Here is the most important autobiography from Renaissance Italy and one of the most spirited and colorful from any time or place, in a translation widely recognized as the most faithful to the energy and spirit of the original.
Benvenuto Cellini was both a beloved artist in sixteenth-century Florence and a passionate and temperamental man of action who was capable of brawling, theft, and murder. He counted popes, cardinals, kings, and dukes among his patrons and was the adoring friend of--as he described them--the "divine" Michelangelo and the "marvelous" Titian, but was as well known for his violent feuds. At age twenty-seven he helped defend the Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome, and his account of his imprisonment there (under a mad castellan who thought he was a bat), his escape, recapture, and confinement in "a cell of tarantulas and venomous worms" is an adventure equal to any other in fact or fiction. But it is only one in a long life lived on a grand scale.
Cellini's autobiography is not merely the record of an extraordinary life but also a dramatic and evocative
account of daily life in Renaissance Italy, from its lowest taverns to its highest royal courts.
About the Author
James Fenton is a poet and critic. From 1994 to 1999 he was Professor of Poetry at Oxford. He writes about poetry, art history, and gardening for the "New York Review of Books".