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Benvenuto Cellini (3 November 1500 - 13 February 1571) was an Italian goldsmith, sculptor, draftsman, soldier, musician, and artist who also wrote a famous autobiography and poetry.
He was one of the most important artists of Mannerism. He is remembered for his skill in making pieces such as the ''Cellini Salt Cellar'' and ''Perseus with the Head of Medusa''.
Benvenuto Cellini was born in Florence, in present-day Italy. His parents were Giovanni Cellini and Maria Lisabetta Granacci. They were married for eighteen years before the birth of their first child. Benvenuto was the second child of the family. The son of a musician and builder of musical instruments, Cellini was pushed towards music, but when he was fifteen, his father reluctantly agreed to apprentice him to a goldsmith, Antonio di Sandro, nicknamed Marcone. At the age of sixteen, Benvenuto had already attracted attention in Florence by taking part in an affray with youthful companions. He was banished for six months and lived in Siena, where he worked for a goldsmith named Fracastoro (unrelated to the Veronese polymath). From Siena he moved to Bologna, where he became a more accomplished flute player and made progress as a goldsmith. After a visit to Pisa and two periods of living in Florence (where he was visited by the sculptor Torrigiano), he moved to Rome, at the age of nineteen.
His first works in Rome were a silver casket, silver candlesticks, and a vase for the bishop of Salamanca, which won him the approval of Pope Clement VII. Another celebrated work from Rome is the gold medallion of "Leda and the Swan" executed for the Gonfaloniere Gabbriello Cesarino, and which is now in the Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence. He also took up the flute again, and was appointed one of the pope's court musicians.
In the attack on Rome by Charles III, Duke of Bourbon, Cellini's bravery proved of signal service to the pontiff. According to his own accounts, he himself shot and injured Philibert of Châlon, prince of Orange (allegedly Cellini also killed Charles III, Duke of Bourbon during the Siege of Rome). His bravery led to a reconciliation with the Florentine magistrates, and he soon returned to his hometown of Florence. Here he devoted himself to crafting medals, the most famous of which are "Hercules and the Nemean Lion", in gold ''repoussé'' work, and "Atlas supporting the Sphere", in chased gold, the latter eventually falling into the possession of Francis I of France.
From Florence he went to the court of the duke of Mantua, and then back to Florence. On returning to Rome, he was employed in the working of jewellery and in the execution of dies for private medals and for the papal mint. In 1529 his brother Cecchino killed a Corporal of the Roman Watch and in turn was wounded by an arquebusier, later dying of his wound. Soon afterward Benvenuto killed his brother's killer – an act of blood revenge but not justice as Cellini admits that his brother's killer had acted in self-defense. Cellini fled to Naples to shelter from the consequences of an affray with a notary, Ser Benedetto, whom he had wounded. Through the influence of several cardinals, Cellini obtained a pardon. He found favor with the new pope, Paul III, notwithstanding a fresh homicide during the interregnum three days after the death of Pope Clement VII in September 1534. The fourth victim was a rival goldsmith, Pompeo of Milan.
The plots of Pier Luigi Farnese led to Cellini's retreat from Rome to Florence and Venice, where he was restored with greater honour than before. At the age of 37, upon returning from a visit to the French court, he was imprisoned on a charge (apparently false) of having embezzled the gems of the pope's tiara during the war. He was confined to the Castel Sant'Angelo, escaped, was recaptured, and was treated with great severity; he was in daily expectation of death on the scaffold. The intercession of Pier Luigi's wife, and especially that of the Cardinal d'Este of Ferrara, eventually secured Cellini's release, in gratitude for which he gave d'Este a splendid cup.
Cellini then worked at the court of Francis I at Fontainebleau and Paris. However, he considered the duchesse d'Étampes to be set against him and refused to conciliate with the king's favorites. He could no longer silence his enemies by the sword, as he had silenced those in Rome. As a result, after about five years of invested work but continual jealousy and violence, Cellini returned to Florence, where he continued as a goldsmith and became the rival of sculptor Baccio Bandinelli, who died a few years later in 1560.
