Cellini

Cellini

[chuh-lee-nee; It. chel-lee-nee]
Cellini, Benvenuto, 1500-1571, Italian sculptor, metalsmith, and author. His remarkable autobiography (written 1558-62), which reads like a picaresque novel, is one of the most important documents of the 16th cent. Cellini tells of his escapades with the frankness and consummate egoism characteristic of the Renaissance man. He was born in Florence, the son of a musician; he studied music until his 15th year, when he was apprenticed to a goldsmith. Banished from Florence after fighting a duel, he went from town to town working for local goldsmiths and in 1519 went to Rome. Under the patronage of Pope Clement VII he became known as the most skillful worker in metals of his day, producing medals, jewel settings, caskets, vases, candlesticks, metal plates, and ornaments. Imprisoned on false charges, he worked at the court of Francis I at Paris after his release. He returned to Florence (1545), remaining until his death. The decorative quality of his work, its intricate and exquisite detail, and its workmanship are typical of the best of the period. Unfortunately, most of his works have perished. The famous gold and enamel saltcellar (Saliera) of Francis I (Vienna Mus.) and the gold medallion of Leda and the Swan (Vienna Mus.) are perhaps the best examples of those remaining. His sculptures, most of them executed in the later Florentine period, include the colossal bronze bust of Cosimo I (Bargello); the bronze bust of Altoviti (Gardner Mus., Boston); the Nymph of Fontainebleau (Louvre); the life-size Crucifixion, a white marble Jesus on a black cross (Escorial); and the renowned Perseus with the Head of Medusa (Loggia dei Lanzi, Florence), a beautifully wrought bronze statue surmounting a marble pedestal lavishly adorned with statuettes and carvings.

See translation of his autobiography by J. A. Symonds (1888; many later editions).

Saltcellar of Francis I, encrusted enamel and gold, by Benvenuto Cellini, 1540; in the elipsis

(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 precious and semiprecious metals. In 1540 he began his most famous work of this type, a gold saltcellar encrusted with enamel, for Francis I at Fontainebleau; other royal commissions followed. For Cosimo I he produced large-scale sculpture in the round; the bronze Perseus (1545–53) in the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence is his masterpiece. His fame owes as much to his autobiography as to his work as an artist; it achieved immediate popularity for its lively account of his tumultuous life and its vivid picture of Renaissance Italy.

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Saltcellar of Francis I, encrusted enamel and gold, by Benvenuto Cellini, 1540; in the elipsis

(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 precious and semiprecious metals. In 1540 he began his most famous work of this type, a gold saltcellar encrusted with enamel, for Francis I at Fontainebleau; other royal commissions followed. For Cosimo I he produced large-scale sculpture in the round; the bronze Perseus (1545–53) in the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence is his masterpiece. His fame owes as much to his autobiography as to his work as an artist; it achieved immediate popularity for its lively account of his tumultuous life and its vivid picture of Renaissance Italy.

Learn more about Cellini, Benvenuto with a free trial on Britannica.com.

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