Short summary - The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini - Benvenuto Cellini

Italy literature summaries - 2023

Short summary - The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini
Benvenuto Cellini

Life of Benvenuto, son of Maestro Giovanni Cellini, a Florentine, written by himself in Florence.

The memoirs of Benvenuto Cellini are written in the first person. According to the famous jeweler and sculptor, every person who has done something valiant is obliged to tell the world about himself - but this good deed should be started only after forty years. Benvenuto took up his pen in the fifty-ninth year of his life, and firmly decided to tell only about what was relevant to himself. (The reader of the notes should remember that Benvenuto had a rare ability to mangle both proper names and place names.)

The first book is devoted to the period from 1500 to 1539. Benvenuto reports that he was born into a simple but noble family. In ancient times, under the command of Julius Caesar, a brave military leader named Fiorino of Cellino served. When a city was founded on the Arno River, Caesar decided to call it Florence, wanting to honor the comrade-in-arms, whom he singled out among all others. The Cellini family had many properties, and even a castle in Ravenna. The ancestors of Benvenuto himself lived in Val d'Ambra like nobles. Once they had to send the young man Cristofano to Florence, because he started a feud with his neighbors. His son Andrea became very versed in architecture and taught this craft to children. Giovanni, Benvenuto's father, was especially successful in it. Giovanni could have chosen a girl with a rich dowry, but he married for love - Madonna Elisabetta Granacci. For eighteen years they had no children, and then a girl was born. The good Giovanni was no longer expecting a son, and when the Madonna Elisabetta was relieved of her burden with a male baby, the happy father called him “Desired” (Benvenuto). Signs foretold that the boy had a great future ahead of him. He was only three years old when he caught a huge scorpion and miraculously survived. At the age of five, he saw in the flame of the hearth an animal that looked like a lizard, and his father explained that it was a salamander, which, in his memory, had not yet appeared to anyone alive. And by the age of fifteen, he accomplished so many amazing deeds that, for lack of space, it is better to keep silent about them.

Giovanni Cellini was famous for many arts, but most of all he loved to play the flute and tried to get his eldest son to like this. Benvenuto, on the other hand, hated cursed music and took up the instrument, just so as not to upset his good father. Having entered the training of the goldsmith Antonio di Sandro, he surpassed all other young men in the workshop and began to earn good money by his labors. It so happened that the sisters offended him by secretly giving the new camisole and cloak to their younger brother, and Benvenuto left Florence for Pisa out of annoyance, but continued to work hard there. Then he moved to Rome in order to study antiquities, and made some very beautiful gizmos, trying in everything to follow the canons of the divine Michelangelo Buonarroti, from which he never deviated. Returning at the urgent request of his father to Florence, he amazed everyone with his art, but there were envious people who began to slander him in every possible way. Benvenuto could not restrain himself: he hit one of them with his fist in the temple, and since he still did not let up and climbed into the fray, he brushed him off with a dagger, without causing much harm. The relatives of this Gerardo immediately ran to complain to the Council of Eight - Benvenuto was innocently sentenced to exile, and had to go back to Rome. One noble lady ordered him a setting for a diamond lily. And his comrade Lucagnolo - a capable jeweler, but a low and vile kind - carved a vase at that time and boasted that he would receive a lot of gold coins. However, Benvenuto was ahead of the arrogant redneck in everything: he was paid much more generously for a trifle than for a big thing, and when he himself undertook to make a vase for one bishop, he surpassed Lucagnolo in this art. Pala Clement, as soon as he saw the vase, burned with great love for Benvenuto. Even greater fame was brought to him by silver jugs, which he forged for the famous surgeon Jacomo da Carpi: showing them, he told stories that they were the work of ancient masters. This little business brought Benvenuto great fame, although he did not gain much in money.

