Benvenuto Cellini (15001571). Autobiography. The Harvard Classics. 190914.
I TOOK the money and the model home, and was in the utmost impatience to begin my work. After I had laboured diligently for eight days, the Pope sent word by one of his chamberlains, a very great gentleman of Bologna, that I was to come to him and bring what I had got in hand. On the way, the chamberlain, who was the most gentle-mannered person in the Roman court, told me that the Pope not only wanted to see what I was doing, but also intended to intrust me with another task of the highest consequence, which was, in fact, to furnish dies for the money of the Mint; and bade me arm myself beforehand with the answer I should give; in short, he wished me to be prepared, and therefore he had spoken. When we came into the presence, I lost no time in exhibiting the golden plate, upon which I had as yet carved nothing but my figure of God the Father; but this, though only in the rough, displayed a grander style than that of the waxen model. The Pope regarded it with stupefaction, and exclaimed: From this moment forward I will believe everything you say. Then loading me with marks of favour, he added: It is my intention to give you another commission, which, if you feel competent to execute it, I shall have no less at heart than this, or more. He proceeded to tell me that he wished to make dies for the coinage of his realm, and asked me if I had ever tried my hand at such things, and if I had the courage to attempt them. I answered that of courage for the task I had no lack, and that I had seen how dies were made, but that I had not ever made any. There was in the presence a certain Messer Tommaso, of Prato, his Holiness Datary;1 and this man, being a friend of my enemies, put in: Most blessed Father, the favours you are showering upon this young man (and he by nature so extremely overbold) are enough to make him promise you a new world. You have already given him one great task, and now, by adding a greater, you are like to make them clash together. The Pope, in a rage, turned round on him, and told him to mind his own business. Then he commanded me to make the model for a broad doubloon of gold, upon which he wanted a naked Christ with his hands tied, and the inscription Ecce Homo; the reverse was to have a Pope and Emperor in the act together of propping up a cross which seemed to fall, and this legend: Unus spiritus et una fides erat in eis.
After the Pope had ordered this handsome coin, Bandinello the sculptor came up; he had not yet been made a knight; and, with his wonted presumption muffled up in ignorance, said: For these goldsmiths one must make drawings for such fine things as that. I turned round upon him in a moment, and cried out that I did not want his drawings for my art, but that I hoped before very long to give his art some trouble by my drawings. The Pope expressed high satisfaction at these words, and turning to me said: Go then, my Benvenuto, and devote yourself with spirit to my service, and do not lend an ear to the chattering of these silly fellows.
So I went off, and very quickly made two dies of steel; then I stamped a coin in gold, and one Sunday after dinner took the coin and the dies to the Pope, who, when he saw the piece, was astonished and greatly gratified, not only because my work pleased him excessively, but also because of the rapidity with which I had performed it. For the further satisfaction and amazement of his holiness, I had brought with me all the old coins which in former times had been made by those able men who served Popes Giulio and Leo; and when I noticed that mine pleased him far better, I drew forth from my bosom a patient,2 in which I prayed for the post of stamp-master3 in the Mint. This place was worth six golden crowns a month, in addition to the dies, which were paid at the rate of a ducat for three by the Master of the Mint. The Pope took my patent and handed it to the Datary, telling him to lose no time in dispatching the business. The Datary began to put it in his pocket, saying: Most blessed Father, your Holiness ought not to go so fast; these are matters which deserve some reflection. To this the Pope replied; I have heard what you have got to say; give me here that patent. He took it, and signed it at once with his own hand; then, giving it back, added: Now, you have no answer left; see that you dispatch it at once, for this is my pleasure; and Benvenutos shoes are worth more than the eyes of all those other blockheads. So, having thanked his Holiness, I went back, rejoicing above measure, to my work.
Note 1. His full name was Tommaso Cortese. The Papal Datario was the chief secretary of the office for requests, petitions and patents. His title was derived from its being his duty to affix the Datum Romæ to documents. The fees of this office, which was also called Datario, brought in a large revenue to the Papacy. [back]
Note 2. Moto propio. Cellini confuses his petition with the instrument, which he had probably drawn up ready for signature. [back]
Note 3. Maestro delle stampe della zecca, i. e., the artist who made the dies. [back]