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Benvenuto Cellini's Autobiography

This article was published in October, 2006 under the following title.

The Outrageous Life of Benvenuto Cellini in His Own Words

Cellini's Portrait by Vasari, Benvenuto Cellini's AutobiographyFew men have lived life as full as late Italian Renaissance mannerist artist, Benvenuto Cellini. Born in 1500, Cellini would be thrilled that we still talk about his life five hundred years after his birth. After all, that is what he intended. That is why he began his autobiography at the age of fifty-eight, confident that history would remember him. And remember him we do, not only as a master goldsmith and sculptor, but as an author who wrote one of the most significant documents of the sixteenth century.

Cellini began his riveting tale by advising other potential authors on how to write their own autobiographies, first by informing their readers that they come from worthy stock and ancient origin. While most of us cannot claim to know our maternal grandparents twice removed, Cellini mentioned his parents, and then went on to claim descent from an Italian man from a nearby town, Fioreno of Cellino, a captain in the guard of Julius Caesar sixteen hundred years past. This Fioreno, Cellini claimed, camped his troops on the site of Florence with its fields of flowers, so Caesar named the place Florence partly for the flowers and partly to honor his captain. Most historians believe Florence, Florentia in Roman times, was named after the Roman festival of Floralia or Ludi Florales to honor Flora, the goddess of flowers. However, neither Caesar nor Flora was present to contradict the account of Cellini, so his version stands, at least in his own mind.

Commenting further on how pleased God was at his birth, Cellini told how he got his name--the word Benvenuto means 'welcome'  in Italian. While the musical name Benvenuto Cellini flows off the tongue with a satisfying feeling, Cellini rejected the career advice of his father that he should become a great musician and composer. Unmindful that his flute playing sent his doting father into sighing, tearful ecstasy, Cellini forsook the hated flute to study as a goldsmith--and thus his adventures began.
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