious 
devices, I supplied it with two issues for the metal, because this 
difficult and twisted figure could not otherwise have come out 
perfect. It is only owing to my intelligent insight into means and 
appliances that the statue turned out as it did; a triumph judged 
impossible by all the practitioners of this art. I should like you 
furthermore to be aware, my lord, for certain, that the sole reason 
why I succeeded with all those great arduous works in France under 
his most admirable Majesty King Francis, was the high courage 
which that good monarch put into my heart by the liberal allow- 
ances he made me, and the multitude of workpeople he left at my 
disposal. I could have as many as I asked for, and employed at 
times above forty, all chosen by myself. These were the causes of 
my having there produced so many masterpieces in so short a space 
of time. Now then, my lord, put trust in me; supply me with the 
aid I need. I am confident of being able to complete a work which 
will delight your soul. But if your Excellency goes on disheartening 
me, and does not advance me the assistance which is absolutely 
required, neither I nor any man alive upon this earth can hope to 
achieve the slightest thing of value." 

' At Portoferraio. It came afterwards to Florence. 



It was as much as the Duke could do to stand by and listen to my 
pleadings. He kept turning first this way and then that; while I, in 
despair, poor wretched I, was calling up remembrance of the noble 
state I held in France, to the great sorrow of my soul. All at once 
he cried: "Come, tell me, Benvenuto, how is it possible that yonder 
splendid head of Medusa, so high up there in the grasp of Perseus, 
should ever come out perfect?" I replied upon the instant: "Look 
you now, my lord! If your Excellency possessed that knowledge of 
the craft which you affirm you have, you would not fear one moment 
for the splendid head you speak of. There is good reason, on the 
other hand, to feel uneasy about this right foot, so far below and at 
a distance from the rest." When he heard these words, the Duke 
turned, half in anger, to some gentlemen in waiting, and exclaimed : 
"I verily believe that this Benvenuto prides himself on contradicting 
everything one says." Then he faced round to me with a touch of 
mockery, upon which his attendants did the like, and began to 
speak as follows: "I will listen patiently to any argument you can 
possibly produce in explanation of your statement, which may con- 
vince me of its probability." I said in answer: "I will adduce so 
sound an argument that your Excellency shall perceive the full 
force of it." So I began : "You must know, my lord, that the nature 
of fire is to ascend, and therefore I promise you that Medusa's head 
will come out famously; but since it is not in the nature of fire to 
descend, and I must force it downwards six cubits by artificial means, 
I assure your Excellency upon this most convincing ground of proof 
that the foot cannot possibly come out. It will, however, be quite 
easy for me to restore it." "Why, then," said the Duke, "did you not 
devise it so that the foot should come out as well as you affirm the 
head will?" I answered: "I must have made a much larger furnace, 
with a conduit as thick as my leg; and so I might have forced the 
molten metal by its own weight to descend so far. Now, my pipe, 
which runs six cubits to the statue's foot, as I have said, is not thicker 
than two fingers. However, it was not worth the trouble and expense 
to make a larger; for I shall easily be able to mend what is lacking. 
But when my mould is more than half full, as I expect, from this 


middle point upwards, the fire ascending by its natural property, 
then the heads of Perseus and Medusa will come out admirably; 
you may be quite sure of it." After I had thus expounded these con- 
vincing arguments, together with many more of the same kind, 
which it would be tedious to set down here, the Duke shook his 
head and departed without further ceremony. 


Abandoned thus to my own resources, I took new courage, and 
banished the sad thoughts which kept recurring to my mind, making 
me often weep bitter tears of repentance for having left France; for 
though I did so only to revisit Florence, my sweet birthplace, in 
order that I might charitably succour my six nieces, this good action, 
as I well perceived, had been the beginning of my great misfortune. 
Nevertheless, I felt convinced that when my Perseus was accom- 
plished, all these trials would be turned to high felicity and glorious 

Accordingly I strengthened my heart, and with all the forces of 
my body and my purse, employing what little money still remained 
to me, I set to work. First I provided myself with several loads o£ 
pinewood from the forests of Serristori, in the neighbourhood of 
Montelupo. While these were on their way, I clothed my Perseus 
with the clay which I had prepared many months beforehand, in 
order that it might be duly seasoned. After making its clay tunic 
(for that is the term used in this art) and properly arming it and 
fencing it with iron girders, I began to draw the wax out by means 
of a slow fire. This melted and issued through numerous air- 
vents I had made; for the more there are of these, the better will the 
mould fill. When I had finished drawing off the wax, I constructed 
a funnel-shaped furnace all round the model of my Perseus.' It was 
built of bricks, so interlaced, the one above the other, that numerous 
apertures were left for the fire to exhale at. Then I began to lay on 
wood by degrees, and kept it burning two whole days and nights. At 
length, when all the wax was gone, and the mould was well baked, 
I set to work at digging the pit in which to sink it. This I per- 

' This furnace, called manica, was like a grain-hopper, so that the mould could 
stand upright in it as in a cup. The word manica is the same as our manuch, an 
antique form of sleeve. 


formed with scrupulous regard to all the rules of art. When I had 
finished that part of my work, I raised the mould by windlasses and 
stout ropes to a perpendicular position, and suspending it with the 
greatest care one cubit above the level of the furnace, so that it hung 
exactly above the middle of the pit, I next lowered it gently down 
into the very bottom of the furnace, and had it firmly placed with 
every possible precaution for its safety. When this delicate operation 
was accomplished, I began to bank it up with the earth I had 
excavated; and, ever as the earth grew higher, I introduced its proper 
air-vents, which were little tubes of earthenware, such as folk use 
for drains and such-like purposes.^ At length, I felt sure that it was 
admirably fixed, and that the fiUing-in of the pit and the placing 
of the air-vents had been properly performed. I also could see that 
my workpeople understood my method, which differed very con- 
siderably from that of all the other masters in the trade. Feeling 
confident, then, that I could rely upon them, I next turned to my 
furnace, which I had filled with numerous pigs of copper and other 
bronze stuff. The pieces were piled according to the laws of art, 
that is to say, so resting one upon the other that the flames could 
play freely through them, in order that the metal might heat and 
liquefy the sooner. At last I called out heartily to set the furnace 
going. The logs of pine were heaped in, and, what with the unctuous 
resin of the wood and the good draught I had given, my furnace 
worked so well that I was obliged to rush from side to side to keep 
it going. The labour was more than I could stand; yet I forced 
myself to strain every nerve and muscle. To increase my anxieties, 
the workshop took fire, and we were afraid lest the roof should fall 
upon our heads; while, from the garden, such a storm of wind and 
rain kept blowing in, that it perceptibly cooled the furnace. 

Battling thus with all these untoward circumstances for several 
hours, and exerting myself beyond even the measure of my powerful 
constitution, I could at last bear up no longer, and a sudden fever,' 
of the utmost possible intensity, attacked me. I felt absolutely obliged 

^ These air -vents, or sfialatoi, were introduced into the outer mould, which Cellini 
calls the tonaca, or clay tunic laid upon the original model of baked clay and wax. 
They served the double purpose of drawing off the wax, whereby a space was left 
for the molten bronze to enter, and also of facilitating the penetration of this molten 
metal by allowing a free escape of air and gas from the outer mould. 

^ Una jebbre efimera. Lit., a fever of one day's duration. 


to go and fling myself upon my bed. Sorely against my will having 
to drag myself away from the spot, I turned to my assistants, about 
ten or more in all, what with master-founders, hand-workers, 
country-fellows, and my own special journeymen, among whom was 
Bernardino Mannellini of Mugello, my apprentice through several 
years. To him in particular I spoke: "Look, my dear Bernardino, 
that you observe the rules which I have taught you; do your best 
with all despatch, for the metal will soon be fused. You cannot go 
wrong; these honest men will get the channels ready; you will easily 
be able to drive back the two plugs with this pair of iron crooks; 
and I am sure that my mould will fill miraculously. I feel more ill 
than I ever did in all my life, and verily believe that it will kill me 
before a few hours are over." * Thus, with despair at heart, I left 
them, and betook myself to bed. 


No sooner had I got to bed, than I ordered my serving-maids to 
carry food and wine for all the men into the workshop; at the same 
time I cried : "I shall not be alive tomorrow." They tried to encour- 
age me, arguing that my illness would pass over, since it came from 
excessive fatigue. In this way I spent two hours battling with the 
fever, which steadily increased, and calling out continually: "I feel 
that I am dying." My housekeeper, who was named Mona Fiore da 
Castel del Rio, a very notable manager and no less warm-hearted, 
kept chiding me for my discouragement; but, on the other hand, she 
paid me every kind attention which was possible. However, the 
sight of my physical pain and moral dejection so affected her, that, 
in spite of that brave heart of hers, she could not refrain from 

* Some technical terms require explanation in this sentence. The canali or channels 
were sluices for carrying the molten metal from the furnace into the mould. The 
mandriani, which I have translated by iron crook^s, were poles fitted at the end with 
curved irons, by which the openings of the furnace, plugs, or in Italian spine, could 
be partially or wholly driven back, so as to let the molten metal flow through the 
channels into the mould. When the metal reached the mould, it entered in a red-hot 
stream between the tonaca, or outside mould, and the anima, or inner block, filling up 
exacdy the space which had previously been occupied by the wax extracted by a 
method of slow burning alluded to above. I believe that the process is known as 
casting a cire perdue. The jorma, or mould, consisted of two pieces; one hollow 
(la tonaca), which gave shape to the bronze; one solid and rounded (la anima), which 
stood at a short interval within the former, and regulated the influx of the metal. 
See above, p. 354, note. 


shedding tears; and yet, so far as she was able, she took good care 
I should not see them. While I was thus terribly afflicted, I beheld 
the figure of a man enter my chamber, twisted in his body into the 
form of a capital S. He raised a lamentable, doleful voice, like one 
who announces their last hour to men condemned to die upon the 
scaffold, and spoke these words: "O Benvenuto! your statue is 
spoiled, and there is no hope whatever of saving it." No sooner had 
I heard the shriek of that wretch than I gave a howl which might 
have been heard from the sphere of flame. Jumping from my bed, I 
seized my clothes and began to dress. The maids, and my lads, and 
every one who came around to help me, got kicks or blows of the 
fist, while I kept crying out in lamentation: "Ah! traitors! enviers! 
This is an act of treason, done by mahce prepense! But I swear by 
God that I will sift it to the bottom, and before I die will leave such 
witness to the world of what I can do as shall make a score of 
mortals marvel." 

When I had got my clothes on, I strode with soul bent on mischief 
toward the workshop; there I beheld the men, whom I had left 
erewhile in such high spirits, standing stupefied and downcast. I 
began at once and spoke: "Up with you! Attend to me! Since you 
have not been able or willing to obey the directions I gave you, 
obey me now that I am with you to conduct my work in person. 
Let no one contradict me, for in cases like this we need the aid of 
hand and hearing, not of advice." When I had uttered these words, 
a certain Maestro Alessandro Lastricati broke silence and said : "Look 
you, Benvenuto, you are going to attempt an enterprise which the 
laws of art do not sanction, and which cannot succeed." I turned 
upon him with such fury and so full of mischief, that he and all the 
rest of them exclaimed with one voice: "On then! Give orders! We 
will obey your least commands, so long as life is left in us." I believe 
they spoke thus feelingly because they thought I must fall shortly 
dead upon the ground. I went immediately to inspect the furnace, 
and found that the metal was all curdled; an accident which we 
express by "being caked." ' I told two of the hands to cross the road, 
and fetch from the house of the butcher Capretta a load of young 
oak-wood, which had lain dry for above a year; this wood had been 

' Essersi jatto tin migHaccio. 


previously offered me by Madame Ginevra, wife of the said Cap- 
retta. So soon as the first armfuls arrived, I began to fill the grate 
beneath the furnace.^ Now oak-wood of that kind heats more pow- 
erfully than any other sort of tree; and for this reason, where a slow 
fire is wanted, as in the case of gun-foundry, alder or pine is pre- 
ferred. Accordingly, when the logs took fire, oh! how the cake began 
to stir beneath that awful heat, to glow and sparkle in a blaze! At 
the same time I kept stirring up the channels, and sent men upon the 
roof to stop the conflagration, which had gathered force from the in- 
creased combustion in the furnace; also I caused boards, carpets, and 
other hangings to be set up against the garden, in order to protect 
us from the violence of the rain. 