After a terrible pestilence, the survivors began to love each other - this is how the commonwealth of sculptors, painters, and jewelers was formed in Rome. And the great Michelangelo from Siena publicly praised Benvenuto for his talent - he especially liked the medal, which depicted Hercules tearing the mouth of a lion. But then the war began, and the Commonwealth broke up. The Spaniards, under the leadership of Bourbon, approached Rome. Pala Clement fled in fear to the Castel Sant'Angelo, and Benvenuto followed him. During the siege, he was assigned to the cannons and accomplished many feats: he killed Bourbon with one well-aimed shot, and wounded the Prince of Orange with the second. It so happened that during the return a barrel of stones fell down and nearly hit Cardinal Farnese, Benvenuto hardly managed to prove his innocence, although it would have been much better if he had got rid of this cardinal at the same time. Pala Clement so trusted his jeweler that he commissioned the gold tiaras to be melted down in order to save them from the greed of the Spaniards. When Benvenuto finally arrived in Florence, there was a plague there too, and his father ordered him to flee to Mantua. Upon his return, he learned that all his relatives had died - only the younger brother and one of the sisters remained. The brother, who became a great warrior, served with the Duke of Lessandro of Florence. In an accidental skirmish, he was hit by an arquebus bullet and died in the arms of Benvenuto, who tracked down the killer and duly avenged himself.

The pope, meanwhile, moved to Florence by war, and friends persuaded Benvenuto to leave the city so as not to quarrel with his Holiness. At first everything went well, and Benvenuto was granted the post of mace-bearer, bringing two hundred skudos a year. But when he asked for a position of seven hundred crowns, envious people intervened, the Milanese Pompeo was especially zealous, trying to interrupt the cup ordered by the pope from Benvenuto. Enemies slipped dad a worthless jeweler Tobbia, and he was instructed to prepare a gift for the French king. Once Benvenuto accidentally killed his friend, and Pompeo immediately ran to the pope with the news that Tobbia had been killed. The enraged palas ordered Benvenuto to be seized and hanged, so he had to hide in Naples until everything was cleared up. Clement repented of his injustice, but still fell ill and soon died, and Cardinal Farnese was elected pope. Benvenuto quite by chance met with Pompeo, whom he did not want to kill at all, but it just so happened. The slanderers tried to set the new pope on him, but he said that such artists, the only ones of their kind, are not subject to the court of laws. However, Benvenuto considered it best to retire to Florence for a while, where Duke Lessandro did not want to let him go, threatening even death, but he himself fell victim to the killer, and Cosimo, the son of the great Giovanni de Medici, became the new duke. Returning to Rome, Benvenuto found that the envious had achieved their goal - the pope, although he granted him a pardon for the murder of Pompeo, turned away from him in his heart. Meanwhile, Benvenuto was already so famous that he was called to his service by the French king.

Together with his faithful students, Benvenuto went to Paris, where he received an audience with the monarch. That, however, was the end of the matter: the wickedness of the enemies and hostilities made it impossible to stay in France. Benvenuto returned to Rome and received many commissions. He had to drive away a worker from Perugia for idleness, and he planned to take revenge: he whispered to the pope that Benvenuto had stolen precious stones during the siege of the Castel Sant'Angelo and now has a fortune of eighty thousand ducats. The greed of Pagolo da Farnese and his son Pier Luigi knew no bounds: they ordered Benvenuto to be imprisoned, and when the accusation crumbled, they planned to kill him without fail. King Francis, having learned about this injustice, began to petition through the Cardinal of Ferrara, so that Benvenuto would be released to his service. The castellan of the castle, a noble and kind man, treated the prisoner with the greatest concern: he gave him the opportunity to freely walk around the castle and practice his favorite art. One monk was kept in the casemate. Taking advantage of Benvenuto's oversight, he stole the wax from him in order to make keys and escape. Benvenuto swore by all the saints that he was not guilty of the wickedness of the monk, but the castellan was so angry that he almost lost his mind. Benvenuto began to prepare for the escape and, having arranged everything in the best way, went downstairs on a rope woven from sheets. Unfortunately, the wall around the castle turned out to be too high, and he, breaking loose, broke his leg. The widow of Duke Lessandro, remembering his great labors, agreed to give him shelter, but the insidious enemies did not back down and again escorted Benvenuto to prison, despite the promise of the pope to spare him. Castellan, completely out of his mind, subjected him to such unheard-of torments that he was already saying goodbye to life, but then the Cardinal of Ferrara obtained from the pope consent to release the innocently condemned. In prison, Benvenuto wrote a poem about his sufferings - with this "capitolo" the first book of memoirs ends.

