CELLINI, Benvenuto

(1500-1571)
Benvenuto Cellini was an Italian goldsmith, sculptor, and author of treatises on sculpture and goldsmithing and of a celebrated autobiography. Cellini was born in Florence on 3 November 1500. Unwilling to follow in the footsteps of his father, Giovanni, a musician and maker of musical instruments, he chose instead to study the art of goldsmithery, receiving training from the Florentine goldsmith Marcone (Antonio di Sandro) and Francesco Castoro of Siena. The years 1519 until 1540 were spent chiefly in Rome, in the service of Popes Clement VII and Paul III, where Cellini found inspiration in the models of Michelangelo* and Raphael.* Nearly all of Cellini's masterpieces in jewelry and goldsmith's work have been lost, with the exception of the medallions of Clem­ent VII and Alessandro de' Medici and the elaborate gold and enamel saltcellar (1540—44) that he created for Francois I* (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna).
Because of his quarrelsome nature, Cellini was involved continually in brushes with the law, some of which led to his imprisonment. In 1529 he killed a man in order to avenge the murder of his brother, but received pardon from the pope. In 1538, however, he was accused of stealing jewels from the papal treasury of Paul III and was subsequently imprisoned in Castel Sant' Angelo. As a result of the intercession of powerful friends, not the least of whom was Francois I, Cellini was released from prison in 1540. From then until 1545 he was employed at Paris and Fontainebleau in the service of the French court. It was during this period that he achieved recognition as a sculptor and produced what is believed to be his greatest achievement, the bronze relief of the Nymph of Fontainebleau (1543-44, Paris, Louvre).
In 1545 he returned to his native Florence, under the patronage of Duke Cosimo I de' Medici,* where he remained until his death in 1571. Among the sculptures that remain of his final period are Bust of Cosimo I (1545-48), Gan­ymede (1545-47), Perseus (1545-54), and Apollo and Hyacinth (1546), all in Florence; Bust of Bindo Altoviti (c. 1550, Boston); and his marble Crucifix (after 1556, Escorial).
During the latter part of his life, Cellini took on a new role, writing treatises on both sculpture and the art of goldsmithery (Florence, 1568). But of all his artistic achievements, the one that has secured him the greatest fame is his autobiography, written between 1558 and 1562 and circulated in manuscript. The first printed edition, in Italian, was published in Naples in 1728 (Vita di Benvenuto Cellini, 1728), with subsequent translations appearing in English (1771), German (1796), and French (1822). A highly impassioned, albeit em­bellished, account of Cellini's life as artist and adventurer, it gained attention during the romantic period and later served as a model for nineteenth-century historical novelists like Sir Walter Scott and Alexandre Dumas. The Life is remarkable for its enduring power to capture the imagination of modern readers, as it presents a stunningly vivid portrait of life in sixteenth-century Italian so­ciety. The poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who translated the Life into German, wrote, "I see the whole century in more real terms in the confused apprehensions of an individual than in the clearest historical account."
Bibliography
B. Callin, The Autobiography ofBenvenuto Cellini, trans. George Bull, 1956. John Pope-Hennessy, Cellini, 1985.
Patricia A. White

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Cellini, Benvenuto — born , Nov. 1, 1500, Florence died Feb. 13, 1571, Florence Italian sculptor and goldsmith active principally in Florence. Early in his career he worked in Rome, producing coins, medallions, seals, vessels, and a variety of other objects in… …   Universalium

  • Cellini, Benvenuto — (1500 1571)    Florentine sculptor and goldsmith, now best known for his Autobiography, first published in 1728. Apprenticed as a goldsmith in Florence, he had a brilliant but unstable career, largely because of his own moral irregularities,… …   Historical Dictionary of Renaissance

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