When I had thus provided against these several disasters, I roared 
out first to one man and then to another: "Bring this thing here! 
Take that thing there!" At this crisis, when the whole gang saw 
the cake was on the point of melting, they did my bidding, each 
fellow working with the strength of three. I then ordered half a pig 
of pewter to be brought, which weighed about sixty pounds, and 
flung it into the middle of the cake inside the furnace. By this means, 
and by piling on wood and stirring now with pokers and now with 
iron rods, the curdled mass rapidly began to liquefy. Then, knowing 
I had brought the dead to life again, against the firm opinion of 
those ignoramuses, I felt such vigour fill my veins, that all those 
pains of fever, all those fears of death, were quite forgotten. 

All of a sudden an explosion took place, attended by a tremendous 
flash of flame, as though a thunderbolt had formed and been dis- 
charged amongst us. Unwonted and appalling terror astonied every 
one, and me more even than the rest. When the din was over and 
the dazzling light extinguished, we began to look each other in the 
face. Then I discovered that the cap of the furnace had blown up, 
and the bronze was bubbling over from its source beneath. So I had 
the mouths of my mould immediately opened, and at the same time 

2 The Italian is bracciaiuola, a pit below the grating, which receives the ashes from 
the furnace. 


drove in the two plugs which kept back the molten metal. But I 
noticed that it did not flow as rapidly as usual, the reason being prob- 
ably that the fierce heat of the fire we kindled had consumed its 
base alloy. Accordingly I sent for all my pewter platters, porringers, 
and dishes, to the number of some two hundred pieces, and had a 
portion of them cast, one by one, into the channels, the rest into the 
furnace. This expedient succeeded, and every one could now per- 
ceive that my bronze was in most perfect liquefaction, and my mould 
was filling; whereupon they all with heartiness and happy cheer 
assisted and obeyed my bidding, while I, now here, now there, gave 
orders, helped with my own hands, and cried aloud: "O God! Thou 
that by Thy immeasurable power didst rise from the dead, and in 
Thy glory didst ascend to heaven!" .... even thus in a moment 
my mould was filled; and seeing my work finished, I fell upon my 
knees, and with all my heart gave thanks to God. 

After all was over, I turned to a plate of salad on a bench there, 
and ate with hearty appetite, and drank together with the whole 
crew. Afterwards I retired to bed, healthy and happy, for it was now 
two hours before morning, and slept as sweetly as though I had 
never felt a touch of illness. My good housekeeper, without my 
giving any orders, had prepared a fat capon for my repast. So that, 
when I rose, about the hour for breaking fast, she presented herself 
with a smiling countenance, and said: "Oh! is that the man who 
felt that he was dying ? Upon my word, I think the blows and kicks 
you dealt us last night, when you were so enraged, and had that 
demon in your body as it seemed, must have frightened away your 
mortal fever! The fever feared that it might catch it too, as we did!" 
All my poor household, relieved in like measure from anxiety and 
overwhelming labour, went at once to buy earthen vessels in order 
to replace the pewter I had cast away. Then we dined together joy- 
fully; nay, I cannot remember a day in my whole life when I dined 
with greater gladness or a better appetite. 

After our meal I received visits from the several men who had 
assisted me. They exchanged congratulations, and thanked God for 
our success, saying they had learned and seen things done which 
other masters judged impossible. I too grew somewhat glorious; and 
deeming I had shown myself a man of talent, indulged a boastful 


humour. So I thrust my hand into my purse, and paid them all to 
their full satisfaction. 

That evil fellow, my mortal foe, Messer Pier Francesco Ricci, ma- 
jordomo of the Duke, took great pains to find out how the affair 
had gone. In answer to his questions, the two men whom I sus- 
pected of having caked my metal for me, said I was no man, but of 
a certainty some powerful devil, since I had accompHshed what no 
craft of the art could do; indeed they did not believe a mere ordi- 
nary fiend could work such miracles as I in other ways had shown. 
They exaggerated the whole affair so much, possibly in order to 
excuse their own part in it, that the majordomo wrote an account 
to the Duke, who was then in Pisa, far more marvellous and full of 
thrilling incidents than what they had narrated. 


After I had let my statue cool for two whole days, I began to un- 
cover it by slow degrees. The first thing I found was that the head 
of Medusa had come out most admirably, thanks to the air- vents; for, 
as I had told the Duke, it is the nature of fire to ascend. Upon 
advancing farther, I discovered that the other head, that, namely, of 
Perseus, had succeeded no less admirably; and this astonished me 
far more, because it is at a considerably lower level than that of 
the Medusa. Now the mouths of the mould were placed above the 
head of Perseus and behind his shoulders; and I found that all the 
bronze my furnace contained had been exhausted in the head of 
this figure. It was a miracle to observe that not one fragment re- 
mained in the orifice of the channel, and that nothing was wanting 
to the statue. In my great astonishment I seemed to see in this the 
hand of God arranging and controlling all. 

I went on uncovering the statue with success, and ascertained that 
everything had come out in perfect order, until I reached the foot of 
the right leg on which the statue rests. There the heel itself was 
formed, and going farther, I found the foot apparently complete. 
This gave me great joy on the one side, but was half unwelcome to 
me on the other, merely because I had told the Duke that it could 
not come out. However, when I reached the end, it appeared that 
the toes and a little piece above them were unfinished, so that about 


half the foot was wanting. Although I knew that this would add a 
trifle to my labour, I was very well pleased, because I could now 
prove to the Duke how well I understood my business. It is true 
that far more of the foot than I expected had been perfectly formed; 
the reason of this was that, from causes I have recently described, the 
bronze was hotter than our rules of art prescribe; also that I had 
been obliged to supplement the alloy with my pewter cups and plat- 
ters, which no one else, I think, had ever done before. 

Having now ascertained how successfully my work had been ac- 
complished, I lost no time in hurrying to Pisa, where I found the 
Duke. He gave me a most gracious reception, as did also the Duch- 
ess; and although the majordomo had informed them of the whole 
proceedings, their Excellencies deemed my performance far more 
stupendous and astonishing when they heard the tale from my own 
mouth. When I arrived at the foot of Perseus, and said it had not 
come out perfect, just as I previously warned his Excellency, I 
saw an expression of wonder pass over his face, while he related to 
the Duchess how I had predicted this beforehand. Observing the 
princes to be so well disposed towards me, I begged leave from the 
Duke to go to Rome. He granted it in most obliging terms, and bade 
me return as soon as possible to complete his Perseus; giving me 
letters of recommendation meanwhile to his ambassador, Averardo 
Serristori. We were then in the first years of Pope Giulio de Monti.' 


Before leaving home, I directed my workpeople to proceed accord- 
ing to the method I had taught them. The reason of my journey was 
as follows. I had made a life-sized bust in bronze of Bindo Altoviti,^ 
the son of Antonio, and had sent it to him at Rome. He set it up in 
his study, which was very richly adorned with antiquities and other 
works of art; but the room was not designed for statues or for paint- 
ings, since the windows were too low, so that the light coming from 
beneath spoiled the effect they would have produced under more 

' Gio Maria del Monte Sansovino was elected Pope, with the title of Julius III., in 
February 1550. 

^This man was a member of a very noble Florentine family. Born in 1491, he 
was at this epoch Tuscan Consul in Rome. Cellini's bust of him still exists in the 
Palazzo Altoviti at Rome. 


favourable conditions. It happened one day that Bindo was standing 
at his door, when Michel Agnolo Buonarroti, the sculptor, passed 
by; so he begged him to come in and see his study. Michel Agnolo 
followed, and on entering the room and looking round, he ex- 
claimed: "Who is the master who made that good portrait of you in 
so fine a manner.'' You must know that that bust pleases me as 
much, or even more, than those antiques; and yet there are many 
fine things to be seen among the latter. If those windows were above 
instead of beneath, the whole collection would show to greater ad- 
vantage, and your portrait, placed among so many masterpieces, 
would hold its own with credit." No sooner had Michel Agnolo left 
the house of Bindo than he wrote me a very kind letter, which ran as 
follows: "My dear Benvenuto, I have known you for many years as 
the greatest goldsmith of whom we have any information; and 
henceforward I shall know you for a sculptor of like quality. I must 
tell you that Master Bindo Altoviti took me to see his bust in bronze, 
and informed me that you had made it. I was greatly pleased with 
the work; but it annoyed me to notice that it was placed in a bad 
light; for if it were suitably illuminated, it would show itself to be the 
fine performance that it is." This letter abounded with the most 
affectionate and complimentary expressions towards myself; and 
before I left for Rome, I showed it to the Duke, who read it with 
much kindly interest, and said to me: "Benvenuto, if you write to 
him, and can persuade him to return to Florence, I will make him 
a member of the Forty-eight." ^ Accordingly I wrote a letter full of 
warmth, and offered in the Duke's name a hundred times more than 
my commission carried; but not wanting to make any mistake, I 
showed this to the Duke before I sealed it, saying to his most illus- 
trious Excellency: "Prince, perhaps I have made him too many prom- 
ises." He replied: "Michel Agnolo deserves more than you have 
promised, and I will bestow on him still greater favours." To this 
letter he sent no answer, and I could see that the Duke was much 
offended with him. 

'This was one of the three Councils created by Clement VII. in 1532, when he 
changed the Florentine constitution. It corresponded to a Senate. 



When I reached Rome, I went to lodge in Bindo Altoviti's house. 
He told me at once how he had shown his bronze bust to Michel 
Agnolo, and how the latter had praised it. So we spoke for some 
length upon this topic. I ought to narrate the reasons why I had 
taken this portrait. Bindo had in his hands 1200 golden crowns of 
mine, which formed part of 5000 he had lent the Duke; 4000 were 
his own, and mine stood in his name, while I received that portion 
of the interest which accrued to me.^ This led to my taking his por- 
trait; and when he saw the wax model for the bust, he sent me fifty 
golden scudi by a notary in his employ, named Ser Giuliano Pac- 
calli. I did not want to take the money, so I sent it back to him by 
the same hand, saying at a later time to Bindo: "I shall be satis- 
fied if you keep that sum of mine for me at interest, so that I may 
gain a little on it." When we came to square accounts on this occa- 
sion, I observed that he was ill disposed towards me, since, instead 
of treating me affectionately, according to his previous wont, he put 
on a stiff air; and although I was staying in his house, he was never 
good-humoured, but always surly. However, we settled our business 
in a few words. I sacrificed my pay for his portrait, together with 
the bronze, and we arranged that he should keep my money at 15 
per cent, during my natural life. 


One of the first things I did was to go and kiss the Pope's feet; and 
while I was speaking with his Holiness, Messer Averardo Serristori, 
our Duke's Envoy, arrived.^ I had made some proposals to the Pope, 
which I think he would have agreed upon, and I should have been 
very glad to return to Rome on account of the great difficulties which 
I had at Florence. But I soon perceived that the ambassador had 
countermined me. 

