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


WHILE I was working at these bagatelles, the Prince, and Don Giovanni, and Don Arnando, and Don Garzia kept always hovering around me, teasing me whenever the Duke’s eyes were turned. I begged them for mercy’s sake to hold their peace. They answered: “That we cannot do.” I told them: “What one cannot is required of no one! So have your will! Along with you!” At this both Duke and Duchess burst out laughing.

Another evening, after I had finished the small bronze figures which are wrought into the pedestal of Perseus, that is to say, the Jupiter, Mercury, Minerva, and Danæ, with the little Perseus seated at his mother’s feet, I had them carried into the room where I was wont to work, and arranged them in a row, raised somewhat above the line of vision, so that they produced a magnificent effect. The Duke heard of this, and made his entrance sooner than usual. It seems that the person who informed his Excellency praised them above their merit, using terms like “far superior to the ancients,” and so forth; wherefore the Duke came talking pleasantly with the Duchess about my doings. I rose at once and went to meet them. With his fine and truly princely manner he received me, lifting his right hand, in which he held as superb a pear-graft as could possibly be seen. “Take it, my Benvenuto!” he exclaimed; “plant this pear in your garden.” To these words I replied with a delighted gesture: “O my lord, does your most illustrious Excellency really mean that I should plant it in the garden of my house? “Yes,” he said, “in the garden of the house which belongs to you. Have you understood me?” I thanked his Excellency, and the Duchess in like manner, with the best politeness I could use.

After this they both took seats in front of the statues, and for more than two hours went on talking about nothing but the beauties of the work. The Duchess was wrought up to such an enthusiasm that she cried out: “I do not like to let those exquisite figures be wasted on the pedestal down there in the piazza, where they will run the risk of being injured. I would much rather have you fix them in one of my apartments, where they will be preserved with the respect due to their singular artistic qualities.” I opposed this plan with many forcible arguments; but when I saw that she was determined I should not place them on the pedestal where they now stand, I waited till next day, and went to the palace about twenty-two o’clock. Ascertaining that the Duke and Duchess were out riding, and having already prepared the pedestal, I had the statues carried down, and soldered them with lead into their proper niches. Oh, when the Duchess knew of this, how angry she was! Had it not been for the Duke, who manfully defended me, I should have paid dearly for my daring. Her indignation about the pearls, and now again about this matter of the statues, made her so contrive that the Duke abandoned his amusements in our workshop. Consequently I went there no more, and was met again with the same obstructions as formerly whenever I wanted to gain access to the palace.