Cellini, Benvenuto

, a celebrated sculptor and engraver of Florence, was born in 1500, and intended to be trained to music but, at fifteen years of age, bound himself, contrary to his father’s inclinations, apprentice to a jeweller and goldsmith, under whom he made such a progress, as presently to rival the most skilful in the business. He had also a turn for other arts: and in particular an early taste for drawing and designing, which he afterwards cultivated. Nor did he neglect music, but must have excelled in some degree in it; for, assisting at a concert before Clement VII. that pope took him into his service, in the double capacity of goldsmith and musician. He applied himself also to seal-engraving; learned to make curious damaskeenings of steel and silver on Turkish daggers, &c. and was very ingenious in medals and rings. But Cellini excelled in arms, as well as in arts; and Clement VII. valued him as much for his bravery as for his skill in his profession. When the duke of Bourbon laid siege to Rome, and the city was taken and plundered, the pope committed the castle of St. Angelo to Cellini; who defended it like a man bred to arms, and did not suffer it to surrender but by c?.pitulation. Meanwhile, Cellini was one of those great wits, wh’o may truly be said to have bordered upon madness; he was of a desultory, capricious, unequal humour, which involved him perpetually in adventures that often threatened to prove fatal to him. He travelled among the cities | of Italy, but chiefly resided at Rome where he was sometimes in favour with the great, and sometimes out. He consorted with all the first artists in their several ways, with Michael Angelo, Julio Romano, &c. Finding himself at length upon ill terms in Italy, he formed a resolution of going to France; and, passing from Rome through Florence, Bologna, and Venice, he arrived at Padua, where he was most kindly received by, and made some stay with, the famous Pietro Bembo. From Padua he travelled through Swisserland, visited Geneva in his way to Lyons, and, after resting a few days in this last city, arrived safe at Paris. He met with a gracious reception from Francis I. who would have taken him into his service; but, conceiving a dislike to France from a sudden illness he fell into there, he returned to Italy. He was scarcely arrived, when, being accused of having robbed the castle of St. Angelo of a great treasure at the time that Rome was sacked by the Spaniards, he was arrested and sent prisoner thither. When set at liberty, after many hardships and difficulties, he entered into the service of the French king, and set out with the cardinal of Ferrara for Paris: where when they arrived, being highly disgusted at the cardinal’s proposing what he thought an inconsiderable salary, he abruptly undertook a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. He was, however, pursued and brought back to the king, who settled a handsome salary upon him, assigned him a house to work in at Paris, and granted him shortly after a naturalization. But here, getting as usual into scrapes and quarrels, and particularly having offended madame d’Estampes, the king’s mistress, he was exposed to endless troubles and persecutions; with which at length being wearied out, he obtained the king’s permission to return to Italy, and went to Florence; where he was kindly received by Cosmo de Medici, the grand duke, and engaged himself in his service. Here again, disgusted with some of the duke’s servants (for he could not accommodate himself to, or agree with, any body), he took a trip to Venice, where he was greatly caressed by Titian, Sansovino, and other ingenious artists; but, after a short stay, returned to Florence, and resumed his business. He died in 1570. His life was translated into English by Dr. Nugent, and published in 1771, 2 vols. 8vo, with this title: “The Life of Benevenuto Cellini, a Florentine artist; containing a variety of curious and interesting particulars relative to | painting, sculpture, and architecture, and the history of his own time.” The original, written in the Tuscan language, lay in manuscript above a century and a half. Though it was read with the greatest pleasure by the learned of Italy, no man was hardy enough, during this long period, to introduce to the world a book, in which the successors of St. Peter were handled so roughly; a narrative, where artists and sovereign princes, cardinals and courtezans, ministers of state and mechanics, are treated with equal impartiality. At length, in 1730, an enterprising Neapolitan, encouraged by Dr. Antonio Cocchi, one of the politest scholars in Europe, published it in one vol. 4to, but it soon was prohibited, and became scarce. According to his own account, Cellini was at once a man of pleasure and a slave to superstition; a despiser of vulgar notions, and a believer in magical incantations; a fighter of duels, and a composer of divine sonnets; an ardent lover of truth, and a retailer of visionary fancies; an admirer of papal power, and a hater of popes; art offender against the laws, with a strong reliance on divine providence. Such heterogeneous mixtures, however, generally form an amusing book, and Cellini’s life is amusing and interesting in a very high degree. It must not, however, be omitted, that Cellini published two treatises on the subject of his art, “Duo trattati, uno intorno alle oito principal! arti dell* oreficiera, Paltro in materia dell* arte della scoltura,” &c. 1568, 4to. 1


Life as above.—Sir John Hawkins’s edit, of Johwson’s works, vol. IX. p. 360.