Home  »  Autobiography  »  LXXIX

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


BEFORE leaving home, I directed my workpeople to proceed according to the method I had taught them. The reason of my journey was as follows. I had made a life-sized bust in bronze of Bindo Altoviti, the son of Antonio, and had sent it to him at Rome. He set it up in his study, which was very richly adorned with antiquities and other works of art; but the room was not designed for statues or for paintings, since the windows were too low, so that the light coming from beneath spoiled the effect they would have produced under more favourable conditions. It happened one day that Bindo was standing at his door, when Michel Agnolo Buonarroti, the sculptor, passed by; so he begged him to come in and see his study. Michel Agnolo followed, and on entering the room and looking round, he exclaimed: “Who is the master who made that good portrait of you in so fine a manner? You must know that that bust pleases me as much, or even more, than those antiques; and yet there are many fine things to be seen among the latter. If those windows were above instead of beneath, the whole collection would show to greater advantage, and your portrait, placed among so many masterpieces, would hold its own with credit.” No sooner had Michel Agnolo left the house of Bindo than he wrote me a very kind letter, which ran as follows: “My dear Benvenuto, I have known you for many years as the greatest goldsmith of whom we have any information; and henceforward I shall know you for a sculptor of like quality. I must tell you that Master Bindo Altoviti took me to see his bust in bronze, and informed me that you had made it. I was greatly pleased with the work; but it annoyed me to notice that it was placed in a bad light; for if it were suitably illuminated, it would show itself to be the fine performance that it is.” This letter abounded with the most affectionate and complimentary expressions towards myself; and before I left for Rome, I showed it to the Duke, who read it with much kindly interest, and said to me: “Benvenuto, if you write to him, and can persuade him to return to Florence, I will make him a member of the Forty-eight.” Accordingly I wrote a letter full of warmth, and offered in the Duke’s name a hundred times more than my commission carried; but not wanting to make any mistake, I showed this to the Duke before I sealed it, saying to his most illustrious Excellency: “Prince, perhaps I have made him too many promises.” He replied: “Michel Agnolo deserves more than you have promised, and I will bestow on him still greater favours.” To this letter he sent no answer, and I could see that the Duke was much offended with him.