MILAN – The world of art today remembers the great Benvenuto Cellini. Born on 3 November 1500 in Florence and died on 13 February 1571, Cellini was a sculptor, goldsmith, treatise artist, silversmith and writer, one of the most important Mannerist artists . Brilliant artist, I worked for the most important personalities of the time and had an adventurous life to say the least: of a restless and violent nature, he had a life marked by contrasts, passions, crimes, for which he was often forced into exile or fleeing .THE BEGINNINGS AND THE FIRST PROBLEMS– Benvenuto was born on 3 November 1500 in Florence, the second child of Maria Lisabetta Granacci and Giovanni, a maker of musical instruments. From an early age he was directed by his father towards a career as a musician, with satisfactory results: Benvenuto, in fact, proved to be quite talented both in singing and with the flute. At the age of fourteen, in any case, he was sent to work in the workshop of Michelangelo Brandini, father of the sculptor Baccio Bandinelli; the following year he moved into a goldsmith’s shop. At only sixteen, however, he is forced to leave Florence after being involved in a fight with his brother Cecchino. After having studied in Bologna and Pisa, having as teacher – among others – the goldsmith Ulivieri Della Chiostra, Benvenuto Cellini and protagonist of another fight,THE SUCCESS AND THE SACK OF ROME – Later, and in 1524, he opened his own workshop, thanks to which he came into contact with various goldsmiths and artists, manufacturing various works. In 1527 he took part, during the Sack of Rome, in the defense of Pope Clement VII and Castel Sant’Angelo, contributing to the killing – with a shot of an arquebus – of the commander Charles III of Bourbon. Subsequently, he moved to Mantua, where he is engaged in the realization of works for the members of the Gonzaga family. For example, the ‘Seal of Cardinal Ercole Gonzaga’ in silver dates back to 1528. In 1529 he was recalled to Rome by Clement VII, who appoints him as the official printer of the papal mint; in the same period, he must face the death of his brother Cecchino, killed after becoming a soldier of fortune.
Removed from the role of printer in 1533, Benvenuto Cellini was also dismissed from the post of dealer (that is, the Pontiff’s escort soldier), probably due to rumors circulated by Pompeo de ‘Capitaneis, another goldsmith from Rome. Cellini kills Pompeo, fearful of the possibility that he might attack him after the death of Clement VII; he is, in any case, acquitted by the new pope, Paul III. However, he has to deal with the Pope’s son, Pier Luigi Farnese: having reached the point of fearing for his own safety, he escapes to Florence, where he has the opportunity to work at the court of Alessandro de ‘Medici. In the meantime he made the ‘Medal of Clement VII’, 4 centimeters in diameter in gilded silver, and sculpted the ‘Forty-sous Head of Alessandro de’ Medici ‘.TO THE COURT OF THE KING OF FRANCE AND THE PRISON – Returning to Rome, he had to flee again in 1537: he then took refuge in Padua, working for a short time in the service of Cardinal Pietro Bembo, before reaching the court of Francis I in France, where he completes some bronze medals dedicated to the king; Beyond the Alps, however, he remains mostly inactive, and not receiving any kind of assignment he chooses to return to Rome. Here, however, he is accused of having become the protagonist, during the Sacco, of some thefts, and for this he is put in prison at Castel Sant’Angelo. THE MASTERPIECES– Remained for a long time in prison due to disagreements with the Pope, he manages to escape to France, again at the court of Francis: and on this occasion he creates one of his most famous works of goldsmithing, “the salt cellar” which represents the sea and earth, in ebony, gold and enamel. The bronze ‘Greyhound’ and the beginning of the preparation of the bronze ‘Bust of Cosimo I de’ Medici ‘date back to 1545. In 1549, Benvenuto Cellini begins to sculpt the ‘Bust of Cosimo I’ in marble, while a few years later he concludes the ‘ Perseus who beheads Medusa‘in bronze currently preserved in the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence. Also from these years are also ‘Ganymede’, ‘Apollo and Giacinto’ and ‘Narciso’, all in marble, in addition to the bronze ‘Bindo Altoviti’ bust. In 1550 Cellini made the ‘Fiaschetta’ (damascened iron in gold and silver) and began the work of ‘Key from the secret of a coffer’, an iron carved, chiseled and pierced starting from a single block. AUTOBIOGRAPHY, TREATIES AND DEATH– In this period, denounced by a model, he also has to face a trial in which he is accused of sodomy: in 1557 he is sentenced to four years in prison, which are then commuted to four years under house arrest. Thanks to the deprivation of freedom, which limits him in body and mind, Cellini returns to Florence and is elected Academic in the Academy and Company of Arts and Design born on the initiative of Cosimo I de ‘Medici in 1563. In the meantime, he writes the his autobiography, entitled ‘Life of Welcome by Maestro Giovanni Cellini of Florence, written, for himself, in Florence’, which was completed in 1566: a masterpiece of fiction both for the variety of episodes that are told there, and for the numerous inventions from the point of view of language.
In the same years he completed two other literary works: a ‘Treatise on Goldsmithing’ and a ‘Treatise on Sculpture’. Benvenuto Cellini died on February 13, 1571 in Florence: he will always be remembered as one of the most famous exponents of Mannerism. Three centuries later the French composer Hector Berlioz dedicated a semi-serious work to him entitled ‘Benvenuto Cellini’ (1838).

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