Then I went to visit Michel Agnolo Buonarroti, and repeated 
what I had written from Florence to him in the Duke's name. He 
replied that he was engaged upon the fabric of S. Peter's, and that 

' To make the sum correct, 5200 ought to have been lent the Duke. 
^ His despatches form a valuable series of historical documents. Firenze, Le Monnier. 


this would prevent him from leaving Rome. I rejoined that, as he 
had decided on the model of that building, he could leave its exe- 
cution to his man Urbino, who would carry out his orders to the 
letter. I added much about future favours, in the form of a message 
from the Duke. Upon this he looked me hard in the face, and said 
with a sarcastic smile: "And you! to what extent are you satis- 
fied with him?" Although I replied that I was extremely contented 
and was very well treated by his Excellency, he showed that he was 
acquainted with the greater part of my annoyances, and gave as his 
final answer that it would be difficult for him to leave Rome. To 
this I added that he could not do better than to return to his own 
land, which was governed by a prince renowned for justice, and the 
greatest lover of the arts and sciences who ever saw the light of this 
world. As I have remarked above, he had with him a servant of his 
who came from Urbino, and had lived many years in his employ- 
ment, rather as valet and housekeeper than anything else; this indeed 
was obvious, because he had acquired no skill in the arts.' Conse- 
quently, while I was pressing Michel Agnolo with arguments he 
could not answer, he turned round sharply to Urbino, as though to 
ask him his opinion. The fellow began to bawl out in his rustic 
way: "I will never leave my master Michel Agnolo's side till I shall 
have flayed him or he shall have flayed me." These stupid words 
forced me to laugh, and without saying farewell, I lowered my shoul- 
ders and retired. 


The miserable bargain I had made with Bindo Altoviti, losing my 
bust and leaving him my capital for life, taught me what the faith 
of merchants is; so I returned in bad spirits to Florence. I went at 
once to the palace to pay my respects to the Duke, whom I found 
to be at Castello beyond Ponte a Rifredi. In the palace I met Messer 
Pier Francesco Ricci, the majordomo, and when I drew nigh to pay 
him the usual compliments, he exclaimed with measureless astonish- 
ment: "Oh, are you come back?" and with the same air of surprise, 
clapping his hands together, he cried: "The Duke is at Castello!" 

^Upon the death of this Urbino, Michel Angelo wrote a touching sonnet and a 
very feeling letter to Vasari. 


then turned his back and left me. I could not form the least idea 
why the beast behaved in such an extraordinary manner to me. 

Proceeding at once to Castello, and entering the garden where 
the Duke was, I caught sight of him at a distance; but no sooner 
had he seen me than he showed signs of surprise, and intimated that 
I might go about my business. I had been reckoning that his Excel- 
lency would treat me with the same kindness, or even greater, as 
before I left for Rome; so now, when he received me with such rude- 
ness, I went back, much hurt, to Florence. While resuming my 
work and pushing my statue forward, I racked my brains to think 
what could have brought about this sudden change in the Duke's 
manner. The curious way in which Messer Sforza and some other 
gentlemen close to his Excellency's person eyed me, prompted me 
to ask the former what the matter was. He only replied with a sort 
of smile: "Benvenuto, do your best to be an honest man, and have 
no concern for anything else." A few days afterwards I obtained 
an audience of the Duke, who received me with a kind of grudging 
grace, and asked me what I had been doing at Rome. To the best of 
my ability I maintained the conversation, and told him the whole 
story about Bindo Altoviti's bust. It was evident that he listened 
with attention; so I went on talking about Michel Agnolo Buonar- 
roti. At this he showed displeasure; but Urbino's stupid speech about 
the flaying made him laugh aloud. Then he said: "Well, it is he who 
suffers!" and I took my leave. 

There can be no doubt that Ser Pier Francesco, the majordomo, 
must have served me some ill turn with the Duke, which did not, 
however, succeed; for God, who loves the truth, protected me, as He 
hath ever saved me, from a sea of dreadful dangers, and I hope will 
save me till the end of this my life, however full of trials it may be. 
I march forward, therefore, with a good heart, sustained alone by 
His divine power; nor let myself be terrified by any furious assault 
of fortune or my adverse stars. May only God maintain me in His 


I must beg your attgntion now, most gracious reader, for a very 

terrible event which happened. 


I used the utmost diligence and industry to complete my statue, 
and went to spend my evenings in the Duke's wardrobe, assisting 
there the goldsmiths who were working for his Excellency. Indeed, 
they laboured mainly on designs which I had given them. Noticing 
that the Duke took pleasure in seeing me at work and talking with 
me, I took it into my head to go there sometimes also by day. It 
happened upon one of those days that his Excellency came as usual 
to the room where I was occupied, and more particularly because he 
heard of my arrival. His Excellency entered at once into conversa- 
tion, raising several interesting topics, upon which I gave my views 
so much to his entertainment that he showed more cheerfulness than 
I had ever seen in him before. All of a sudden, one of his secretaries 
appeared, and whispered something of importance in his ear; where- 
upon the Duke rose, and retired with the official into another cham- 
ber. Now the Duchess had sent to see what his Excellency was 
doing, and her page brought back this answer : "The Duke is talking 
and laughing with Benvenuto, and is in excellent good-humour." 
When the Duchess heard this, she came immediately to the ward- 
robe, and not finding the Duke there, took a seat beside us. After 
watching us at work a while, she turned to me with the utmost gra- 
ciousness, and showed me a necklace of large and really very fine 
pearls. On being asked by her what I thought of them, I said it was 
in truth a very handsome ornament. Then she spoke as follows: "I 
should like the Duke to buy them for me; so I beg you, my dear 
Benvenuto, to praise them to him as highly as you can." At these 
words I disclosed my mind to the Duchess with all the respect I 
could, and answered: "My lady, I thought this necklace of pearls 
belonged already to your most illustrious Excellency. Now that I 
am aware you have not yet acquired them, it is right, nay, more, it 
is my duty to utter what I might otherwise have refrained from say- 
ing, namely, that my mature professional experience enables me to 
detect very grave faults in the pearls, and for this reason I could 
never advise your Excellency to purchase them." She replied: "The 
merchant offers them for six thousand crowns; and were it not for 
some of those trifling defects you speak of, the rope would be worth 
over twelve thousand." To this I replied, that "even were the neck- 
lace of quite flawless quality, I could not advise any one to bid up to 


five thousand crowns for it; for pearls are not gems; pearls are but 
fishes' bones, which in the course of time must lose their freshness. 
Diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and sapphires, on the contrary, never 
grow old; these four are precious stones, and these it is quite right 
to purchase." When I had thus spoken, the Duchess showed some 
signs of irritation, and exclaimed: "I have a mind to possess these 
pearls; so, prithee, take them to the Duke, and praise them up to the 
skies; even if you have to use some words beyond the bounds of 
truth, speak them to do me service; it will be well for you!" 

I have always been the greatest friend of truth and foe of lies: yet 
compelled by necessity, unwilling to lose the favour of so great a 
princess, I took those confounded pearls sorely against my inclina- 
tion, and went with them over to the other room, whither the Duke 
had withdrawn. No sooner did he set eyes upon me than he cried: 
"O Benvenuto! what are you about here?" I uncovered the pearls 
and said: "My lord, I am come to show you a most splendid neck- 
lace of pearls, of the rarest quality, and truly worthy of your Excel- 
lency; I do not believe it would be possible to put together eighty 
pearls which could show better than these do in a necklace. My 
counsel therefore is, that you should buy them, for they are in good 
sooth miraculous." He responded on the instant: "I do not choose 
to buy them; they are not pearls of the quality and goodness you 
affirm; I have seen the necklace, and they do not please me." Then 
I added: "Pardon me, prince! These pearls exceed in rarity and 
beauty any which were ever brought together for a necklace." The 
Duchess had risen, and was standing behind a door listening to all 
I said. Well, when I had praised the pearls a thousandfold more 
warmly than I have described above, the Duke turned towards me 
with a kindly look, and said: "O my dear Benvenuto, I know that 
you have an excellent judgment in these matters. If the pearls are 
as rare as you certify, I should not hesitate about their purchase, 
partly to gratify the Duchess, and partly to possess them, seeing I 
have always need of such things, not so much for her Grace, as for 
the various uses of my sons and daughters." When I heard him 
speak thus, having once begun to tell fibs, I stuck to them with even 
greater boldness; I gave all the colour of truth I could to my lies, 
confiding in the promise of the Duchess to help me at the time of 


need. More than two hundred crowns were to be my commission 
on the bargain, and the Duchess had intimated that I should receive 
so much; but I was firmly resolved not to touch a farthing, in order 
to secure my credit, and convince the Duke I was not prompted by 
avarice. Once more his Excellency began to address me with the 
greatest courtesy: "I know that you are a consummate judge of these 
things; therefore, if you are the honest man I always thought you, tell 
me now the truth." Thereat I flushed up to my eyes, which at the 
same time filled with tears, and said to him : "My lord, if I tell your 
most illustrious Excellency the truth, I shall make a mortal foe of 
the Duchess; this will oblige me to depart from Florence, and my 
enemies will begin at once to pour contempt upon my Perseus, which 
I have announced as a masterpiece to the most noble school of your 
illustrious Excellency. Such being the case, I recommend myself to 
your most illustrious Excellency." 


The Duke was now aware that all my previous speeches had been, 
as it were, forced out of me. So he rejoined: "If you have confidence 
in me, you need not stand in fear of anything whatever." I recom- 
menced: "Alas! my lord, what can prevent this coming to the ears 
of the Duchess?" The Duke lifted his hand in sign of troth-pledge,' 
and exclaimed: "Be assured that what you say will be buried in a 
diamond casket!" To this engagement upon honour I replied by 
telling the truth according to my judgment, namely, that the pearls 
were not worth above two thousand crowns. The Duchess, thinking 
we had stopped talking, for we now were speaking in as low a voice 
as possible, came forward, and began as follows: "My lord, do me 
the favour to purchase this necklace, because I have set my heart on 
them, and your Benvenuto here has said he never saw a finer row of 
pearls." The Duke replied: "I do not choose to buy them." "Why, 
my lord, will not your Excellency gratify me by buying them.?" 
"Because I do not care to throw my money out of the window." The 
Duchess recommenced: "What do you mean by throwing your 
money away, when Benvenuto, in whom you place such well-merited 
confidence, has told me that they would be cheap at over three thou- 

* Alzd la fede. 


sand crowns?" Then the Duke said: "My lady! my Benvenuto here 
has told me that, if I purchase this necklace, I shall be throwing my 
money away, inasmuch as the pearls are neither round nor well- 
matched, and some of them are quite faded. To prove that this is so, 
look here! look there! consider this one and then that. The necklace 
is not the sort of thing for me." At these words the Duchess cast 
a glance of bitter spite at me, and retired with a threatening nod of 
her head in my direction. I felt tempted to pack off at once and bid 
farewell to Italy. Yet my Perseus being all but finished, I did not 
like to leave without exposing it to public view. But I ask every one 
to consider in what a grievous plight I found myself! 

The Duke had given orders to his porters in my presence, that if 
I appeared at the palace, they should always admit me through his 
apartments to the place where he might happen to be. The Duchess 
commanded the same men, whenever I showed my face at that pal- 
ace, to drive me from its gates. Accordingly, no sooner did I present 
myself, than these fellows left their doors and bade me begone; at 
the same time they took good care lest the Duke should perceive 
what they were after; for if he caught sight of me before those 
wretches, he either called me, or beckoned to me to advance. 

