Benvenuto Cellini (15001571). Autobiography. The Harvard Classics. 190914.
MEANWHILE I was advancing with my great statue of Medusa. I had covered the iron skeleton with clay, which I modelled like an anatomical subject, and about half an inch thinner than the bronze would be. This I baked well, and then began to spread on the wax surface, in order to complete the figure to my liking.1 The Duke, who often came to inspect it, was so anxious lest I should not succeed with the bronze, that he wanted me to call in some master to case it for me.
He was continually talking in the highest terms of my acquirements and accomplishments. This made his majordomo no less continually eager to devise some trap for making me break my neck. Now his post at court gave him authority with the chief-constables and all the officers in the poor unhappy town of Florence. Only to think that a fellow from Prato, our hereditary foeman, the son of a cooper, and the most ignorant creature in existence, should have risen to such a station of influence, merely because he had been the rotten tutor of Cosimo de Medici before he became Duke! Well, as I have said, he kept ever on the watch to serve me some ill turn; and finding that he could not catch me out on any side, he fell at last upon this plan, which meant mischief. He betook himself to Gambetta, the mother of my apprentice Cencio; and this precious pair togetherthat knave of a pedant and that rogue of a strumpetinvented a scheme for giving me such a fright as would make me leave Florence in hot haste. Gambetta, yielding to the instinct of her trade, went out, acting under the orders of that mad, knavish pedant, the majordomoI must add that they had also gained over the Bargello, a Bolognese, whom the Duke afterwards dismissed for similar conspiracies. Well, one evening, after sunset, Gambetta came to my house with her son, and told me she had kept him several days indoors for my welfare. I answered that there was no reason to keep him shut up on my account; and laughing her whorish arts to scorn, I turned to the boy in her presence, and said these words: You know, Cencio, whether I have sinned with you! He began to shed tears, and answered, No! Upon this the mother, shaking her head, cried out at him: Ah! you little scoundrel! Do you think I do not know how these things happen? Then she turned to me, and begged me to keep the lad hidden in my house, because the Bargello was after him, and would seize him anywhere outside my house, but there they would not dare to touch him. I made answer that in my house lived my widowed sister and six girls of holy life, and that I wanted nobody else there. Upon that she related that the majordomo had given orders to the Bargello, and that I should certainly be taken up: only, if I would not harbour her son, I might square accounts by paying her a hundred crowns; the majordomo was her crony, and I might rest assured that she could work him to her liking, provided I paid down the hundred crowns. This cozenage goaded me into such a fury that I cried: Out with you, shameful strumpet! Were it not for my good reputation, and for the innocence of this unhappy boy of yours here, I should long ago have cut your throat with the dagger at my side; and twice or thrice I have already clasped my fingers on the handle. With words to this effect, and many ugly blows to boot, I drove the woman and her son into the street.
Note 1. This is an important passage, which has not, I think, been properly understood by Cellinis translators. It describes the process he now employed in preparing a mould for bronze-casting. First, it seems, he made a solid clay model, somewhat smaller than the bronze was meant to be. This he overlaid with wax, and then took a hollow mould of the figure thus formed. Farther on we shall see how he withdrew the wax from the hollow mould, leaving the solid model inside, with space enough between them for the metal to flow in. [back]