Monday, November 06, 2017

'The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini' (circa 1557-1565): Part II

The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini, translated by Anne MacDonell. New York: Everyman’s Library, 2010. Written between 1557 and 1565.

Cellini (1500-1571) was fifty-eight when he began composing his autobiography in earnest. He seems to have let go of it as he neared death, but that hardly matters in that it still works as a complete text. A few more examples follow.

Cellini employed a model in France that he called Scorzone, though her actual name was Jeanne. 

The Autobiography notes matter-of-factly, ". . . I got her with child. She bore me a daughter at the thirteenth hour of the 7th of June 1544, when I was just forty-four years old." He called her Costanza and placed her in the care of godparents and an aunt. (page 301).

"This was the first child I ever had, so far as I remember. I assigned to her a dowry of the amount suggested by her aunt . . . After that I never had anything more to do with her." (Ibidem).
Salvador Dalí illustration for Cellini's Autobiography, 1948 (Symonds) edition
Later on, Cellini went to work for Duke Cosimo de' Medici (1389-1464) of Florence (Firenze). The Duke promised him studio workspace and living quarters and so on, but this did not go as planned, because: 

"His Excellency then gave the matter into the hands of Pier Francesco Riccio. . . I spoke to the brute, and told him all the things I wanted -- for instance, I mentioned that in the garden I wished to build a workshop. But he gave the business over to a paymaster, a dried-up scarecrow of a man, called Lattanzio Gorini." (I once worked with this very same guy in Michigan, I think).  

"A curious little object he was, with spidery hands, and a tiny voice that hummed like a gnat, and he crept about like a snail. 

As my ill-luck would have it, he sent to my house as much sand and lime and stones as would barely have built a dove-cot." (page 325). And on went the battle.
Salvador Dalí illustration for Cellini's Autobiography, 1948 (Symonds edition)
Even later, Cellini had another protracted fight with rival artist, a sculptor, Bartolommeo "Baccio" Bandinelli (1493-circa 1560), who was also a rival of Michelangelo's (1475-1564). At one point, the first two named had to come before the Duke to explain themselves. Cellini took to his own defense:

"'My lord, your most illustrious Excellency should know that Baccio . . . is evil through and through, and always has been so; thus whatever he looks at, were it a thing of supreme excellence, is at once converted by his ugly eyes into all that is superlatively bad. 

Now I, who am drawn only to the good, see the truth with clearer sight. Therefore what I told your Excellency regarding this beautiful statue is the bare truth, and what Bendinello [i.e. Bandinelli] said was spoken of that evil of which he is made up.' 

The Duke listened to me with the utmost delight; but all the time I was speaking Bandinello was writhing and making the ugliest faces you ever saw -- as if he weren't ugly enough already." (page 348). And so the battle continued.

Near the end of the autobiography, Cellini's still fighting with rivals and enemies; he just gave up writing the rest of it.

Today's Rune: Fertility.  

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