At this juncture the Duchess sent for Bernardone, the broker, of 
whom she had so often complained to me, abusing his good-for- 
nothingness and utter worthlessness. She now confided in him as 
she had previously done in me. He replied : "My princess, leave the 
matter in my hands." Then the rascal presented himself before the 
Duke with that necklace in his hands. No sooner did the Duke set 
eyes on him than he bade him begone. But the rogue lifted his big 
ugly voice, which sounded like the braying of an ass through his 
huge nose, and spoke to this effect: "Ah! my dear lord, for Heaven's 
sake buy this necklace for the poor Duchess, who is dying to have it, 
and cannot indeed live without it." The fellow poured forth so much 
of this stupid nonsensical stuff that the Duke's patience was ex- 
hausted, and he cried: "Oh, get away with you, or blow your chaps 
out till I smack them!" The knave knew very well what he was 
after; for if by blowing out his cheeks or singing La Bella Frances- 
china^ he could bring the Duke to make that purchase, then he 

^ A popular ballad of the time. 


gained the good grace of the Duchess, and to boot his own commis- 
sion, which rose to some hundreds of crowns. Consequently he did 
blow out his chaps. The Duke smacked them with several hearty 
boxes, and, in order to get rid of him, struck rather harder than his 
wont was. The sound blows upon his cheeks not only reddened 
them above their natural purple, but also brought tears into his eyes. 
All the same, while smarting, he began to cry: "Lol my lord, a faith- 
ful servant of his prince, who tries to act rightly, and is willing to 
put up with any sort of bad treatment, provided only that poor 
lady have her heart's desire!" The Duke tired of the ribald fellow, 
either to recompense the cuffs which he had dealt him, or for the 
Duchess's sake, whom he was ever most inclined to gratify, cried 
out: "Get away with you, with God's curse on you! Go, make the 
bargain; I am willing to do what my lady Duchess wishes." 

From this incident we may learn to know how evil Fortune exerts 
her rage against a poor right-minded man, and how the strumpet 
Luck can help a miserable rascal. I lost the good graces of the 
Duchess once and for ever, and thereby went close to having the 
Duke's protection taken from me. He acquired that thumping fee 
for his commission, and to boot their favour. Thus it will not serve 
us in this world to be merely men of honesty and talent. 


About this time the war of Siena broke out,' and the Duke, wish- 
ing to fortify Florence, distributed the gates among his architects 
and sculptors. I received the Prato gate and the little one of Arno, 
which is on the way to the mills. The Cavaliere Bandinello got the 
gate of San Friano; Pasqualino d'Ancona, the gate at San Pier Gat- 
tolini; Giulian di Baccio d'Agnolo, the wood-carver, had the gate of 
San Giorgio; Particino, the wood-carver, had the gate of Santo Nic- 
colo; Francesco da San Gallo, the sculptor, called II MargoUa, got the 
gate of Santa Croce; and Giovan Battista, surnamed II Tasso, the 
gate Pinti.^ Other bastions and gates were assigned to divers 

' In the year 1552, when Piero Strozzi acted as general for the French King, Henri 
II., against the Spaniards. The war ended in the capitulation of Siena in 1555. In 
1557 it was ceded by Philip II. to Cosimo de' Medici. 

^ These artists, with the exception of Pasqualino, are all known to us in the con- 
ditions described by Cellini. Francesco da San Gallo was the son of Giuliano, and 
nephew of Antonio da San Gallo. 


engineers, whose names I do not recollect, nor indeed am I con- 
cerned with them. The Duke, who certainly was at all times a man 
of great ability, went round the city himself upon a tour of inspec- 
tion, and when he had made his mind up, he sent for Lattanzio 
Gorini, one of his paymasters. Now this man was to some extent 
an amateur of military architecture; so his Excellency commissioned 
him to make designs for the fortifications of the gates, and sent each 
of us his own gate drawn according to the plan. After examining 
the plan for mine, and perceiving that it was very incorrect in many 
details, I took it and went immediately to the Duke. When I tried 
to point out these defects, the Duke interrupted me and exclaimed 
with fury: "Benvenuto, I will give way to you upon the point of 
statuary, but in this art of fortification I choose that you should cede 
to me. So carry out the design which I have given you." To these 
brave words I answered as gently as I could, and said: "My lord, 
your most illustrious Excellency has taught me something even in 
my own fine art of statuary, inasmuch as we have always exchanged 
ideas upon that subject; I beg you then to deign to listen to me upon 
this matter of your fortifications, which is far more important than 
making statues. If I am permitted to discuss it also with your Excel- 
lency, you will be better able to teach me how I have to serve you." 
This courteous speech of mine induced him to discuss the plans with 
me; and when I had clearly demonstrated that they were not con- 
ceived on a right method, he said: "Go, then, and make a design 
yourself, and I will see if it satisfies me." Accordingly, I made two 
designs according to the right principles for fortifying those two 
gates, and took them to him; and when he distinguished the true 
from the false system, he exclaimed good humouredly: "Go and do 
it in your own way, for I am content to have it so." I set to work 
then with the greatest diligence. 


There was on guard at the gate of Prato a certain Lombard cap- 
tain; he was a truculent and stalwart fellow, of incredibly coarse 
speech, whose presumption matched his utter ignorance. This man 
began at once to ask me what I was about there. I politely exhibited 
my drawings, and took infinite pains to make him understand my 


purpose. The rude brute kept rolling his head, and turning first to 
one side and then to the other, shifting himself upon his legs, and 
twirling his enormous moustachios; then he drew his cap down 
over his eyes and roared out: "Zounds! deuce take it! I can make 
nothing of this rigmarole." At last the animal became so tiresome 
that I said: "Leave it then to me, who do understand it," and turned 
my shoulders to go about my business. At this he began to threaten 
me with his head, and, setting his left hand on the pommel of his 
sword, tilted the point up, and exclaimed: "Hullo, my master! you 
want perhaps to make me cross blades with you?" I faced round in 
great fury, for the man had stirred my blood, and cried out: "It 
would be less trouble to run you through the body than to build the 
bastion of this gate." In an instant we both set hands to our swords, 
without quite drawing; for a number of honest folk, citizens of 
Florence, and others of them courtiers, came running up. The 
greater part of them rated the captain, telling him that he was in 
the wrong, that I was a man to give him back as good as I got, and 
that if this came to the Duke's ears, it would be the worse for him. 
Accordingly he went off on his own business, and I began with my 

After setting things in order there, I proceeded to the other little 
gate of Arno, where I found a captain from Cesena, the most polite, 
well-mannered man I ever knew in that profession. He had the air 
of a gentle young lady, but at need he could prove himself one of 
the boldest and bloodiest fighters in the world. This agreeable 
gentleman observed me so attentively that he made me bashful and 
self-conscious; and seeing that he wanted to understand what I was 
doing, I courteously explained my plans. Suffice it to say, that we 
vied with each other in civilities, which made me do far better with 
this bastion than with the other. 

I had nearly finished the two bastions when an inroad of Piero 
Strozzi's people struck such terror into the countryfolk of Prato that 
they began to leave it in a body, and all their carts, laden with the 
household goods of each family, came crowding into the city. The 
number of them was so enormous, cart jostling with cart, and the 
confusion was so great, that I told the guards to look out lest the 
same misadventure should happen at this gate as had occurred at 


the gates of Turin; for if we had once cause to lower the portcullis, 
it would not be able to perform its functions, but must inevitably 
stick suspended upon one of the waggons. When that big brute of 
a captain heard these words, he rephed with insults, and I retorted in 
the same tone. We were on the point of coming to a far worse 
quarrel than before. However, the folk kept us asunder; and when 
I had finished my bastions, I touched some score of crowns, which 
I had not expected, and which were uncommonly welcome. So I 
returned with a blithe heart to finish my Perseus. 


During those days some antiquities had been discovered in the 
country round Arezzo. Among them was the Chimaera, that bronze 
lion which is to be seen in the rooms adjacent to the great hall of the 
palace.^ Together with the Chimaera a number of litde statuettes, 
likewise in bronze, had been brought to light; they were covered 
with earth and rust, and each of them lacked either head or hands 
or feet. The Duke amused his leisure hours by cleaning up these 
statuettes himself with certain little chisels used by goldsmiths. It 
happened on one occasion that I had to speak on business to his 
Excellency; and while we were talking, he reached me a little 
hammer, with which I struck the chisels the Duke held, and so the 
figures were disengaged from their earth and rust. In this way we 
passed several evenings, and then the Duke commissioned me to 
restore the statuettes. He took so much pleasure in these trifles that 
he made me work by day also, and if I delayed coming, he used to 
send for me. I very often submitted to his Excellency that if I left 
my Perseus in the daytime, several bad consequences would ensue. 
The first of these, which caused me the greatest anxiety, was that, 
seeing me spend so long a time upon my statue, the Duke himself 
might get disgusted; which indeed did afterwards happen. The 
other was that I had several journeymen who in my absence were up 
to two kinds of mischief; first, they spoilt my piece, and then they 
did as little work as possible. These arguments made his Excellency 
consent that I should only go to the palace after twenty-four o'clock. 
' Now in the UfEzzi. 


I had now conciliated the aflection o£ his Excellency to such an 
extent, that every evening when I came to him he treated me with 
greater kindness. About this time the new apartments were built 
toward the lions;' the Duke then wishing to be able to retire into a 
less public part of the palace, fitted up for himself a little chamber 
in these new lodgings, and ordered me approach to it by a private 
passage. I had to pass through his wardrobe, then across the stage 
of the great hall, and afterwards through certain litde dark galleries 
and cabinets. The Duchess, however, after a few days, deprived me 
of this means of access by having all the doors upon the path I had 
to traverse locked up. The consequence was that every evening 
when I arrived at the palace, I had to wait a long while, because the 
Duchess occupied the cabinets for her personal necessities.* Her habit 
of body was unhealthy, and so I never came without incommoding 
her. This and other causes made her hate the very sight of me. 
However, notwithstanding great discomforts and daily annoyances, 
I persevered in going. The Duke's orders, meanwhile, were so pre- 
cise, that no sooner did I knock at those doors, than they were 
immediately opened, and I was allowed to pass freely where I 
chose. The consequence was that occasionally, while walking noise- 
lessly and imexpectedly through the private rooms, I came upon the 
Duchess at a highly inconvenient moment. Bursting then into such 
a furious storm of rage that I was frightened, she cried out: "When 
will you ever finish mending up those statuettes? Upon my word, 
this perpetual going and coming of yours has grown to be too great 
a nuisance." I replied as gently as I could : "My lady and sole mistress, 
I have no other desire than to serve you loyally and with the strictest 
obedience. This work to which the Duke has put me will last several 
months; so tell me, most illustrious Excellency, whether you wish me 
not to come here any more. In that case I will not come, whoever 
calls me; nay, should the Duke himself send for me, I shall reply 
that I am ill, and by no means will I intrude again." To this speech 
she made answer: "I do not bid you not to come, nor do I bid you to 
disobey the Duke; but I repeat that your work seems to me as though 
it would never be finished." 

