Home  »  Autobiography  »  LIV

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


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 convenient 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 excellently 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 possession of the house; being over and above convinced that my performances must far exceed what I promised.

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 workshop. He handed the matter over to a paymaster, dry and meagre, who bore the name of Lattanzio Gorini. This flimsy little fellow, with his tiny 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 beginnings sometimes have great endings;” and I fostered hope in my heart by noticing how many thousand ducats had recently 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 little 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 fire, 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 be 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, as well as I was able, some few of the gloomy thoughts which weighed upon me.