Benvenuto Cellini (15001571). Autobiography. The Harvard Classics. 190914.
HAVING quite completed my crucifix, I thought that if I raised it some feet above the ground, it would show better than it did upon a lower level. After I had done so, it produced a far finer effect than even it had made before, and I was greatly satisfied. So then I began to exhibit it to every one who had the mind to see it.
As God willed, the Duke and the Duchess heard about it. On their arrival then from Pisa, both their Excellencies arrived one day quite unexpectedly, attended by all the nobles of their court, with the sole purpose of inspecting my crucifix. They were so much delighted, that each of these princes lavished endless praises on it, and all the lords and gentlefolk of their suites joined in chorus. Now, when I saw how greatly they were taken with the piece, I began to thank them with a touch of humour, saying that, if they had not refused me the marble for the Neptune, I should never have undertaken so arduous a task, the like whereof had not been attempted by any sculptor before me. It is true, I added, that this crucifix has cost me hours of unimaginable labour; yet they have been well expended, especially now when your most illustrious Excellencies have bestowed such praises on it. I cannot hope to find possessors of it worthier than you are; therefore I gladly present it to you as a gift.1
After speaking to this effect, I prayed them, before they took their leave, to deign to follow me into the ground-floor of my dwelling. They rose at once with genial assent, left the workshop, and on entering the house, beheld my little model of the Neptune and the fountain, which had not yet been by the Duchess. This struck her with such force that she raised a cry of indescribable astonishment, and turning to the Duke, exclaimed: Upon my life, I never dreamed it could be one-tenth part so beautiful! The Duke replied by repeating more than once: Did I not tell you so? Thus they continued talking together for some while greatly in my honour. Afterwards the Duchess called me to her side; and when she had uttered many expressions of praise which sounded like excuses (they might indeed have been construed into asking for forgiveness), she told me that she should like me to quarry a block of marble to my taste, and then to execute the work. In reply to these gracious speeches I said that, if their most illustrious Excellencies would provide me with the necessary accommodations, I should gladly for their sakes put my hand to such an arduous undertaking. The Duke responded on the moment: Benvenuto, you shall have all the accommodations you can ask for; and I will myself give you more besides, which shall surpass them far in value. With these agreeable words they left me, and I remained highly satisfied.
Note 1. The Duchess would not take the crucifix as a gift. The Duke bought it for fifteen hundred golden crowns, and transferred it to the Pitti in 1565. It was given by the Grand Duke Francesco in 1576 to Philip II., who placed it in the Escorial, where it now is. [back]