Whether the Duke heard something of this encounter, or what- 

* Lions from a very early period had always been kept in part of the Palazzo 
Vecchio. ^ .AUe sue comoditd. 


ever the cause was, he began again as usual. Toward twenty-four 
o'clock he sent for me; and his messenger always spoke to this effect: 
"Take good care, and do not fail to come, for the Duke is waiting 
for you." In this way I continued, always with the same incon- 
veniences, to put in an appearance on several successive evenings. 
Upon one occasion among others, arriving in my customary way, 
the Duke, who had probably been talking with the Duchess about 
private matters, turned upon me in a furious anger. I was terrified, 
and wanted to retire. But he called out: "Come in, friend Ben- 
venuto; go to your affairs; I will rejoin you in a few moments." 
While I was passing onward, Don Garzia, then quite a little fellow, 
plucked me by the cape, and played with me as prettily as such a 
child could do. The Duke looked up delighted, and exclaimed: 
"What pleasant and friendly terms my boys are on with you!" 


While I was working at these bagatelles, the Prince, and Don 
Giovanni, and Don Arnando, and Don Garzia kept always hovering 
around me, teasing me whenever the Duke's eyes were turned.' I 
begged them for mercy's sake to hold their peace. They answered: 
"That we cannot do." I told them : "What one cannot is required of 
no one! So have your will! Along with you!" At this both Duke 
and Duchess burst out laughing. 

Another evening, after I had finished the small bronze figures 

which are wrought into the pedestal of Perseus, that is to say, the 

Jupiter, Mercury, Minerva, and Danx, with the little Perseus seated 

at his mother's feet, I had them carried into the room where I was 

wont to work, and arranged them in a row, raised somewhat above 

the line of vision, so that they produced a magnificent effect. The 

Duke heard of this, and made his entrance sooner than usual. It 

seems that the person who informed his Excellency praised them 

above their merit, using terms like "far superior to the ancients," 

and so forth; wherefore the Duke came talking pleasantly with the 

Duchess about my doings. I rose at once and went to meet them. 

With his fine and truly princely manner he received me, lifting his 

right hand, in which he held as superb a pear-graft as could possibly 

^The Prince was Don Francesco, then aged twelve; Don Giovanni was ten, Don 
Garzia was six, and Don Ferdinando four. 


be seen. "Take it, my Benvenuto!" he exclaimed; "plant this pear 
in your garden." To these words I replied with a delighted gesture: 
"O my lord, does your most illustrious Excellency really mean that 
I should plant it in the garden of my house ? "Yes," he said, "in the 
garden of the house which belongs to you. Have you understood 
me.?" I thanked his Excellency, and the Duchess in like manner, 
with the best politeness I could use. 

After this they both took seats in front of the statues, and for more 
than two hours went on talking about nothing but the beauties of 
the work. The Duchess was wrought up to such an enthusiasm that 
she cried out: "I do not like to let those exquisite figures be wasted 
on the pedestal down there in the piazza, where they will run the 
risk of being injured. I would much rather have you fix them in 
one of my apartments, where they will be preserved with the respect 
due to their singular artistic qualities." I opposed this plan with 
many forcible arguments; but when I saw that she was determined 
I should not place them on the pedestal where they now stand, I 
waited till next day, and went to the palace about twenty-two 
o'clock. Ascertaining that the Duke and Duchess were out riding, 
and having already prepared the pedestal, I had the statues carried 
down, and soldered them with lead into their proper niches. Oh, 
when the Duchess knew of this, how angry she was! Had it not been 
for the Duke, who manfully defended me, I should have paid dearly 
for my daring. Her indignation about the pearls, and now again 
about this matter of the statues, made her so contrive that the Duke 
abandoned his amusements in our workshop. Consequently I went 
there no more, and was met again with the same obstructions as 
formerly whenever I wanted to gain access to the palace. 


I returned to the Loggia,' whither my Perseus had already been 
brought, and went on putting the last touches to my work, under the 
old difficulties always; that is to say, lack of money, and a hundred 
untoward accidents, the half of which would have cowed a man 
armed with adamant. 

1 That is, the Loggia de' Lanzi, on the great piazza of Florence, where Cellini's 
statue still stands. 


However, I pursued my course as usual; and one morning, after 
I had heard mass at San Piero Scheraggio, that brute Bernardone, 
broker, worthless goldsmith, and by the Duke's grace purveyor to the 
mint, passed by me. No sooner had he got outside the church than 
the dirty pig let fly four cracks which might have been heard from 
San Miniato. I cried: "Yah! pig, poltroon, donkey! is that the noise 
your filthy talents make?" and ran off for a cudgel. He took refuge 
on the instant in the mint; while I stationed myself inside my house- 
door, which I left ajar, setting a boy at watch upon the street to 
warn me when the pig should leave the mint. After waiting some 
time, I grew tired, and my heat cooled. Reflecting, then, that blows 
are not dealt by contract, and that some disaster might ensue, I 
resolved to wreak my vengeance by another method. The incident 
took place about the feast of our San Giovanni, one or two days 
before; so I composed four verses, and stuck them up in an angle of 
the church where people go to ease themselves. The verses ran as 
follows: — 

"Here lieth Bernardone, ass and pig. 

Spy, broker, thief, in whom Pandora planted 
All her worst evils, and from thence transplanted 
Into that brute Buaccio's carcass big." ^ 

Both the incident and the verses went the round of the palace, giving 
the Duke and Duchess much amusement. But, before the man him- 
self knew what I had been up to, crowds of people stopped to read 
the hnes and laughed immoderately at them. Since they were look- 
ing towards the mint and fixing their eyes on Bernardone, his son, 
Maestro Baccio, taking notice of their gestures, tore the paper down 
with fury. The elder bit his thumb, shrieking threats out with that 
hideous voice of his, which comes forth through his nose; indeed he 
made a brave defiance.' 

2 If I understand the obscure lines of the original, Cellini wanted to kill two birds 
with one stone by this epigram — both Bernardone and his son Baccio. But by Buaccio 
he generally means Baccio Bandinelli. 

'To bite the thumb at any one was, as students of our old drama know, a sign 
of challenge or provocation. 



When the Duke was informed that the whole of my work for the 
Perseus could be exhibited as finished, he came one day to look at it. 
His manner showed clearly that it gave him great satisfaction; but 
afterwards he turned to some gentlemen attending him and said: 
"Although this statue seems in our eyes a very fine piece, still it has 
yet to win the favour of the people. Therefore, my Benvenuto, 
before you put the very last touches on, I should like you, for my 
sake, to remove a part of the scaffolding on the side of the piazza, 
some day toward noon, in order that we may learn what folk think 
of it. There is no doubt that when it is thrown open to space and 
light, it will look very differently from what it does in this enclosure." 
I replied with all humility to his Excellency: "You must know, my 
lord, that it will make more than twice as good a show. Oh, how is 
it that your most illustrious Excellency has forgotten seeing it in the 
garden of my house ? There, in that large extent of space, it showed 
so bravely that Bandinello, coming through the garden of the Inno- 
cents to look at it, was compelled, in spite of his evil and malignant 
nature, to praise it, he who never praised aught or any one in all 
his life! I perceive that your Excellency lends too ready an ear to 
that fellow." When I had done speaking, he smiled ironically and a 
little angrily; yet he rephed with great kindness: "Do what I ask, 
my Benvenuto, just to please me." 

When the Duke had left, I gave orders to have the screen removed. 
Yet some trifles of gold, varnish, and various other little finishings 
were still wanting; wherefore I began to murmur and complain 
indignantly, cursing the unhappy day which brought me to Florence. 
Too well I knew already the great and irreparable sacrifice I made 
when I left France; nor could I discover any reasonable ground for 
hope that I might prosper in the future with my prince and patron. 
From the commencement to the middle and the ending, everything 
that I had done had been performed to my great disadvantage. 
Therefore, it was with deep ill-humour that I disclosed my statue on 
the following day. 

Now it pleased God that, on the instant of its exposure to view, 
a shout of boundless enthusiasm went up in commendation of my 


work, which consoled me not a little. The folk kept on attaching 
sonnets to the posts of the door, which was protected with a curtain 
while I gave the last touches to the statue. I believe that on the same 
day when I opened it a few hours to the public, more than twenty 
were nailed up, all of them overflowing with the highest panegyrics, 
Afterwards, when I once more shut it off from view, every day 
brought sonnets, with Latin and Greek verses; for the University 
of Pisa was then in vacation, and all the doctors and scholars kept 
vying with each other who could praise it best. But what gratified 
me most, and inspired me with most hope of the Duke's support, 
was that the artists, sculptors and painters alike, entered into the 
same generous competition. I set the highest value on the eulogies 
of that excellent painter Jacopo Pontormo, and still more on those 
of his able pupil Bronzino, who was not satisfied with merely pub- 
lishing his verses, but sent them by his lad Sandrino's hand to my 
own house.' They spoke so generously of my performance, in that 
fine style of his which is most exquisite, that this alone repaid me 
somewhat for the pain of my long troubles. So then I closed the 
screen, and once more set myself to finishing my statue. 


The great compliments which this short inspection of my Perseus 
had elicited from the noble school of Florence, though they were well 
known to the Duke, did not prevent him from saying: "I am 
delighted that Benvenuto has had this trifling satisfaction, which 
will spur him on to the desired conclusion with more speed and 
diligence. Do not, however, let him imagine that, when his Perseus 
shall be finally exposed to view from all sides, folk in general will 
be so lavish of their praises. On the contrary, I am afraid that all its 
defects will then be brought home to him, and more will be detected 
than the statue really has. So let him arm himself with patience." 
These were precisely the words which Bandinello had whispered in 
the Duke's ears, citing the works of Andrea del Verrocchio, who 
made that fine bronze of Christ and S. Thomas on the front of 

'Jacopo Carrucci da Pontormo was now an old man. He died in 1558, aged 
sixty-five years. Angelo Allori, called II Bronzino, one of the last fairly good Florentine 
painters, won considerable distinction as a writer of burlesque poems. He died in 
1571, aged sixty-nine years. We possess his sonnets of the perseus. 


Orsammichele; at the same time he referred to many other statues, 
and dared even to attack the marvellous David of divine Michel 
Agnolo Buonarroti, accusing it of only looking well if seen in 
front; finally, he touched upon the multitude of sarcastic sonnets 
which were called forth by his own Hercules and Cacus, and wound 
up with abusing the people of Florence. Now the Duke, who was 
too much inclined to credit his assertions, encouraged the fellow to 
speak thus, and thought in his own heart that things would go as he 
had prophesied, because that envious creature Bandinello never 
ceased insinuating malice. On one occasion it happened that the 
gallows bird Bernardone, the broker, was present at these conversa- 
tions, and in support of Bandinello's calumnies, he said to the Duke: 
"You must remember, prince, that statues on a large scale are quite 
a different dish of soup from little figures. I do not refuse him the 
credit of being excellent at statuettes in miniature. But you will 
soon see that he cannot succeed in that other sphere of art." To these 
vile suggestions he added many others of all sorts, plying his spy's 
office, and piling up a mountain of lies to boot. 


Now it pleased my glorious Lord and immortal God that at last 
I brought the whole work to completion : and on a certain Thursday 
morning I exposed it to the public gaze.' Immediately, before the 
sun was fully in the heavens, there assembled such a multitude of 
people that no words could describe them. All with one voice con- 
tended which should praise it most. The Duke was stationed at a 
window low upon the first floor of the palace, just above the entrance; 
there, half hidden, he heard everything the folk were saying of my 
statue. After listening through several hours, he rose so proud and 
happy in his heart that he turned to his attendant, Messer Sforza, 
and exclaimed: "Sforza, go and seek out Benvenuto; tell him from 
me that he has delighted me far more than I expected : say too that 
I shall reward him in a way which will astonish him; so bid him be 
of good courage." 

