Benvenuto Cellini (15001571). Autobiography. The Harvard Classics. 190914.
THE FELLOW could not stand quiet to hear the damning errors of his Cacus in their turn enumerated. For one thing, I was telling the truth; for another, I was unmasking him to the Duke and all the people present, who showed by face and gesture first their surprise, and next their conviction that what I said was true. All at once he burst out: Ah, you slanderous tongue! why dont you speak about my design? I retorted: A good draughtsman can never produce bad works; therefore I am inclined to believe that your drawing is no better than your statues. When he saw the amused expression on the Dukes face and the cutting gestures of the bystanders, he let his insolence get the better of him, and turned to me with that most hideous face of his, screaming aloud: Oh, hold your tongue, you ugly 1 At these words the Duke frowned, and the others pursed their lips up and looked with knitted grows toward him. The horrible affront half maddened me with fury; but in a moment I recovered presence of mind enough to turn it off with a jest; You madman! you exceed the bounds of decency. Yet would to God that I understood so noble an art as you allude to; they say that Jove used it with Ganymede in paradise, and here upon this earth it is practised by some of the greatest emperors and kings. I, however, am but a poor humble creature, who neither have the power nor the intelligence to perplex my wits with anything so admirable. When I had finished this speech, the Duke and his attendants could control themselves no longer, but broke into such shouts of laughter that one never heard the like. You must know, gentle readers, that though I put on this appearance of pleasantry, my heart was bursting in my body to think that a fellow, the foulest villain who ever breathed, should have dared in the presence of so great a prince to cast an insult of that atrocious nature in my teeth; but you must also know that he insulted the Duke, and not me; for had I not stood in that august presence, I should have felled him dead to earth. When the dirty stupid scoundrel observed that those gentlemen kept on laughing, he tried to change the subject, and divert them from deriding him; so he began as follows: This fellow Benvenuto goes about boasting that I have promised him a piece of marble. I took him up at once. What! did you not send to tell me by your journeyman, Francesco, that if I wished to work in marble you would give me a block? I accepted it, and mean to have it. He retorted: Be very well assured that you will never get it. Still smarting as I was under the calumnious insults he had flung at me, I lost my self-control, forgot I was in the presence of the Duke, and called out in a storm of fury: I swear to you that if you do not send the marble to my house, you had better look out for another world, for if you stay upon this earth I will most certainly rip the wind out of your carcass.2 Then suddenly awaking to the fact that I was standing in the presence of so great a duke, I turned submissively to his Excellency and said: My lord, one fool makes a hundred; the follies of this man have blinded me for a moment to the glory of your most illustrious Excellency and to myself. I humbly crave your pardon. Then the Duke said to Bandinello: Is it true that you promised him the marble? He replied that it was true. Upon this the Duke addressed me: Go to the Opera, and choose a piece according to your taste. I demurred that the man had promised to sent it home to me. The words that passed between us were awful, and I refused to take the stone in any other way. Next morning a piece of marble was brought to my house. On asking who had sent it, they told me it was Bandinello, and that this was the very block which he had promised.3
Note 3. Vasari, in his Life of Bandinello, gives a curious confirmation of Cellinis veracity by reporting this quarrel, with some of the speeches which pdssed between the two rival artists. Yet he had not read Cellinis Memoirs, and was far from partial to the man. Comparing Vasaris with Cellinis account, we only notice that the latter has made Bandinello play a less witty part in the wordy strife than the former assigned him. [back]