In the second book, Benvenuto talks about his stay at the court of Francis I and the Florentine Duke Cosimo. After a short rest after the hardships of imprisonment, Benvenuto went to the Cardinal of Ferrara, taking with him his beloved students - Ascanio, Pagolo-Roman and Pagolo-Florentine. On the way, one postal keeper decided to start a quarrel, and Benvenuto only pointed a squeak at him as a warning, but a bullet that ricocheted off killed the insolent one on the spot, and his sons, trying to take revenge, slightly wounded the Pagolo-Roman. Upon learning of this, the Cardinal of Ferrara thanked heaven, for he promised the French king to bring Benvenuto by all means. They reached Paris without incident.

The king received Benvenuto extremely graciously, and this aroused the envy of the cardinal, who began to surreptitiously plot intrigues. He told Benvenuto that the king wanted to give him a salary of three hundred crowns, although for such money it was not worth leaving Rome. Deceived in his expectations, Benvenuto said goodbye to his students, and they cried and asked him not to leave them, but he firmly decided to return to his homeland. However, a messenger was sent after him, and the cardinal announced that he would be paid seven hundred skudos a year - the same as the painter Leonardo da Vinci received. After seeing the king, Benvenuto spoke out a hundred skudos to each of the students, and also asked to give him the castle of Little Nel for the workshop. The king willingly agreed, because the people who lived in the castle ate their bread for nothing. Benvenuto had to drive these idlers away, but the workshop turned out to be a success, and it was possible to immediately take on the royal commission - a statue of silver Jupiter.

Soon the king with his court came to see the work, and everyone marveled at the wonderful art of Benvenuto. And Benvenuto also planned to make for the king a salt shaker of amazing beauty and a magnificent carved door, the most beautiful of which these French have not seen. Unfortunately, it did not occur to him to win the favor of Madame de Tampes, who had a great influence on the monarch, and she harbored a grudge against him. And the people whom he expelled from the castle filed a lawsuit against him and annoyed him so much that he lay in wait for them with a dagger and taught them wisdom, but did not kill anyone. On top of all the troubles, Pagolo Miccheri, a Florentine student, entered into fornication with the model Katerina, they had to beat the slut to bruises, although she was still needed for work. Traitor Pagolo Benvenuto forced to marry this French whore, and then every day he called her to him to draw and sculpt, and at the same time indulged in carnal pleasures with her in revenge on her cuckold husband. Meanwhile, the Cardinal of Ferrara persuaded the king not to pay money to Benvenuto; the good king could not resist the temptation, because the emperor was moving with his army to Paris and the treasury was empty. Madame de Tampa also continued to intrigue, and Benvenuto, with pain in his heart, decided to temporarily leave for Italy, leaving the workshop for Ascanio and Pagolo-Roman. The king was whispered that he had taken three precious vases with him, which was impossible to do, since the law forbids this, so Benvenuto, at the first request, gave these vases to the traitor Ascanio.

In 1545, Benvenuto came to Florence - solely to help his sister and her six daughters. The duke began to lavish caresses, begging him to stay and promising unheard-of favors. Benvenuto agreed and bitterly regretted it. For the workshop, they gave him a miserable little house, which he had to patch up on the go. The court sculptor Bandinello praised his virtues in every possible way, although his bad crafts could only cause a smile, but Benvenuto surpassed himself by casting a statue of Perseus from bronze. It was a creation so beautiful that people did not get tired of marveling at it, and Benvenuto asked the duke ten thousand crowns for the work, and he gave only three with great creaking. Many times Benvenuto recalled the magnanimous and generous king, with whom he parted so frivolously, but nothing could be corrected, for the insidious students did everything so that he could not return. The duchess, who at first defended Benvenuto in front of her husband, was terribly angry when the duke, on his advice, refused to give money for the pearls she liked - Benvenuto suffered solely for his honesty, because he could not conceal from the duke that these stones should not be bought. As a result, the mediocre Bandinello received a new large order, who was given marble for the statue of Neptune. Troubles rained down on Benvenuto from all sides: a man nicknamed Zbietta deceived him in a contract for the sale of a manor, and the wife of this Zbietta poured sublimate into his gravy, so that he barely survived, although he did not manage to expose the villains. The French queen, visiting her native Florence, wanted to invite him to Paris to sculpt a tombstone for her late husband, but the duke prevented this. A pestilence began, from which the prince died - the best of all the Medicis. Only when the tears had dried did Benvenuto go to Pisa. (The second book of memoirs ends at this phrase.)