In due course, Messer Sforza discharged this glorious embassy, 
which consoled me greatly. I passed a happy day, partly because of 

'April 27, 1554. 


the Duke's message, and also because the folk kept pointing me out 
as something marvellous and strange. Among the many who did so, 
were two gentlemen, deputed by the Viceroy of Sicily^ to our Duke 
on public business. Now these two agreeable persons met me upon 
the piazza: I had been shown them in passing, and now they made 
monstrous haste to catch me up; then, with caps in hand, they uttered 
an oration so ceremonious, that it would have been excessive for a 
Pope. I bowed, with every protestation of humility. They mean- 
while continued loading me with compliments, until at last I prayed 
them, for kindness' sake, to leave the piazza in my company, because 
the folk were stopping and staring at me more than at my Perseus. 
In the midst of all these ceremonies, they went so far as to propose 
that I should come to Sicily, and offered to make terms which should 
content me. They told me how Fra Giovan Agnolo de' Servi' had 
constructed a fountain for them, complete in all parts, and decorated 
with a multitude of figures; but it was not in the same good style 
they recognised in Perseus, and yet they had heaped riches on the 
man. I would not suffer them to finish all their speeches, but 
answered: "You give me much cause for wonder, seeking as you do 
to make me quit the service of a prince who is the greatest patron of 
the arts that ever lived; and I too here in my own birthplace, famous 
as the school of every art and science! Oh, if my soul's desire had 
been set on lucre, I could have stayed in France, with that great 
monarch Francis, who gave me a thousand golden crowns a year 
for board, and paid me in addition the price of all my labour. In 
his service I gained more than four thousand golden crowns the 

With these and such like words I cut their ceremonies short, 
thanking them for the high praises they had bestowed upon me, 
which were indeed the best reward that artists could receive for their 
labours. I told them they had greatly stimulated my zeal, so that I 
hoped, after a few years were passed, to exhibit another masterpiece, 
which I dared believe would yield far truer satisfaction to our noble 
school of Florence. The two gentlemen were eager to resume the 

^Don Juan de Vega. 

^Giovanni Angelo Montorsoli entered the Order of the Servites in 1530, This did 
not prevent him from plying his profession of sculptor. The work above alluded to 
is the fountain at Messina. 


thread of their compUmentary proposals, whereupon I, lifting my 
cap and making a profound bow, bade them a polite farewell. 


When two more days had passed, and the chorus of praise was 
ever on the increase, I resolved to go and present myself to the Duke, 
who said with great good-humour: "My Benvenuto, you have satis- 
fied and delighted me; but I promise that I will reward you in such 
wise as wall make you wonder; and I tell you that I do not mean 
to delay beyond to-morrow." On hearing this most welcome assur- 
ance, I turned all the forces of my soul and body to God, fervently 
offering up thanks to Him. At the same moment I approached the 
Duke, and almost weeping for gladness, kissed his robe. Then I 
added: "O my glorious prince, true and most generous lover of the 
arts, and of those who exercise them! I entreat your most illustrious 
Excellency to allow me eight days first to go and return thanks to 
God; for I alone know what travail I have endured, and that my 
earnest faith has moved Him to assist me. In gratitude for this and 
all other marvellous mercies, I should like to travel eight days on 
pilgrimage, continually thanking my immortal God, who never fails 
to help those who call upon Him with sincerity." The Duke then 
asked me where I wished to go. I answered : "To-morrow I shall set 
out for Vallombrosa, thence to Camaldoli and the Ermo, afterwards 
I shall proceed to the Bagni di Santa Maria, and perhaps so far as 
Sestile, because I hear of fine antiquities to be seen there.' Then I 
shall retrace my steps by San Francesco della Vernia, and, sdll with 
thanks to God, return light-hearted to your service." The Duke 
repUed at once with cheerful kindness: "Go and come back again, 
for of a truth you please me; but do not forget to send a couple of 
lines by way of memorandum, and leave the rest to me." 

I wrote four lines that very day, in which I thanked his Excellency 
for expected favours, and gave these to Messer Sforza, who placed 
them in the Duke's hands. The latter took them, and then handed 
them to Messer Sforza, remarking : "See that you put these lines each 
day where I can see them; for if Benvenuto comes back and finds I 
have not despatched his business, I think that he will murder me." 
Thus laughing, his Excellency asked to be reminded. Messer Sforza 
* The Ermo is more correctly Eremo, and Vernia is Alvernia. 


reported these precise words to me on the same evening, laughing 
too and expressing wonder at the great favour shown me by the 
Duke. He pleasantly added: "Go, Benvenuto, and come again 
quickly, for indeed I am jealous of you." 


In God's name then I left Florence, continually singing psalms 
and prayers in His honour upon all that journey. I enjoyed it 
extremely; for the season was fine, in early summer, and the country 
through which I travelled, and which I had never seen before, struck 
me as marvellously beautiful. Now I had taken with me to serve as 
guide a young workman in my employ, who came from Bagno, and 
was called Cesare. Thanks to him, then, I received the kindest 
hospitality from his father and all his family, among whom was an 
old man of more than seventy, extremely pleasant in his conversation. 
He was Cesare's uncle, a surgeon by profession, and a dabbler in 
alchemy. This excellent person made me observe that the Bagni 
contained mines of gold and silver, and showed me many interesting 
objects in the neighbourhood; so that I enjoyed myself as much as 
I have ever done. 

One day, when we had become intimate and he could trust me, 
he spoke as follows : "I must not omit to tell you a thought of mine, 
to which his Excellency might with advantage pay attention. It is, 
that not far from Camaldoli there lies a mountain pass so ill 
defended, that Piero Strozzi could not only cross it without risk, 
but might also seize on Poppi' unmolested." Not satisfied with this 
description, he also took a sheet of paper from his pouch, upon which 
the good old man had drawn the whole country, so that the serious- 
ness of the danger could be manifest upon inspection of the map. I 
took the design and left Bagno at once, travelling homeward as fast 
as I could by Prato Magno and San Francesco della Vernia. On 
reaching Florence, I only stopped to draw off my riding-boots, and 
hurried to the palace. Just opposite the Badia I met the Duke, who 
was coming by the palace of the Podesta. When he saw me he gave 
me a very gracious reception, and showing some surprise, exclaimed: 
"Why have you come back so quickly; I did not expect you for eight 

' A village in the Castenino. Piero Strozzi was at this time in Valdichiana. 


days at least." I answered: "The service of your most illustrious 
Excellency brings me back, else I should very willingly have stayed 
some few days longer on my journey through that lovely country." 
"Well, and what good news have you?" said he. I answered: 
"Prince, I must talk to you about things of the greatest importance 
which I have to disclose." So I followed him to the palace, and 
when we were there, he took me privately into a chamber where we 
stayed a while alone together. I then unfolded the whole matter and 
showed him the httle map, with which he seemed to be much 
gratified. When I told his Excellency that one ought to take meas- 
ures at once, he reflected for a little while and then said: "I may 
inform you that we have agreed with the Duke of Urbino that he 
should guard the pass; but do not speak about it." Then he dis- 
missed me with great demonstrations of good-will, and I went home. 


Next day I presented myself, and, after a few words of conversa- 
tion, the Duke addressed me cheerfully: "To-morrow, without fail, 
I mean to despatch your business; set your mind at rest, then." I, 
who felt sure that he meant what he said, waited with great impa- 
tience for the morrow. When the longed-for day arrived, I betook 
me to the palace; and as it always happens that evil tidings travel 
faster than good news, Messer Giacopo Guidi,' secretary to his 
Excellency, called me with his wry mouth and haughty voice; draw- 
ing himself up as stiff as a poker, he began to speak to this effect: 
"The Duke says he wants you to tell him how much you ask for 
your Perseus." I remained dumbfounded and astonished; yet I 
quickly replied that it was not my custom to put prices on my work, 
and that this was not what his Excellency had promised me two 
days ago. The man raised his voice, and ordered me expressly in the 
Duke's name, under the penalty of his severe displeasure, to say how 
much I wanted. Now I had hoped not only to gain some handsome 
reward, trusting to the mighty signs of kindness shown me by the 
Duke, but I had still more expected to secure the entire good graces 
of his Excellency, seeing I never asked for anything, but only for his 
favour. Accordingly, this wholly unexpected way of dealing with 

' It appears from a letter written by Guidi to Bandinelli that he hated Cellini, whom 
he called pessimo mostro di natura. Guidi was made Bishop of Penna in 1561, and 
attended the Council of Trent. 


me put me in a fury, and I was especially enraged by the manner 
which that venomous toad assumed in discharging his commission. 
I exclaimed that if the Duke gave me ten thousand crowns I should 
not be paid enough, and that if I had ever thought things would 
come to this haggling, I should not have settled in his service. 
Thereupon the surly fellow began to abuse me, and I gave it him 
back again. 

Upon the following day, when I paid my respects to the Duke, he 
beckoned to me. I approached, and he exclaimed in anger: "Cities 
and great palaces are built with ten thousands of ducats." I rejoined : 
"Your Excellency can find multitudes of men who are able to build 
you cities and palaces, but you will not, perhaps, find one man in the 
world who could make a second Perseus." Then I took my leave 
without saying or doing anything farther. A few days afterwards the 
Duchess sent for me, and advised me to put my difference with the 
Duke into her hands, since she thought she could conduct the busi- 
ness to my satisfaction. On hearing these kindly words I replied 
that I had never asked any other recompense for my labours than the 
good graces of the Duke, and that his most illustrious Excellency had 
assured me of this; it was not needful that I should place in their 
Excellencies' hands what I had always frankly left to them from the 
first days when I undertook their service. I farther added that if his 
most illustrious Excellency gave me but a craziaf which is worth 
five farthings, for my work, I should consider myself contented, pro- 
vided only that his Excellency did not deprive me of his favour. At 
these words the Duchess smiled a little and said: "Benvenuto, you 
would do well to act as I advise you." Then she turned her back and 
left me. I thought it was my best policy to speak with the humility 
I have above described; yet it turned out that I had done the worst 
for myself, because, albeit she had harboured some angry feelings 
toward me, she had in her a certain way of dealing which was 


About that time I was very intimate with Girolamo degli Albizzi,' 
commissary of the Duke's militia. One day this friend said to me: 

^ A small Tuscan coin. 
* A warm partisan of the Medici. He was a cousin of Maria Salviati, Cosimo's 
mother. It was rumoured that he caused the historian Francesco Guicciardini's death 
by poison. We find him godfather to one of Cellini's children. 


"O Benvenuto, it would not be a bad thing to put your little differ- 
ence of opinion with the Duke to rights; and I assure you that if 
you repose confidence in me, I feel myself the man to settle matters. 
I know what I am saying. The Duke is getting really angry, and you 
will come badly out of the affair. Let this suffice; I am not at liberty 
to say all I know." Now, subsequently to that conversation with the 
Duchess, I had been told by some one, possibly a rogue, that he had 
heard how the Duke said upon some occasion which offered itself: 
"For less than two farthings I will throw Perseus to the dogs, and 
so our differences will be ended." This, then, made me anxious, and 
induced me to entrust Girolamo degli Albizzi with the negotiations, 
telling him anything would satisfy me provided I retained the good 
graces of the Duke. That honest fellow was excellent in all his 
dealings with soldiers, especially with the militia, who are for the 
most part rustics; but he had no taste for statuary, and therefore 
could not understand its conditions. Consequently, when he spoke 
to the Duke, he began thus: "Prince, Benvenuto has placed himself 
in my hands, and has begged me to recommend him to your Excel- 
lency." The Duke replied: "I too am willing to refer myself to you, 
and shall be satisfied with your decision." Thereupon Girolamo com- 
posed a letter, with much skill and greatly to my honour, fixing the 
sum which the Duke would have to pay me at 3500 golden crowns 
in gold; and this should not be taken as my proper recompense for 
such a masterpiece, but only as a kind of gratuity; enough to say that 
I was satisfied; with many other phrases of like tenor, all of which 
implied the price which I have mentioned. 

