Born: 1 November 1500, Florence
Died: 14 February 1571, Florence
BENVENUTO CELLINI was one of the most larger-than-life figures of the Italian Renaissance. A celebrated sculptor, goldsmith, author and soldier, but also a hooligan and even a killer. The son of a musician and builder of musical instruments, Cellini's first major brush with the law came as an early teenager. He was banished from his native Florence for his alleged role in a fight. As a result, he received his early artistic training not only from the Florentine goldsmith, Marcone [Antonio di Sandro], but also from Francesco Castoro, a goldsmith of Siena. After further visits to Bologna and Pisa, Cellini was allowed to return to Florence and continue his work there. In 1519 Cellini moved to Rome, remaining until the city's fall to the Spanish Emperor in 1527. Among Cellini's works dating to this early period in his career is a gold medallion with carved stone inset, "Leda and the Swan," created for Gonfaloniere Gabbrello Cesarino and now in the collection of the museum at Vienna. Another of his patrons in the period was Cardinal Patriarch Marco Cornaro, of the powerful Cornaro della Regina family of Venice. By his own account Cellini played a role in the ultimately unsuccessful defense of Rome in 1527, slaying the Constable of Bourbon in one attack and later killing Philibert, Prince of Orange, as well. After a brief stay in Florence, where he concentrated on producing medals (including "Hercules and the Numean Lion" in gold repousse and "Atlas Supporting the Sphere" in chased gold), Cellini returned again to Rome. Among his works for Pope Clement VII during this period were a peace commemorative medallion depicting the Pope, 1530, a chalice (not completed), and a magnificent morse [button] for the Pope's cope. Then his work was interrupted again by one of the recurrent storm clouds that was persistent through out his career. In 1529 he killed a man who had early killed Cellini's brother and, in another incident, wounded a notary of the city. Celini fled briefly to Naples but, upon the accession of...