Benvenuto Cellini (15001571). Autobiography. The Harvard Classics. 190914.
I RETURNED to the Loggia,1 whither my Perseus had already been brought, and went on putting the last touches to my work, under the old difficulties always; that is to say, lack of money, and a hundred untoward accidents, the half of which would have cowed a man armed with adamant.
However, I pursued my course as usual; and one morning, after I had heard mass at San Piero Scheraggio, that brute Bernardone, broker, worthless goldsmith, and by the Dukes grace purveyor to the mint, passed by me. No sooner had he got outside the church than the dirty pig let fly four cracks which might have been heard from San Miniato. I cried: Yah! pig, poltroon, donkey! is that the noise your filthy talents make? and ran off for a cudgel. He took refuge on the instant in the mint; while I stationed myself inside my housedoor, which I left ajar, setting a boy at watch upon the street to warn me when the pig should leave the mint. After waiting some time, I grew tired, and my heat cooled. Reflecting, then, that blows are not dealt by contract, and that some disaster might ensue, I resolved to wreak my vengeance by another method. The incident took place about the feast of our San Giovanni, one or two days before; so I composed four verses, and stuck them up in an angle of the church where people go to ease themselves. The verses ran as follows:
Both the incident and the verses went the round of the palace, giving the Duke and Duchess much amusement. But, before the man himself knew what I had been up to, crowds of people stopped to read the lines and laughed immoderately at them. Since they were looking towards the mint and fixing their eyes on Bernardone, his son, Maestro Baccio, taking notice of their gestures, tore the paper down with fury. The elder bit his thumb, shrieking threats out with that hideous voice of his, which comes forth through his nose; indeed he made a brave defiance.3
Note 1. That is, the Loggia de Lanzi, on the great piazza of Florence, where Cellinis statue still stands. [back]
Note 2. If I understand the obscure lines of the original, Cellini wanted to kill two birds with one stone by this epigramboth Bernardone and his son Baccio. But by Buaccio he generally means Baccio Bandinelli. [back]
Note 3. To bite the thumb at any one was, as students of our old drama know, a sign of challenge or provocation. [back]