Florentine sculptor and writer Benvenuto Cellini.

Benvenuto Cellini

(1500 - 1571)

When the Florentine sculptor and goldsmith Benvenuto Cellini was condemned to death for fighting in 1523, he fled to Rome, where he received commissions from Pope Clement VII and defended the city during the sack of 1527—by his own account shooting both the constable of Bourbon and the prince of Orange. He served at the court of the French king Francis I from 1540 to 1545 and settled back in Florence, where he and the painter Agnolo Bronzino were salaried by Cosimo de’ Medici. He opened his renowned autobiography by stating, “All men of any condition who have done something of special worth” should write “the story of their lives,” but cautioned that “they should not begin such a fine undertaking until they have passed the age of forty.”

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Miscellany

While on his American lecture tour in 1882, Oscar Wilde drank elderberry wine with Walt Whitman; saw Niagara Falls, later noting, “Every American bride is taken there, and the sight of the stupendous waterfall must be one of the earliest, if not the keenest, disappointments in American married life”; read aloud passages from Benvenuto Cellini’s autobiography to miners in Colorado; and witnessed a lynching in Louisiana.

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