Benvenuto Cellini (15001571). Autobiography. The Harvard Classics. 190914.
I SHALL now proceed with the narration of my life. I had on hand the following works already mentioned, namely, the silver Jupiter, the golden salt-cellar, the great silver vase, and the two bronze heads. I also began to cast the pedestal for Jupiter, which I wrought very richly in bronze, covered with ornaments, among which was a bas-relief, representing the rape of Ganymede, and on the other side Leda and the Swan. On casting this piece it came out admirably. I also made another pedestal of the same sort for the statute of Juno, intending to begin that too, if the King gave me silver for the purpose. By working briskly I had put together the silver Jupiter and the golden salt-cellar; the vase was far advanced; the two bronze heads were finished. I had also made several little things for the Cardinal of Ferrara, and a small silver vase of rich workmanship, which I meant to present to Madame dEtampes. Several Italian noblemen, to wit, Signor Piero Strozzi, the Count of Anguillara, the Count of Pitigliano, the Count of Mirandola, and many others, gave me employment also.1
For my great King, as I have said, I had been working strenuously, and the third day after he returned to Paris, he came to my house, attended by a crowd of his chief nobles. He marvelled to find how many pieces I had advanced, and with what excellent results. His mistress, Madame dEtampes, being with him, they began to talk of Fontainebleau. She told his Majesty he ought to commission me to execute something beautiful for the decoration of his favourite residence. He answered on the instant: You say well, and here upon the spot I will make up my mind what I mean him to do. Then he turned to me, and asked me what I thought would be appropriate for that beautiful fountain.2 I suggested several ideas, and his Majesty expressed his own opinion. Afterwards he said that he was going to spend fifteen or twenty days at San Germano del Aia,3 a place twelve leagues distant from Paris; during his absence he wished me to make a model for that fair fountain of his in the richest style I could invent, seeing he delighted in that residence more than in anything else in his whole realm. Accordingly he commanded and besought me to do my utmost to produce something really beautiful; and I promised that I would do so.
When the King saw so many finished things before him, he exclaimed to Madame dEtampes: I never had an artist who pleased me more, nor one who deserved better to be well rewarded; we must contrive to keep him with us. He spends freely, is a boon companion, and works hard; we must therefore take good thought for him. Only think, madam, all the times that he has come to me or that I have come to him, he has never once asked for anything; one can see that his heart is entirely devoted to his work. We ought to make a point of doing something for him quickly, else we run a risk of losing him. Madame dEtampes answered: I will be sure to remind you. Then they departed, and in addition to the things I had begun, I now took the model of the fountain in hand, at which I worked assiduously.
Note 1. Anguillara and Pitigliano were fiefs of two separate branches of the Orsini family. The house of Pico lost their lordship of Mirandola in 1536, when Galeotto Pico took refuge with his sons in France. His descendants renewed their hold upon the fief, which was erected into a duchy in 1619. [back]
Note 2. Per quella bella fonte. Here, and below, Cellini mixes up Fontainebleau and the spring which gave its name to the place. [back]
Note 3. S. Germain-en-laye is not so far from Paris as Cellini thought. [back]