Gold by Cellini
Benvenuto Cellini (, – , ) was an , , , and of the .
Benvenuto Cellini was born in , where his family had been landowners in the for three generations. His father, Giovanni Cellini, built and played ; he married Maria Lisabetta Granacci, and eighteen years elapsed before they had children. Benvenuto was the second child.
The father wished Benvenuto to join him in instrument making, and endeavoured to thwart his inclination for metalwork. When he was fifteen, his father reluctantly agreed to apprentice him to a goldsmith, Antonio di Sandro, nicknamed . Benvenuto had already attracted attention in his native town, after a fray with youthful companions, he was banished for six months to , where he worked for (), a goldsmith; from there he moved to , where he became a more accomplished -player and made progress in the goldsmith's art. After visiting , and after twice resettling in Florence (where he was visited by the sculptor , he decamped to , age nineteen.
His first attempt at his craft here was a casket, followed by some silver , and later by a for the of , which introduced him to the favourable notice of ; likewise at a later date one of his celebrated works, the gold medallion of "" — the head and torso of Leda cut in hard stone — executed for the Gonfaloniere Gabbriello Cesarino, which is now in the ; he also reverted to , practised flute-playing, and was appointed one of the pope's court-musicians. In the attack upon Rome by the , which occurred immediately after, the bravery and address of Cellini proved of signal service to the ; if we may believe his own accounts, his was the very hand which shot the Bourbon dead, and he afterwards killed Philibert, .
Bust of Benvenuto Cellini on the Ponte Vecchio, Florence
His exploits paved the way for a reconciliation with the Florentine magistrates, and he returned shortly to his native place. Here he assiduously devoted himself to the execution of medals, the most famous of which (executed a short while later) are " and the Nemean Lion", in repoussй work, and " supporting the Sphere", in chased gold, the latter eventually falling into the possession of .
From Florence he went to the court of the duke of , and then again to Florence and to Rome, where he was employed not only in the working of , but also in the execution of dies for private medals and for the papal mint. Here in he killed his brother's murderer; and soon had to flee to to shelter himself from the consequences of an affray with a , Ser Benedetto, whom he wounded. Through the influence of several of the he obtained a pardon; and on the elevation of to the pontifical throne he was reinstated in his former position of favour, notwithstanding a fresh homicide of a goldsmith which he had committed more by accident than of malice prepense in the .
Once more the plots of , a natural son of Paul III, led to his retreat from Rome to Florence and , and once more he was restored with greater honour than before. On returning from a visit to the court of Francis I, being now aged thirty-seven, he was imprisoned on a charge (apparently false) of having embezzled during the the gems of the pontifical ; he remained some while confined in the , escaped, was recaptured, and treated with great severity, and was in daily expectation of death on the scaffold.
At last, however, he was released at the intercession of Pierluigi's wife, and more especially of the Cardinal d'Este of , to whom he presented a splendid cup. For a while, he worked at the court of Francis I, at and ; but he considered the to be set against him, and the intrigues of the king's favourites, whom he would not stoop to conciliate and could not venture to silence by the sword, as he had silenced his enemies in Rome, led him, after about five years of laborious and sumptuous work, and of continually-recurring jealousies and violences, to retire in in disgust to Florence, where he employed his time in works of art, and exasperated his temper in rivalries with the uneasy-natured sculptor .