Benvenuto Cellini was born in Florence in the year 1500, and died in the same city on December 13, 1569. He was the greatest of the craftsmen during the height of the Renaissance period. Kings and popes vied with each other in trying to secure his services.
His claims to be the king of craftsmen were admitted by his fellow-artificers, and at the zenith of his career he had no rivals. Trophies of his skill and artistic genius remain to confirm the verdict of his own time. His great bronze statue of Perseus in Florence; the Nymph of Fontainebleau, now in the Louvre; his golden salt-cellar, made for Francis I., and now in Vienna–these are a few of his masterpieces, and any one of them is of a quality to stamp its maker as a master craftsman of imaginative genius and extraordinary manual skill. A goldsmith and sculptor, he was also a soldier, and did service as a fighter and engineer in the wars of his time. Of high personal courage, he was a braggart and a ruffian, who used the dagger as freely as the tools of his craft. His many qualities and complex personality are revealed in his “Autobiography”–one of the most vivid and remarkable records ever penned. He began the work in 1558. In its history his account is accurate, but his testimony regarding his martial exploits is untrustworthy.