Benvenuto Cellini: The Man Who Made Art More Interesting
It seems that all of us are convinced by easy things, like how often people tell us that we can’t have it all. It is always easier to believe that it is acceptable not to be able to draw because at least, we can sing. It is fine to not possess the skill for theater acting as long as we can dance. It is always easier not to have it all. Such idea can be counterattacked by not exactly mastering two art forms at a time. Disproving such claim is not achieved by trying to dance while singing even when singing just does not show in the blood and in the heart.
To disprove such idea is simple: review history, especially the people who made it interesting.
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No one may ever be convinced with such argument – not until they meet a hooligan, a soldier, an author, a goldsmith, a sculptor, a musician and a painter rolled into one by the name of Benvenuto Cellini. Before introducing Benvenuto Cellini, it is best to pay tribute to his parents by recognizing them first. An artificer of musical instruments named Giovanni Cellini married a woman named Maria Granacci and settled in the Val d’Ambra.
This couple had stayed together for a very long time, although it was only 18 years after their marriage when they were gifted with a child. Giovanni and Maria welcomed their third child Benvenuto in the family by giving him a name that, when translated in English, means “welcome. ” As their child Benvenuto grew, the life of the Cellini family became more ideal for all of its members (Insecula, 2007). Born in Florence, Italy in November 1, 1500, Benvenuto’s family was also popular for being landowners in the Val d’Ambra.
Three generations of Benvenuto’s family had settled in the Val d’Ambra. He was known for many different things. He was recognized for being a musician, soldier, painter and goldsmith (among his many other talents and skills) in the Renaissance Period (Insecula, 2007). Before Benvenuto was known as a sculptor, a musician or a writer, he was first inclined with his first love: metal works. Benvenuto was reluctant about being a musician because his heart feels for the arts of metal working even when his father, who had a strong inclination to music, wanted him to be a musician.
Aside from being an artificer of musical instruments, music was also his father’s talent. He wanted Benvenuto to develop this skill and kept his son away from metal works and design. Then again, Benvenuto stood up to follow his dreams and passion. His passion for metal work has indeed brought him to places and to more pedestals which his father, Giovanni, never expected (Insecula, 2007). Youthful likings got the better of Benvenuto. At fifteen, he grew up to be too ablazed by silver plates, vases and other decorative and significant elements produced from metal works.
Giovanni, on the other hand, gave in because of the way Benvenuto had displayed his fondness for metal works. A goldsmith named Antonio di Sandro, who was more popularly known as Marcone, was where Giovanni sent his son for apprenticeship (NNDB, 2007). Benvenuto had definitely been successful with his craft. The place where he was native to recognized his skills as s goldsmith. However, Benvenuto was sent to Siena for six months for being involved in a fight with one of his colleagues. In Siena, he worked as a goldsmith for Fracastoro, also known as Francesco Castoro.
As a goldsmith, he was also learning to play music at the same time. While mastering the art of playing the flute, Benvenuto moved to Bologna to be more successful in the goldsmith’s art. In Bologna, he was also recognized as a musician, specifically a flute player (NNDB, 2007). Benvenuto had been to many places. He had visited Pisa and resettled in Florence twice. At the early age of 19, he moved to Rome. He first tried and tested his skills on a silver casket. It was indeed successful and the people liked the way he worked.
Because of this, he also produced silver candlesticks and made something for a living. Before Benvenuto knew it, he was also recognized by Pope Clement VII and made a vase for him. Today, one of his works can be seen in Vienna Museum called the “Leda and the Swan” where the said art was carried over for the Gonfaloniere Gabbriello Cesarino. The Leda of the Swan was famous for its being an artwork in a hard stone taking the wondrous image of Leda’s torso and head (Gable, 2004). Undeniably, Benvenuto has established a name as a goldsmith not only in Italy but in history as well.
On the other hand, Benvenuto, no matter how reluctant he was towards concentrating on a musical career, tried everything in his power to avoid making his father Giovanni feel bad and all the more frustrated. Since Benvenuto’s father, Giovanni Cellini, was a musician, too, it can not be denied where Benvenuto got his skills in music from. Aside from being a goldsmith, Benvenuto had been known for being a musician even if it was not exactly his dream. Music, being his father’s first passion, was also the art form his father encouraged him to study about all the time.
