Benvenuto Cellini (15001571). Autobiography. The Harvard Classics. 190914.
ABOUT that time I was very intimate with Girolamo degli Albizzi,1 commissary of the Dukes militia. One day this friend said to me: O Benvenuto, it would not be a bad thing to put your little difference of opinion with the Duke to rights; and I assure you that if you repose confidence in me, I feel myself the man to settle matters. I know what I am saying. The Duke is getting really angry, and you will come badly out of the affair. Let this suffice; I am not at liberty to say all I know. Now, subsequently to that conversation with the Duchess, I had been told by some one, possibly a rogue, that he had heard how the Duke said upon some occasion which offered itself: For less than two farthings I will throw Perseus to the dogs, and so our differences will be ended. This, then, made me anxious, and induced me to entrust Girolamo degli Albizzi with the negotiations, telling him anything would satisfy me provided I retained the good graces of the Duke. That honest fellow was excellent in all his dealings with soldiers, especially with the militia, who are for the most part rustics; but he had no taste for statuary, and therefore could not understand its conditions. Consequently, when he spoke to the Duke, he began thus: Prince, Benvenuto has placed himself in my hands, and has begged me to recommend him to your Excellency. The Duke replied: I too am willing to refer myself to you, and shall be satisfied with your decision. Thereupon Girolamo composed a letter, with much skill and greatly to my honour, fixing the sum which the Duke would have to pay me at 3500 golden crowns in gold; and this should not be taken as my proper recompense for such a masterpiece, but only as a kind of gratuity; enough to say that I was satisfied; with many other phrases of like tenor, all of which implied the price which I have mentioned.
The Duke signed this agreement as gladly as I took it sadly. When the Duchess heard, she said: It would have been better for that poor man if he had placed himself in my hands; I could have got him five thousand crowns in gold. One day, when I went to the palace, she repeated these same words to me in the presence of Messer Alamanno Salviati,2 and laughed at me a little, saying that I deserved my bad luck.
The Duke gave orders that I should be paid a hundred golden crowns in gold per month, until the sum was discharged; and thus it ran for some months. Afterwards, Messer Antonio de Nobili, who had to transact the business, began to give me fifty, and sometimes later on he gave me twenty-five, and sometimes nothing. Accordingly, when I saw that the settlement was being thus deferred, I spoke good-humouredly to Messer Antonio, and begged him to explain why he did not complete my payments. He answered in a like tone of politeness; yet it struck me that he exposed his own mind too much. Let the reader judge. He began by saying that the sole reason why he could not go forward regularly with these payments, was the scarcity of money at the palace; but he promised, when cash came in, to discharge arrears. Then he added: Oh heavens! if I did not pay you, I should be an utter rogue. I was somewhat surprised to hear him speak in that way; yet I resolved to hope that he would pay me when he had the power to do so. But when I observed that things went quite the contrary way, and saw that I was being pillaged, I lost temper with the man, and recalled to his memory hotly and in anger what he had declared he would be if he did not pay me. However, he died; and five hundred crowns are still owing to me at the present date, which is nigh upon the end of 1566.3 There was also a balance due upon my salary which I thought would be forgotten, since three years had elapsed without payment. But it so happened that the Duke fell ill of a serious malady, remaining forty-eight hours without passing water. Finding that the remedies of his physicians availed nothing, it is probable that he betook himself to God, and therefore decreed the discharge of all debts to his servants. I too was paid on this occasion, yet I never obtained what still stood out upon my Perseus.
Note 1. A warm partisan of the Medici. He was a cousin of Maria Salviati, Cosimos mother. It was rumoured that he caused the historian Francesco Guicciardinis death by poison. We find him godfather to one of Cellinis children. [back]
Note 2. This Salviati and the De Nobili mentioned afterwards occupied a distinguished place in Florentine annals as partisans of the Medici. [back]
Note 3. Cellini began to write his Memoirs in 1558. Eight years had therefore now elapsed. [back]