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Benvenuto Cellini (1500–1571). Autobiography.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.


IT happened at this time Ottaviano de’ Medici, who to all appearances 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 no swallow it in this way, even if I burst. Then I returned to the Duke, and related the whole unpleasant 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 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 Lorenzino 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 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 suddenly 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.