Benvenuto Cellini – An Artist with a Stupendous Life!

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Benvenuto Cellini Self Portrait In history full of great artists, Benvenuto Cellini is not as much celebrated as others even though his spectacular life, which he claims in his Autobiography to be a real thing.

Even historians are not sure that if they should accept the Cellini’s claims of his one in a gazillion kind of life. But, here we have gathered some of his outstanding incidents about his life, which he quotes to be true.

Miraculous Childhood – Vicious Scorpion and Mythical Salamander

Benvenuto was born in Florence on 3rd November, 1500. His family was expecting a girl but instead on his arrival every appraised god and in return to thank Benvenuto’s father called him he was very much obliged to god and is welcoming his son. The repeated welcome all the night, for which the Italian word is Benvenuto became the child’s name.

There are some unbelievable happenings in Benvenuto’s childhood which seems to be unbelievable. For instance, at the age of three, he unknowingly caught a big, living scorpion in his hand. His grandfather was cleaning an old pipe of a water-tank. It is when a big scorpion fell out of the pipe. His grandfather was totally unaware of it but the little Benvenuto age of three found it amusing. He went after it and caught it in his little hands. Fortunately, the big size of the scorpion became the good thing as its tail and claws were hanging outside of Benvenuto’s palm being out of the reach to bite. When his grandfather found out, out of horror, he couldn’t speak a word and it was Benvenuto’s father who talked Benvenuto out to let go of the vicious scorpion.

It’s quite a dangerous incidence for any child and could kill one easily. Even today it seems very practical for a child to catch scorpion in palm out of sheer curiosity. It could seem like a new kind of toy for any brave child and would like to pamper it in his hand.

Though, the next incident of Benevento’s life deems unreal and pretty much a made up thing. But, we are not here to judge anything. We are obliged to believe in it as it is officially jotted down in Benevento’s autobiography (a quick fact – the autobiography was told to a little dying boy out of a fatal disease, and that little fourteen year old boy wrote it for Benvenuto).

Salamander from Mythology

That incidence includes a living Salamander. Not the usual black, yellow or red, ugly, sticky salamander. The salamander which is found in the mythology and if you have read the Harry potter, you might have read about such creature. It is a lizard-like creature which can live in fire and is able to bear the hot flames without any harm.

The story Benvenuto tells is when he was 5 years old and he and his sister was called by his father. When they saw the salamander in their fire-place, his father slammed him in head – just to make him remind of this wondrous moment for life-time as the creature was uncommon. That bit is a little bit awkward to believe as the mythological creature is only found in –obviously – in mythology. If he really saw one, than how the incident got very quiet through-out the history?

Cultivating the Skills

This part of his life seems to be the most real and possible as he hasn’t described his period of learning the artistic skills in a manner which include learning them overnight by a superstitious boon of from his mentor.

About learning the artistic skills, he has documented that from the beginning he was attracted very much towards the art of painting and drawing. And he also spent some time in learning the arts. But, his father was a musician. He firmly wanted him to be a famed musician. That’s why, he was obliged to learn how to play flute. As he have wrote he was learning is just to obey his father. Not because of his interest. The good thing was, he learned how to play flute and some other musical instruments.

Though, it didn’t last longer as some fellow friends talked Benvenuto’s father out about letting the boy learn new things and why he only had to learn and be a musician?

So, having a reluctance in his mind, Benvenuto’s father was kindly forced by his friends to send Benvenuto learn and understand the art of a goldsmith.

Benvenuto was sent to the fine goldsmith called Antonio di Sandro (nicknamed as Marcone). At there, he learned about how to build a sculpture and simultaneously studied the works of the contemporary geniuses like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. They were a huge source of inspiration for Cellini and he always tried to make arts of such high caliber. His increasing adequacy got him known in his hometown.

This gradually developing skill gave history some of the finest works of sculpturing art. Some of the known names from his artistic repository are Perseus with the head of Medusa, Saliera, Cellini’s Crucifix, Ganymede and A Medallion of Pope Clement VII.

The aforementioned Perseus with the Head of Medusa has a little secret at the back of its head. The original statue is presented on the right. It is currently situated in Florence, Italy.

The statue is about the mythical hero Perseus holding a head of Medusa in his hand. On the base, the dissected body of Medusa is lying upon which Perseus is standing with triumph.

perseus with the head of medusa - the back side This little known story is elaborately described in many articles, books and movies. So, many people just enjoy the sculpture for a moment and then moves on to the next. But the fact unknown to many is hidden on the backside of Perseus’s head. Benvenuto have put a portrait of himself in the backside of his head. Here is the close-up of the hidden portrait.

As you can see, it makes a perfect shape of a face with nose, eyes and a thick beard.

The sculpture and the skill to put his face at the back of the head without disturbing the proper proportion of the whole head of the main figure indicate his matured ability in sculpting. No wonder, why he was revered for his skills in his hometown and among the buyers of his art-pieces.


The Disguise

He was living in Florence with good reputation and earnings as well. But, destined to not stay at a place for too long, an unpleasant incident happened which forced him to leave Florence.

He was working in his Goldsmith shop one day. Due to his fantastic art and sculptures, his growing reputation had threatened the other goldsmiths of the city. Thus, as the part of growing big in reputation he gathered up some enemies unknowingly.

One of his enemies went way ahead and sent three oppressors to threaten Benvenuto. They stood outside of his shop and started to call him out. When Benvenuto went outside due to curiosity, the tyrants uttered about the reason and started to tell him that he should not have spoken unpleasant things about their masters.

Here, Benvenuto knowing that he had done nothing wrong, stood without fear. And his stoutness led the situation to become worst.