The years where Giovanni had been trying to keep Benvenuto away from his family were also the same years when he tried to convince Benvenuto to concentrate music. He wanted Benvenuto to be known as a musician (The Harvard Classics, 2005). While Benvenuto loved metal crafts and art works, it never meant that he didn’t have a space for music in his heart. Benvenuto did not deepen and worsen that frustratration of his father by focusing only on metal work and ignoring music and all its charms.
However, Benvenuto was not as interested in music as he was in metal work and paintings. He was a man who knew how to play the flute and cornet but never fully concentrated on these skills. Benvenuto says that he would only play flute or cornet everytime his father was around, or simply because he wanted to please his father. Sometimes, he would play music and pretend to like what he was doing just so he would see his father happy. His father, on the other hand, would always cry in tears of joy everytime he hears the music Benvenuto played (Symonds, 2003).
The reason why Benvenuto chose not to aggravate his father’s frustration when it comes to music was because he was already frustrated with the other son. Benvenuto’s brother, Cecchino, became a man destined to the profession of arms when Giovanni, their father, wanted him to become a jurist. Benvenuto was the son who pursued his own dreams and his father’s, too, even when they were two different careers, two different talents, two totally different things. As a goldsmith, Benvenuto concentrated and learned two art forms at a time. When he was 15, he started learning about music, too.
When he moved to places like Siena and Bologna, he spends his days as a goldsmith by playing flute at the same. In the said places, Benvenuto was recognized as a local flute-player. However, his inclinations towards music compared to his inclination towards metal works are extremely different when it comes to the level of interest. Benvenuto had been taught by teachers, or what he regarded as “masters” about the basic things in metal works. He went through rigorous training and workshops to learn even the most complex and delicate side of the said craft.
Benvenuto was recognized as a musician even when he did not undergo the trainings and workshops he had been through as a goldsmith. By watching people play, self-teaching and of course by accepting what such trait which he got from his father Giovanni, Benvenuto was able to succeed in this form of art, too (Insecula, 2007). He practiced playing the flute everyday and never skipped a day without practicing it even without the constant insistence of his father towards his learning of the said skill.
It was not too long a wait when Benvenuto was recognized by the pope again. Benvenuto became one of the court-musicians of the pope (Panse, 2004). While some of uses are deeply convinced that still, we can’t have most of it all, such idea was not something that Benvenuto bought. To Benvenuto, metal works was passion, music was a favor and sculpture was progress. His skills as a goldsmith later on developed to his interest in statues. Benvenuto did not grow up to have two careers. His talent as a goldsmith had later on evolved into a more serious craft: sculpture.
As a sculptor, Benvenuto was able to come up with Mars, Vulcan and Jupiter silver statues which were famous for their large sizes. Jupiter can now be seen at the Detroit Institute of Arts (AARF, 2007). Benvenuto became more serious with this new craft and he paid great attention to this in the next years. He was able to come up with new statues in the 1540s. His great statues include Perseus with the head of Medua which he sculpted in 1545 to 1553 and The Nymph of Fontainebleau in 1542. Benvenuto had been very successful in his career as a sculptor that his works are displayed all over the world.
Some of the many world-renowned museums, institutions and art galleries that keep Benvenuto’s statues are the following: State Museums of Florence and Palazzo Ruspoli both in Italy, Frick Collection and Metropolitan Museum of Art both in New York, Drawings from the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Courtlauld Institute of Art in London, United Kingdom, National gallery of Austrialia in Canberra, Buenvenuto Cellini at the National Gallery Art in Washington D. C. , Benvenuto Cellini at the Louvre Musem in Paris, Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna and J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California (Malyon, 2007)
All these, Benvenuto definitely owes to a number of people. All his skills and talents and all the things he was recognized for – he owes it to his influences. Without his influences, he may not have known that such talents existed. He needed other people to help him realize his dreams. He needed his father’s challenge to realize that he would rather be a goldsmith than a musician. He needed his teachers to train him and make him better with his talents and skills. He needed other great artists, too, and even the simple and most local ones, to give him an idea about other styles and techniques.