The Duke signed this agreement as gladly as I took it sadly. When 
the Duchess heard, she said: "It would have been better for that 
poor man if he had placed himself in my hands; I could have got 
him five thousand crowns in gold." One day, when I went to the 
palace, she repeated these same words to me in the presence of 
Messer Alamanno Salviati,^ and laughed at me a little, saying that 
I deserved my bad luck. 

The Duke gave orders that I should be paid a hundred golden 
crowns in gold per month, until the sum was discharged; and thus 

^This Salviati and the De' Nobili mentioned afterwards occupied a distinguished 
place in Florentine annals as partisans of the Medici. 


it ran for some months. Afterwards, Messer Antonio de' Nobili, 
who had to transact the business, began to give me fifty, and some- 
times later on he gave me twenty-five, and sometimes nothing. 
Accordingly, when I saw that the settlement was being thus deferred, 
I spoke good-humouredly to Messer Antonio, and begged him to 
explain why he did not complete my payments. He answered in a 
like tone of politeness; yet it struck me that he exposed his own mind 
too much. Let the reader judge. He began by saying that the sole 
reason why he could not go forward regularly with these payments, 
was the scarcity of money at the palace; but he promised, when cash 
came in, to discharge arrears. Then he added: "Oh heavens! if I did 
not pay you, I should be an utter rogue." I was somewhat surprised 
to hear him speak in that way; yet I resolved to hope that he would 
pay me when he had the power to do so. But when I observed that 
things went quite the contrary way, and saw that I was being pil- 
laged, I lost temper with the man, and recalled to his memory hotly 
and in anger what he had declared he would be if he did not pay 
me. However, he died; and five hundred crowns are still owing to 
me at the present date, which is nigh upon the end of 1566.^ There 
was also a balance due upon my salary which I thought would be 
forgotten, since three years had elapsed without payment. But it so 
happened that the Duke fell ill of a serious malady, remaining forty- 
eight hours without passing water. Finding that the remedies of his 
physicians availed nothing, it is probable that he betook himself to 
God, and therefore decreed the discharge of all debts to his servants. 
I too was paid on this occasion, yet I never obtained what still stood 
out upon my Perseus. 


I had almost determined to say nothing more about that unlucky 
Perseus; but a most remarkable incident, which I do not like to omit, 
obliges me to do so; wherefore I must now turn back a bit, to gather 
up the thread of my narration. I thought I was acting for the best 
when I told the Duchess that I could not compromise affairs which 
were no longer in my hands, seeing I had informed the Duke that I 

' Cellini began to write his Memoirs in 1558. Eight years had therefore now 


should gladly accept whatever he chose to give me. I said this in 
the hope of gaining favour; and with this manifestation of sub- 
missiveness I employed every hkely means of pacifying his resent- 
ment; for I ought to add that a few days before he came to terms 
with Albizzi, the Duke had shown he was excessively displeased 
with me. The reason was as follows : I complained of some abomin- 
able acts of injustice done to me by Messer Alfonso Quistelli, Messer 
Jacopo Polverino of the Exchequer, and more than all by Ser Giovan- 
battista Brandini of Volterra. When, therefore, I set forth my cause 
with some vehemence, the Duke flew into the greatest rage con- 
ceivable. Being thus in anger, he exclaimed: "This is just the same 
as with your Perseus, when you asked those ten thousand crowns. 
You let yourself be blinded by mere cupidity. Therefore I shall 
have the statue valued, and shall give you what the experts think it 
worth." To these words I replied with too much daring and a touch 
of indignation, which is always out of place in dealing with great 
princes: "How is it possible that my work should be valued at its 
proper worth when there is not a man in Florence capable of per- 
forming it?" That increased his irritation; he uttered many furious 
phrases, and among them said: "There is in Florence at this day a 
man well able to make such a statue, and who is therefore highly 
capable of judging it." He meant Bandinello, Cavaliere of S. Jacopo.' 
Then I rejoined : "My lord, your most illustrious Excellency gave me 
the means of producing an important and very difficult masterpiece 
in the midst of this the noblest school of the world; and my work 
has been received with warmer praises than any other heretofore 
exposed before the gaze of our incomparable masters. My chief pride 
is the commendation of those able men who both understand and 
practise the arts of design — as in particular Bronzino, the painter; 
this man set himself to work, and composed four sonnets couched in 
the choicest style, and full of honour to myself. Perhaps it was his 
example which moved the whole city to such a tumult of enthusiasm. 
I freely admit that if sculpture were his business instead of painting, 
then Bronzino might have been equal to a task like mine. Michel 
Agnolo Buonarroti, again, whom I am proud to call my master; he, 
I admit, could have achieved the same success when he was young, 
1 Bandinelli was a Knight of S. James of Compostella. 


but not with less fatigue and trouble than I endured. But now that 
he is far advanced in years, he would most certainly be found 
unequal to the strain. Therefore I think I am justified in saying that 
no man known upon this earth could have produced my Perseus. 
For the rest, my work has received the greatest reward I could have 
wished for in this world; chiefly and especially because your most 
illustrious Excellency not only expressed yourself satisfied, but 
praised it far more highly than any one beside. What greater and 
more honourable prize could be desired by me? I affirm most 
emphatically that your Excellency could not pay me with more 
glorious coin, nor add from any treasury a wealth surpassing this. 
Therefore I hold myself overpaid already, and return thanks to your 
most illustrious Excellency with all my heart." The Duke made 
answer: "Probably you think I have not the money to pay you. For 
my part, I promise you that I shall pay you more for the statue than 
it is worth." Then I retorted: "I did not picture to my fancy any 
better recompense from your Excellency; yet I account myself amply 
remunerated by that first reward which the school of Florence gave 
me. With this to console me, I shall take my departure on the 
instant, without returning to the house you gave me, and shall never 
seek to set my foot in this town again." We were just at S. Felicita, 
and his Excellency was proceeding to the palace. When he heard 
these choleric words, he turned upon me in stern anger and 
exclaimed: "You shall not go; take heed you do not go!" Half 
terrified, I then followed him to the palace. 

On arriving there, his Excellency sent for the Archbishop of Pisa, 
named De' Bartolini, and Messer Pandolfo della Stufa,^ requesting 
them to order Baccio Bandinelli, in his name, to examine well my 
Perseus and value it, since he wished to pay its exact price. These 
excellent men went forthwith and performed their embassy. In 
reply Bandinello said that he had examined the statue minutely, and 
knew well enough what it was worth; but having been on bad terms 
otherwise with me for some time past, he did not care to be entangled 
anyhow in my affairs. Then they began to put a gentle pressure on 

^Onofrio de' Bartolini was made Archbishop of Pisa in 1518, at the age of about 
seventeen. He was a devoted adherent of the Medici. He was shut up with Clement 
in S. Angelo, and sent as hostage to the Imperial army. Pandolfo della Stufa had 
been cup-bearer to Caterina de' Medici while Dauphiness. 


him, sayiog: "The Duke ordered us to tell you, under pain of his 
displeasure, that you are to value the statue, and you may have two 
or three days to consider your estimate. When you have done so, 
tell us at what price it ought to be paid." He answered that his 
judgment was already formed, that he could not disobey the Duke, 
and that my work was rich and beautiful and excellent in execution; 
therefore he thought sixteen thousand crowns or more would not be 
an excessive price for it. Those good and courteous gentlemen 
reported this to the Duke, who was mightily enraged; they also told 
the same to me. I replied that nothing in the world would induce 
me to take praise from Bandinello, "seeing that this bad man speaks 
ill of everybody." My words were carried to the Duke; and that was 
the reason why the Duchess wanted me to place the matter in her 
hands. All that I have written is the pure truth. I will only add that 
I ought to have trusted to her intervention, for then I should have 
been quickly paid, and should have received so much more into the 


The Duke sent me word by Messer Lelio Torello,' his Master of 
the Rolls,'' that he wanted me to execute some bas-reliefs in bronze 
for the choir of S. Maria del Fiore. Now the choir was by Bandi- 
nello, and I did not choose to enrich his bad work with my labours. 
He had not indeed designed it, for he understood nothing whatever 
about architecture; the design was given by Giuliano, the son of that 
Baccio d'Agnolo, the wood-carver, who spoiled the cupola.^ Suffice 
it to say that it shows no talent. For both reasons I was determined 
not to undertake the task, although I told the Duke politely that I 
would do whatever his most illustrious Excellency ordered. Accord- 
ingly, he put the matter into the hands of the Board of Works for 
S. Maria del Fiore," telling them to come to an agreement with me; 
he would continue my allowance of two hundred crowns a year, 
while they were to supply the rest out of their funds. 

'A native of Fano. Cosimo's Auditore, 1539; first Secretary or Grand Chancellor, 
1546. He was a great jurist. ^Suo auditore. 

. ' It was Baccio d'Agnolo who altered Brunelleschi's plan for the cupola. Buonarroti 
used to say that he made it look like a cage for crickets. His work remained un- 
finished. * Operai di S. Maria del Fiore. 


In due course I came before the Board, and they told me what 
the Duke had arranged. Feeling that I could explain my views more 
frankly to these gentlemen, I began by demonstrating that so many 
histories in bronze would cost a vast amount of money, which would 
be totally thrown away, giving all my reasons, which they fully 
appreciated. In the first place, I said that the construction of the choir 
was altogether incorrect, without proportion, art, convenience, grace, 
or good design. In the next place, the bas-reliefs would have to 
stand too low, beneath the proper line of vision; they would become 
a place for dogs to piss at, and be always full of ordure. Consequently, 
I declined positively to execute them. However, since I did not wish 
to throw away the best years of my life, and was eager to serve his 
most illustrious Excellency, whom I had the sincerest desire to 
gratify and obey, I made the following proposal. Let the Duke, if 
he wants to employ my talents, give me the middle door of the 
cathedral to perform in bronze. This would be well seen, and would 
confer far more glory on his most illustrious Excellency. I would 
bind myself by contract to receive no remuneration unless I pro- 
duced something better than the finest of the Baptistery doors.^ But 
if I completed it according to my promise, then I was willing to have 
it valued, and to be paid one thousand crowns less than the estimate 
made by experts. 

The members of the Board were well pleased with this suggestion, 
and went at once to report the matter to the Duke, among them 
being Piero Salviati. They expected him to be extremely gratified 
with their communication, but it turned out just the contrary. He 
replied that I was always wanting to do the exact opposite of what 
he bade me; and so Piero left him without coming to any conclusion. 
On hearing this, I went off to the Duke at once, who displayed some 
irritation when he saw me. However, I begged him to condescend 
to hear me, and he replied that he was willing. I then began from 
the beginning, and used such convincing arguments that he saw at 
last how the matter really stood, since I made it evident that he 
would only be throwing a large sum of money away. Then I soft- 
ened his temper by suggesting that if his most illustrious Excellency 
did not care to have the door begun, two pulpits had anyhow to be 
' He means Ghiberti's second door, in all probability. 


made for the choir, and that these would both of them be con- 
siderable works, which would confer glory on his reign; for my part, 
I was ready to execute a great number of bronze bas-reliefs with 
appropriate decorations. In this way I brought him round, and he 
gave me orders to construct the models. 