During the war with Siena, Cellini was appointed to strengthen the defences of his native city, and, though rather shabbily treated by his ducal patrons, he continued to gain the admiration of his fellow citizens by the magnificent works which he produced. He was also named a member (''Accademico'') of the prestigious Accademia delle Arti del Disegno of Florence, founded by the Duke Cosimo I de' Medici, on 13 January 1563, under the influence of the architect Giorgio Vasari. He died in Florence on 13 May 1571 and was buried with great pomp in the church of the Santissima Annunziata. In Florence he had supported a widowed sister and her six daughters.
Cellini is known to have taken some of his female models as mistresses, having an illegitimate daughter in 1544 with one of them while living in France, whom he named Costanza. After briefly attempting a clerical career, in 1562 he married a servant, Piera Parigi, with whom he claimed he had five children, of which only a son and two daughters survived him.
Aside from his marriage, Cellini was officially accused or charged with the crime of sodomy once with a woman and at least three times with men, illustrating his bisexual tendencies: 
*14 January 1523 he was sentenced to pay 12 staia of flour for relations with a boy named Domenico di ser Giuliano da Ripa.
*While in Paris, a former model and lover brought charges against him of using her "after the Italian fashion." (i.e. sodomy)
*In Florence in 1548, Cellini was accused by a woman named Margherita, for having certain familiarities with her son, Vincenzo.
*26 February 1556, his apprentice Fernando di Giovanni di Montepulciano accused his mentor of having sodomised him many times. This time the penalty was a hefty fifty golden scudi fine, and four years of prison, remitted to four years of house arrest thanks to the intercession of the Medicis.
Towards the end of his life during a public altercation before Duke Cosimo, Bandinelli had called out to him ''Sta cheto, soddomitaccio!'' (Shut up, you filthy sodomite!) Cellini described this as an "atrocious insult".
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- ^ Benvenuto Cellini, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- ^ Cellini, ''Vita'', Book 1, Ch XIII
- ^ cite web|url=http://www.wga.hu/html_m/c/cellini/2/10medal.html|title=Medallion with Leda and the Swan by CELLINI, Benvenuto|work=wga.hu
- ^ Cellini, ''Vita'', Book 1, Ch XXXVIII
- ^ Cellini, ''Vita'', Book 1, Ch XXXIX
- ^ Cellini, ''Vita'', Book 1, Ch LI
- ^ Cellini, ''Vita'', Book 1, Ch LXXIII
- ^ Cellini, ''Vita'', Book 2, Ch II
- ^ Cellini, ''Vita'', Book 2, Ch. III
- ^ Cellini, ''Vita'', Book 2, Ch XXXVII
- ^ cite book|first=Michael|last=Rocke|title=Forbidden Friendships: Homosexuality and Male Culture in Renaissance Florence|publisher=Oxford University Press|year=1996
- ^ cite book|first=James|last=Smalls|title=Temptis: Homosexuality in Art|publisher=Parkstone Press|year=2012
- ^ I. Arnaldi, ''La vita violenta di Benvenuto Cellini'', Bari, 1986
- ^ L. Greci, 'Benventuto Cellini nei delitti e nei processi fiorentini' Archivio di anthroplogia criminale, 50 (1930)
- ^ "Cinque anni ha tenuto per suo ragazzo Fernando di Giovanni di Montepulciano, giovanetto con el quale ha usato carnalmente moltissime volte col nefando vitio della soddomia, tenendolo in letto come sua moglie" (For five years he kept as his boy Fernando di Giovanni di Montepulciano, a youth whom he used carnally in the abject vice of sodomy numerous instances, keeping him in his bed as a wife.)
- ^ I. Arnaldi, ''La vita violenta di Benvenuto Cellini'', Bari, 1986
- ^ ''Vita,'' Book II, Ch. LXXI