Michelangelo Praises Benvenuto Cellini

When Michelangelo was an old man, all the the younger artists worshipped him. If they had ever even talked to him they bragged about it. Benvenuto Cellini came up with this letter and put it proudly in his Autobiography.

Benvenuto Cellini’s statue of Perseus, in Florence, Italy  (Photo released into the public domain by its author, Jrousso at wikipedia)

Since he never produced the original, and he was known to fib, many people doubt its authenticity.

My Benvenuto–

I’ve recognized you for many years as the greatest goldsmith of whom we have ever heard, and now I shall recognize you equally as a sculptor. I must tell you that Messer Bindo Altoviti took me to see a portrait head of his in bronze and he told me that it was by your hand. It pleased me very much, but I only regret that it had been placed in a bad light, because if it had been given its proper light, it would be seen to be the beautiful work it is.

Michelangelo Buonarroti

Here is the bust of Altoviti Michelangelo is writing about. It is easy to see how its simplicity COULD please Michelangelo, especially as a surprise after he had heard it was by Cellini, who usually covered everything with decoration. Pity about that lion.

Bindo Altoviti, 1549, by Benvenuto Cellini
Bronze, 105.4 cm high. See enlarged version here


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6 Responses to Michelangelo Praises Benvenuto Cellini

  1. iondanu – I am a visual artist of Romanian origin (a draughtsman, painter, photographer and digital artist) living now in Canada.
    iondanu says:

    It’s only an opinion but there are chances that Benvenuto was simply unsatisfied with the lighting that was given to his sculpture and did something (not totally honest…) to change that… It would make him a singularity in the world of art since I’ve just read a citation of Picasso who said:”Titian, Rembrandt and Goya are painters. I’m just a clown.” (!) And Dali was even more a clown ! so…
    and by the way, a happy new year again…

  2. Moonbeam McQueen – Writer, blogger, storyteller. Born in a circus tent, raised by gypsies, schooled by ninjas.
    moonbeammcqueen says:

    To me, reading your blog is always a bit like reading the most beautiful fairy tales, although better, because the stories are true. I’m always looking forward to the next installment.

    Thanks for this, and I hope you have a happy, prosperous new year!

  3. 100swallows says:

    Thanks a lot, moonbeam. You lift a guy up with comments like that. I’ll try to keep the true fairy tales coming. Good luck to you in 2008. Don’t stop writing those true fairy tales of your own.

  4. 100swallows says:

    Yes, Danu, Cellini wasn’t above that.
    Dalí spent his whole life mugging. All of his official declarations were mugs too. He just HAD to be the crazy genius. Picasso, more than a clown, was an eternal child, wasn’t he? Always at play. Always entertaining himself with colors and lines. He stayed on the surface of things and lacked the depth of a Goya or a Rembrandt. If he was a clown, it was a clown without the deep sadness under the painted smile.
    Happy New Year to you too, Mr. Painter. I hope this is your best year.

  5. Brenda says:

    Cellini also spent his whole life mugging didn’t he? Both a volatile and vivacious artist to be sure.

  6. 100swallows says:

    Yes, Brenda, wouldn’t you give a lot to talk to Benvenuto or at least to SEE him? To compare with the persona of the novel/biography, to know if he was so brave, so sure of himself, so unashamed, so dangerous. I used to wonder whether in fact he was mousy and shy and invented a daydream figure for the book; but it just can’t be. He must have killed those men and done the things he says. And if he did do them, then he WAS like the Benvenuto of the book.
    And Dalí too–I used to wonder whether he was as crazy as he wanted everyone to believe. I watched him through binoculars once at a bullfight. He was old then and quiet, with his proud mustach down to a few whiskers. He still tried to bring off the old act–he was dressed in a fur coat and carried his silver cane; but he looked pitiful I thought. I also talked to a woman, the wife of a sculptor, who had dined with him. “Does he act crazy even at a banquet?” I asked her. “What do you think–is he nuts?”
    “No, he’s quite normal,” she said. “He’s very funny. He tells funny stories.” I bet.

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