Nonfiction > Harvard Classics > Benvenuto Cellini > Autobiography
Benvenuto Cellini (1500–1571).  Autobiography.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
WHEN I had nearly finished my piece, there happened that terrible inundation which flooded the whole of Rome. 1 I waited to see what would happen; the day was well-nigh spent, for the clocks struck twenty-two and the water went on rising formidably. Now the front of my house and shop faced the Banchi, but the back was several yards higher, because it turned toward Monte Giordano; accordingly, bethinking me first of my own safety and in the next place of my honour, I filled my pockets with the jewels, and gave the gold-piece into the custody of my workmen, and then descended barefoot from the back-windows, and waded as well as I could until I reached Monte Cavallo. There I sought out Messer Giovanni Gaddi, clerk of the Camera, and Bastiano Veneziano, the painter. To the former I confided the precious stones, to keep in safety: he had the same regard for me as though I had been his brother. A few days later, when the rage of the river was spent, I returned to my workshop, and finished the piece with such good fortune, through God’s grace and my own great industry, that it was held to be the finest masterpiece which had been ever seen in Rome. 2  1
  When then I took it to the Pope, he was insatiable in praising me, and said: “Were I but a wealthy emperor, I would give my Benvenuto as much land as his eyes could survey; yet being nowadays but needy bankrupt potentates, we will at any rate give him bread enough to satisfy his modest wishes.” I let the Pope run on to the end of his rhodomontade, 3 and then asked him for a mace-bearer’s place which happened to be vacant. He replied that he would grant me something of far greater consequence. I begged his Holiness to bestow this little thing on me meanwhile by way of earnest. He began to laugh, and said he was willing, but that he did not wish me to serve, and that I must make some arrangement with the other mace-bearers to be exempted. He would allow them through me a certain favour, for which they had already petitioned, namely, the right of recovering their fees at law. This was accordingly done, and that mace-bearer’s office brought me in little less than 200 crowns a year. 4  2
Note 1. This took place on the 8th and 9th October, 1530. [back]
Note 2. This famous masterpiece was preserved in the Castle of S. Angelo during the Papal Government of Rome. It was brought out on Christmas, Easter, and S. Peter’s days. [back]
Note 3. Quella sua smania di parole. [back]
Note 4. Cellini received this post among the Mazzieri (who walked like beadles before the Pope) on April 14, 1531. He resigned it in favour of Pietro Cornaro of Venice in 1535. [back]

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