A brawl broke out. And miraculously, as he writes in his biography, he himself was hurt badly, but one tyrant was lying on the ground and other two were so frightened by him that they didn’t have the courage to attack once again.

Though, this favorable ending was not the ending after all.  The wealthy goldsmiths who sent those oppressors tricked the authorities and convinced Benvenuto as the main victim of the incident. Knowing the upcoming result of the court’s hearing beforehand, Benvenuto’s father and a friend Piero Landi dressed him in an attire of a friar, gave him a sword and a horse, and then ordered to go out of the town remaining anonymous.

From Artist to Soldier: Killing a Duke and a Prince in a Siege upon Rome

In his continuously adventurous and glorious lifeline, Benvenuto’s most adventures anecdotes took place while the Rome was besieged and he played a critical role at trying to save Rome from getting won over.

When the Rome was besieged by the constable of Bourbon, Rome was under great threat of being taken over. Due to close friendship with one of the aristocrat of the city, Alessandro requested him to guard his palace. Cellini accepted the request gladly and became the captain of 50 stout soldiers.

Now, his first major killing happened on a misty day when the attackers were forwarding firmly. The roman soldiers were being outnumbered and falling back. In that situation, standing on the outer wall, Benvenuto took the wise decision of falling back and taking a residing in some safe place. Alessandro accepted the proposal.

But, before going back, Cellini couldn’t prevent his urge to do some damage to the attackers. He took one arquebuse (a long fire-arm of 15th century from which the well-known muskets were derived). He searched for the most prominent soldier among the angrily fighting and slaughtering crowd. The mist was thick and he was not able to understand if someone is riding on a horseback or was on foot. But, somehow he managed to recognize a captain-like persona in the crowd and fired two shots from his firearm. A great roar aroused in the already shouting crowd. It was clear that someone of great importance has been shot and was being taken to the medical camp.

As it turned out, Cellini had shot the Duke of Bourbon. It was a great achievement, a major step to the probable victory in the war. But, they didn’t stay there long to celebrate. It was just one man killed. The whole army was still there to be guided by many other captains.

Another great obligation Benvenuto did for Rome was killing the Prince of Orange. And this action was no less thriving than a bond movie.

Benefiting from their large army, enemy succeeds to penetrate the walls and entered in some parts of the castle. The expected had become real and it was time to save the precious possessions. Pope started to save all the sumptuous things and Cellini got the task of melting the 100 pounds of gold to make it easy for transportation.

Benvenuto acted upon his job in his apartment which was not far from the battle-site. As he noted, enemy trenches were less than a stone’s throw.

While the gold was melting, He did some searching around and found an old falcon (a type of cannon). Without losing any time, he began shooting javelins through the falcon on the enemies. Then he beheld that, there was a person talking and guiding to the trench in shouting manner. He was, apparently the leader of the troop. Cellini couldn’t let this chance slip out. He aimed his cannon towards the person and fired. The jet of many juveniles shot out instantly and cutting the air those sharp weapons landed right on that leader. One impaled his head brutally and others went thoroughly from the body of the mule he was riding upon. In a quick moment, both fell dead on the ground at once.

Cellini had killed the Prince of Orange and the enemy chiefs gathered up in the building called Santa Croce for discussion of further actions. Now, the building became a lucrative target for the saviors of Rome, as one attack on the building could kill all the chiefs of enemy and leave the enemy army guideless.

But, Cardinal Orsini didn’t let that happen. He warned pope about the possible consequences. The enemy troop was large in number and without any guidance, could go furious all over the city doing great damage unimaginable.

Realizing that they were going to order him to stop the attack, Benvenuto couldn’t stand the decision and fired cannon on the building destroying a portion and killing many men inside. Angered by such disobedient action Cardinal Orsini wanted to punish him to death but Pope Clement interfered and sent him out of the city with many thanks and twenty-five gold crowns.



…apart from natural skill of surviving all the calamities of life, he might have the abilities of a good story-teller.

If we take a quick glance upon his life, it is just spectacular from the start to the end. Not a part of his life is adventure-less. It is like almost all the major happening of his time has not passed without some of his interference. He is been involved in most of them and slips out of every good, bad situation to find the next adventure. It really speculates a normal mind, if a man can live this much exciting adventures in one life time. The adventures he has described have the chances of happening in one man’s life are like one in a bazillion.

I haven’t even listed all of them. There are other interesting and intriguing tells about his vast interest in necromancy as the black magic art helped him to find his mistress (whom he dumped later as she asked for money), an incident in which he faced the hailstorm in which the hailstones were so big that he couldn’t even lifted it up by both of his hands. And he lived through that bizarre (but scientifically real) phenomenon, saving his life barely.

Another incident includes him spitting out a big worm out of his stomach which was never seen before even by the doctors of the time. It was described as a thick hairy and speckled with red, black and green colors.

One more unbelievable incident includes having a halo around his head which stayed around his head for lifetime. Though, it was not available for everyone to see, because it can’t be visible for anyone until Benvenuto himself wanted to. The sights of this halo around his head he saw when walking on a grassy meadow. Researchers are calling it that such incident could happen in low light but it is a kind of illusion which Benvenuto may have considered as a halo around his head which was only for him.

Well, there is no doubt that Benvenuto’s life is full of mesmerizing incident and a fantasy or adventure writer would love to have such leading character in his stories, whose life is thriving even in his childhood.

Can we say that, apart from living a good thrilling life, he also bore some good abilities to become a spectacular story-teller?



The full book at Google Books

Autobiography at Project Gutenberg

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