Nonfiction > Harvard Classics > Benvenuto Cellini > Autobiography
Benvenuto Cellini (1500–1571).  Autobiography.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
AT Siena I waited for the mail to Rome, which I afterwards joined; and when we passed the Paglia, we met a courier carrying news of the new Pope, Clement VII. Upon my arrival in Rome, I went to work in the shop of the master-goldsmith Santi. He was dead; but a son of his carried on the business. He did not work himself, but entrusted all his commissions to a young man named Lucagnolo from Iesi, a country fellow, who while yet a child had come into Santi’s service. This man was short but well proportioned, and was a more skilful craftsman than any one whom I had met with up to that time; remarkable for facility and excellent in design. He executed large plate only: that is to say, vases of the utmost beauty, basons, and such pieces. 1 Having put myself to work there, I began to make some candelabra for the Bishop of Salamanca, a Spaniard. 2 They were richly chased, so far as that sort of work admits. A pupil of Raffaello da Urbino called Gian Francesco, and commonly known as Il Fattore, was a painter of great ability; and being on terms of friendship with the Bishop, he introduced me to his favour, so that I obtained many commissions from that prelate, and earned considerable sums of money. 3  1
  During that time I went to draw, sometimes in Michel Agnolo’s chapel, and sometimes in the house of Agostino Chigi of Siena, which contained many incomparable paintings by the hand of that great master Raffaello. 4 This I did on feast-days, because the house was then inhabited by Messer Gismondo, Agostino’s brother. They plumed themselves exceedingly when they saw young men of my sort coming to study in their palaces. Gismondo’s wife, noticing my frequent presence in that house—she was a lady as courteous as could be, and of surpassing beauty—came up to me one day, looked at my drawings, and asked me if I was a sculptor or a painter; to whom I said I was a goldsmith. She remarked that I drew too well for a goldsmith; and having made one of her waiting-maids bring a lily of the finest diamonds set in gold, she showed it to me, and bade me value it. I valued it at 800 crowns. Then she said that I had very nearly hit the mark, and asked me whether I felt capable of setting the stones really well. I said that I should much like to do so, and began before her eyes to make a little sketch for it, working all the better because of the pleasure I took in conversing with so lovely and agreeable a gentlewoman. When the sketch was finished, another Roman lady of great beauty joined us; she had been above, and now descending to the ground-floor, asked Madonna Porzia what she was doing there. She answered with a smile: “I am amusing myself by watching this worthy young man at his drawing; he is as good as he is handsome.” I had by this time acquired a trifle of assurance, mixed, however, with some honest bashfulness; so I blushed and said: “Such as I am, lady, I shall ever be most ready to serve you.” The gentlewoman, also slightly blushing, said: “You know well that I want you to serve me;” and reaching me the lily, told me to take it away; and gave me besides twenty golden crowns which she had in her bag, and added: “Set me the jewel after the fashion you have sketched, and keep for me the old gold in which it is now set.” On this the Roman lady observed: “If I were in that young man’s body, I should go off without asking leave.” Madonna Porzia replied that virtues rarely are at home with vices, and that if I did such a thing, I should strongly belie my good looks of an honest man. Then turning round, she took the Roman lady’s hand, and with a pleasant smile said: “Farewell, Benvenuto.” I stayed on a short while at the drawing I was making, which was a copy of a Jove by Raffaello. When I had finished it and left the house, I set myself to making a little model of wax, in order to show how the jewel would look when it was completed. This I took to Madonna Porzia, whom I found with the same Roman lady. Both of them were highly satisfied with my work, and treated me so kindly that, being somewhat emboldened, I promised the jewel should be twice as good as the model. Accordingly I set hand to it, and in twelve days I finished it in the form of a fleur-de-lys, as I have said above, ornamenting it with little masks, children, and animals, exquisitely enamelled, whereby the diamonds which formed the lily were more than doubled in effect.  2
Note 1. Cellini calls this grosseria. [back]
Note 2. Don Francesco de Bobadilla. He came to Rome in 1517, was shut up with Clement in the castle of S. Angelo in 1527, and died in 1529, after his return to Spain. [back]
Note 3. This painter, Gio. Francesco Penni, surnamed Il Fattore, aided Raphael in his Roman frescoes and was much beloved by him. Together with Giulio Romano he completed the imperfect Stanze of the Vatican. [back]
Note 4. Cellini here alludes to the Sistine Chapel and to the Villa Farnesina in Trastevere, built by the Sienese banker, Agostino Chigi. It was here that Raphael painted his Galatea and the whole fable of Cupid and Psyche. [back]

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