Benvenuto Cellini

Posted on September 30, 2010


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According to his own autobiography, the Italian mannerist goldsmith Benvenuto Cellini brags of conjuring devils in the colosseum, angelic protection and supernatural visions. He also recounts the various murders he committed, including that of a fellow smith, Pompeo, with whom he was in love; when he discovered Pompeo was actually bonking Cellini’s own wife, he killed the two of them and was saved from prosecution by the Pope.

Cellini was formally charged with sodomy with men three times – the third time by his apprentice Fernando di Giovanni di Montepulciano, a charge for which Cellini was fined 50 golden scudi and confined to house arrest for four years (it would have been five years in prison if not for intervention by the Medicis).

Without a doubt, Cellini was a complicated man of great passion – and his elegant, over-the-top sculptures and golden chalices, salt-cellars and other pieces are symbols of the culture of his age – he lived from 1500 to 1571.

His autobiography, translated by John Addington Symonds, is available on Project Gutenberg, here. He also has a wikipedia page, here. And what better way to capture such an operatic life but with an opera: Berlioz’s Benvenuto Cellini – you can watch a trailer for a Salzburg production of the opera here.