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


I BELIEVE have already narrated how Domenico and Giovanpagolo 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 oftentimes 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 monarch, 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 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 two penny 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 nothing.”