Accordingly I set at work on several models, and bestowed 
immense pains on them. Among these there was one with eight 
panels, carried out with far more science than the rest, and which 
seemed to me more fitted for the purpose. Having taken them 
several times to the place, his Excellency sent word by Messer 
Cesare, the keeper of his wardrobe, that I should leave them there. 
After the Duke had inspected them, I perceived that he had selected 
the least beautiful. One day he sent for me, and during our con- 
versation about the models, I gave many reasons why the octagonal 
pulpit would be far more convenient for its destined uses, and would 
produce a much finer effect. He answered that he wished me to 
make it square, because he liked that form better; and thus he went 
on conversing for some time very pleasantly. I meanwhile lost no 
opportunity of saying everything I could in the interests of art. 
Now whether the Duke knew that I had spoken the truth, or 
whether he wanted to have his own way, a long time passed before 
I heard anything more about it. 


About this time the great block of marble arrived which was 
intended for the Neptune. It had been brought up the Arno, and 
then by the Grieve' to the road at Poggio a Caiano, in order to be 
carried to Florence by that level way; and there I went to see it. 
Now I knew very well that the Duchess by her special influence had 
managed to have it given to Bandinello. No envy prompted me to 
dispute his claims, but rather pity for that poor unfortunate piece of 
marble. Observe, by the way, that everything, whatever it may be, 
which is subject to an evil destiny, although one tries to save it from 
some manifest evil, falls at once into far worse plight; as happened 

* Instead of the Grieve, which is not a navigable stream, it appears that Cellini 
ought to have vi'ritten the Ombrone. 


to this marble when it came into the hands o£ Bartolommeo Amma- 
nato/ of whom I shall speak the truth in its proper place. After 
inspecting this most splendid block, I measured it in every direction, 
and on returning to Florence, made several little models suited to 
its proportions. Then I went to Poggio a Caiano, where the Duke 
and Duchess were staying, with their son the Prince. I found them 
all at table, the Duke and Duchess dining in a private apartment; 
so I entered into conversation with the Prince. We had been speak- 
ing for a long while, when the Duke, who was in a room adjacent, 
heard my voice, and condescended very graciously to send for me. 
When I presented myself before their Excellencies, the Duchess 
addressed me in a very pleasant tone; and having thus opened the 
conversation, I gradually introduced the subject of that noble block 
of marble I had seen. I then proceeded to remark that their 
ancestors had brought the magnificent school of Florence to such a 
pitch of excellence only by stimulating competition among artists in 
their several branches. It was thus that the wonderful cupola and 
the lovely doors of San Giovanni had been produced, together with 
those multitudes of handsome edifices and statues which made a 
crown of artistic glory for their city above anything the world had 
seen since the days of the ancients. Upon this the Duchess, with 
some anger, observed that she very well knew what I meant, and 
bade me never mention that block of marble in her presence, since 
she did not like it. I replied : "So, then, you do not like me to act as 
the attorney of your Excellencies, and to do my utmost to ensure 
your being better served? Reflect upon it, my lady; if your most 
illustrious Excellencies think fit to open the model for a Neptune to 
competition, although you are resolved to give it to Bandinello, this 
will urge Bandinello for his own credit to display greater art and 
science than if he knew he had no rivals. In this way, my princes, 
you will be far better served, and will not discourage our school of 
artists; you will be able to perceive which of us is eager to excel in 
the grand style of our noble calling, and will show yourselves princes 
who enjoy and understand the fine arts." The Duchess, in a great 
rage, told me that I tired her patience out; she wanted the marble 

^This sculptor was born in 151 1, and died in 1592. He worked under Bandinelli 
and Sansovino. 


for Bandinello, adding: "Ask the Duke; for his Excellency also 
means Bandinello to have it." When the Duchess had spoken, the 
Duke, who had kept silence up to this time, said: "Twenty years 
ago I had that fine block quarried especially for Bandinello, and so I 
mean that Bandinello shall have it to do what he likes with it." I 
turned to the Duke and spoke as follows: "My lord, I entreat your 
most illustrious Excellency to lend a patient hearing while I speak 
four words in your service." He told me to say all I wanted, and 
that he would listen. Then I began : "You will remember, my lord, 
that the marble which Bandinello used for his Hercules and Cacus 
was quarried for our incomparable Michel Agnolo Buonarroti. He 
had made the model for a Samson with four figures, which would 
have been the finest masterpiece in the whole world; but your Bandi- 
nello got out of it only two figures, both ill-executed and bungled in 
the worst manner; wherefore our school still exclaims against the 
great wrong which was done to that magnificent block. I believe 
that more than a thousand sonnets were put up in abuse of that 
detestable performance; and I know that your most illustrious 
Excellency remembers the fact very well. Therefore, my powerful 
prince, seeing how the men to whose care that work was entrusted, 
in their want of taste and wisdom, took Michel Agnolo's marble 
away from him, and gave it to Bandinello, who spoilt it in the way 
the whole world knows, oh! will you suffer this far more splendid 
block, although it belongs to Bandinello, to remain in the hands of 
that man who cannot help mangling it, instead of giving it to some 
artist of talent capable of doing it full justice? Arrange, my lord, 
that every one who likes shall make a model; have them all exhibited 
to the school; you then will hear what the school thinks; your own 
good judgment will enable you to select the best; in this way, finally, 
you will not throw away your money, nor discourage a band of 
artists the like of whom is not to be found at present in the world, 
and who form the glory of your most illustrious Excellency." 

The Duke listened with the utmost graciousness; then he rose 
from table, and turning to me, said: "Go, my Benvenuto, make a 
model, and earn that fine marble for yourself; for what you say is 
the truth, and I acknowledge it." The Duchess tossed her head 
defiantly, and muttered I know not what angry sentences. 


I made them a respectful bow and returned to Florence, burning 
with eagerness to set hands upon my model. 

When the Duke came to Florence, he sought me at my house 
without giving me previous notice. I showed him two little models 
o£ different design. Though he praised them both, he said that one 
of them pleased him better than the other; I was to finish the one he 
Hked with care; and this would be to my advantage. Now his 
Excellency had already seen Bandinello's designs, and those of other 
sculptors; but, as I was informed by many of his courtiers who had 
heard him, he commended mine far above the rest. Among other 
matters worthy of record and of great weight upon this point, I will 
mention the following. The Cardinal of Santa Fiore was on a visit 
to Florence, and the Duke took him to Poggio a Caiano. Upon the 
road, noticing the marble as he passed, the Cardinal praised it highly, 
inquiring of his Excellency for what sculptor he intended it. The 
Duke replied at once: "For my friend Benvenuto, who has made a 
splendid model with a view to it." This was reported to me by 
men whom I could trust. 

Hearing what the Duke had said, I went to the Duchess, and 
took her some small bits of goldsmith's work, which greatly pleased 
her Excellency. Then she asked what I was doing, and I replied: 
"My lady, I have taken in hand for my pleasure one of the most 
laborious pieces which have ever been produced. It is a Christ of the 
whitest marble set upon a cross of the blackest, exactly of the same 
size as a tall man. She immediately inquired what I meant to do 
with it. I answered : "You must know my lady, that I would not sell 
it for two thousand golden ducats; it is of such difficult execution 
that I think no man ever attempted the like before; nor would I 
have undertaken it at the commission of any prince whatever, for 
fear I might prove inadequate to the task. I bought the marbles with 
my own money, and have kept a young man some two years as my 
assistant in the work. What with the stone, the iron frame to hold 
it up, and the wages, it has cost me above three hundred crowns. 
Consequently, I would not sell it for two thousand. But if your 
Excellency deigns to grant me a favour which is wholly blameless, I 


shall be delighted to make you a present of it. All I ask is that your 
Excellency will not use your influence either against or for the 
models which the Duke has ordered to be made of the Neptune for 
that great block of marble." She replied with mighty indignation: 
"So then you value neither my help nor my opposition?" "On the 
contrary, I value them highly, princess; or why am I offering to 
give you what I value at two thousand ducats? But I have such 
confidence in my laborious and well-trained studies, that I hope to 
win the palm, even against the great Michel Agnolo Buonarroti, 
from whom and from no one else I have learned all that I know. 
Indeed, I should be much better pleased to enter into competition 
with him who knows so much than with those others who know but 
little of their art. Contending with my sublime master, I could gain 
laurels in plenty, whereas there are but few to be reaped in a contest 
with these men." After I had spoken, she rose in a half-angry mood, 
and I returned to work with all the strength I had upon my 

When it was finished, the Duke came to see it, bringing with him 
two ambassadors, one from the Duke of Ferrara, the other from the 
Signory of Lucca. They were delighted, and the Duke said to those 
two gentlemen: "Upon my word, Benvenuto deserves to have the 
marble." Then they both paid me the highest compliments, espe- 
cially the envoy from Lucca, who was a person of accomplishments 
and learning.' I had retired to some distance in order that they might 
exchange opinions freely; but when I heard that I was being compli- 
mented, I came up, turned to the Duke, and said: "My lord, your 
most illustrious Excellency ought now to employ another admirable 
device: decree that every one who likes shall make a model in clay, 
exactly of the same size as the marble has to be. In this way you 
will be able to judge far better who deserves the commission; and I 
may observe that if your Excellency does not give it to the sculptor 
who deserves it, this will not wrong the man so much, but will 
reflect great discredit upon yourself, since the loss and shame will 
fall on you. On the other hand, if you award it to the one who has 
deserved it, you will acquire great glory in the first place, and will 
employ your treasure well, while artists will believe that you appre- 
^ Probably Girolamo Lucchesini. 


ciate and understand their business." No sooner had I finished 
speaking than the Duke shrugged his shoulders, and began to move 
away. While they were taking leave the ambassador of Lucca said 
to the Duke: "Prince, this Benvenuto of yours is a terrible man!" 
The Duke responded: "He is much more terrible than you imagine, 
and well were it for him if he were a Uttle less terrible; then he 
would possess at the present moment many things which he has not 
got." These precise words were reported to me by the envoy, by 
way of chiding and advising me to change my conduct. I told him 
that I had the greatest wish to oblige my lord as his affectionate and 
faidiful servant, but that I did not understand the arts of flattery. 
Several months after this date, Bandinello died; and it was thought 
\hat, in addition to his intemperate habits of life, the mortification of 
having probably to lose the marble contributed to his decline. 


Bandinello had received information of the crucifix which, as I 
have said above, I was now engaged upon. Accordingly he laid his 
hands at once upon a block of marble, and produced the Pieta which 
may be seen in the church of the Annunziata. Now I had offered 
my crucifix to S. Maria Novella, and had already fixed up the iron 
clamps whereby I meant to fasten it against the wall. I only asked 
for permission to construct a little sarcophagus upon the ground 
beneath the feet of Christ, into which I might creep when I was 
dead. The friars told me that they could not grant this without the 
consent of their building committee.' I replied: "Good brethren, 
why did not you consult your committee before you allowed me to 
place my crucifix? Without their leave you suffered me to fix my 
clamps and other necessary fittings." 

On this account I refused to give those fruits of my enormous 
labours to the church of S. Maria Novella, even though the over- 
seers of the fabric came and begged me for the crucifix. I turned 
at once to the church of the Annunziata, and when I explained the 
terms on which I had sought to make a present of it to S. Maria 
Novella, those virtuous friars of the Nunziata unanimously told me 
to place it in their church, and let me make my grave according to 

' / loro Operai. 


my will and pleasure. When Bandinello became aware of this, he set 
to work with great diligence at the completion of his Pieta, and 
prayed the Duchess to get for him the chapel of the Pazzi for his 
monument. This he obtained with some difficulty; and on receiving 
the permission, he erected his Pieta with great haste. It was not alto- 
gether completed when he died. 

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

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


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