By Anne Leader and Livia Lupi
Happy Birthday Benvenuto Cellini! The artist was born on 3 November 1500. One of the greatest sculptors of his generation, Cellini worked in gold, bronze, and marble. At the age of 13 he started his training in the workshops of two metalworkers: Michelangelo Bandinelli and Antonio di Sandro, known as Marcone. After being condemned for a murder, in 1523 he fled to Rome, where he opened his own workshop. He led an eventful life that mirrored his propensity for violence and rashness, but also his resourcefulness and talent. Benvenuto told his exciting life in a famous autobiography written in the vernacular. It offers a tremendous insight in the life of 16th-century Italian artists, describing the many rivalries and jealousies of their professional environment.
Among Cellini’s finest works are the magnificent gold salt cellar made for King Francis I and the bronze statue of Perseus holding the head of Medusa, which he cast in one piece. He also made a bronze half-bust portrait of Cosimo I de’ Medici and several low relief works, including coins and beautifully decorated armour.
Reference: Alessandro Nova. “Cellini, Benvenuto.” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press.
Ettore Camesasca, “Cellini, Benvenuto.” Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, Enciclopedia Treccani.
Further reading: Benvenuto Cellini, Autobiography, ed. George Bull (1999); Michael W. Cole, Cellini and the Principles of Sculpture (2002)
Salt Cellar, 1540-44, gold, enamel and ebony, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.
Bust of Cosimo I de’ Medici, 1546-47, bronze, Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence.
Perseus, 1545-54, bronze, Loggia dei Lanzi, Florence.
Shield of Francesco I de’ Medici, c.1570, chased and silver-plated iron, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden.