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


IT was as much as the Duke could do to stand by and listen to my pleadings. He kept turning first this way and then that; while I, in despair, poor wretched I, was calling up remembrance of the noble state I held in France, to the great sorrow of my soul. All at once he cried: “Come, tell me, Benvenuto, how is it possible that yonder splendid head of Medusa, so high up there in the grasp of Perseus, should ever come out perfect?” I replied upon the instant: “Look you now, my lord! If your Excellency possessed that knowledge of the craft which you affirm you have, you would not fear one moment for the splendid head you speak of. There is good reason, on the other hand, to feel uneasy about this right foot, so far below and at a distance from the rest.” When he heard these words, the Duke turned, half in anger, to some gentlemen in waiting, and exclaimed: “I verily believe that this Benvenuto prides himself on contradicting everything one says.” Then he faced round to me with a touch of mockery, upon which his attendants did the like, and began to speak as follows: “I will listen patiently to any argument you can possibly produce in explanation of your statement, which may convince me of its probability.” I said in answer: “I will adduce so sound an argument that your Excellency shall perceive the full force of it.” So I began: “You must know, my lord, that the nature of fire is to ascend, and therefore I promise you that Medusa’s head will come out famously; but since it is not in the nature of fire to descend, and I must force it downwards six cubits by artificial means, I assure your Excellency upon this most convincing ground of proof that the foot cannot possibly come out. It will, however, be quite easy for me to restore it.” “Why, then,” said the Duke, “did you not devise it so that the foot should come out as well as you affirm the head will?” I answered: “I must have made a much larger furnace, with a conduit as thick as my leg; and so I might have forced the molten metal by its own weight to descend so far. Now, my pipe, which runs six cubits to the statue’s foot, as I have said, is not thicker than two fingers. However, it was not worth the trouble and expense to make a larger; for I shall easily be able to mend what is lacking. But when my mould is more than half full, as I expect, from this middle point upwards, the fire ascending by its natural property, then the heads of Perseus and Medusa will come out admirably; you may be quite sure of it.” After I had thus expounded these convincing arguments, together with many more of the same kind, which it would be tedious to set down here, the Duke shook his head and departed without further ceremony.